What Price Freebies?

So the other night I went to a launch party for Cole Haan’s new line, Cole, Rood & Haan. It was a pleasant little affair at the top of a wooden staircase in Soho, and if Todd Selby’s pretty pictures (like the one below) on their website, don’t reveal the collection’s target audience, the list of links on their “other things” page does. These shoes are for people who eat at Marlow & Sons and hang out at Mollusk Surf Shop when they’re not surfing Montauk or reading Monocle.

What’s the best way to make sure these (us?) shaggy young things wear Cole, Rood & Haan’s brogues and bucs? Well, give them a pair!

Maryam and Uday, New York City, August 2009

Photo from The Selby for Cole Haan

So that’s exactly what the company did–gave every guest a free pair. I was invited by extension, as a guest’s +1, which entitled me too, to pick out a pair. As a journalist, I’ve been warned of the perils of accepting freebies, lest I trade my integrity for a new accessory, however handsome. The common cautionary tale is about The New York Times’ questionnaire, where writers must disclose whether they have accepted any free merchandise, before working for The Times.

Now, free stuff happens in fashion all the time, but I’ve never gotten a “gift” in exchange for a kind article–maybe because I’m not that powerful. In any case, I wasn’t on assignment, and I was more interested in a complimentary cocktail upon arrival than I was in the new kicks.

But truly, maybe I’m not the girl they’re after, because I didn’t have to have any of the shoes. When someone asked me which pair I would take home I replied, none. At this point, I said, my wardrobe is more about editing than acquiring. “That’s so mature of you!” exclaimed an editor.

But it’s only sort of true. If they had the boots pictured below in girls’ sizes, I might have been in business:


But alas, they did not. So I turned the whole free conundrum on its head by taking a pair for a friend who incidentally works for free, as an intern, at The New York Times–a business that knows a thing or two about the foibles of freebies.

For more reading on free stuff you could see:

this post on Vanity Fair.com where I, incidentally, work for free (but did not write this): “Mapping Out Your Party Schedule Based on Freebies”


this book on the topic: Free: The Future of a Radical Price

It’s a New York Times bestseller.


1 Comment

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One response to “What Price Freebies?

  1. kjw

    Very mature – and very generous.
    This little intern is wearing her new brogues today. Thanks, love.

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