Interesting thread and great topic. Hitting on the definition of "investment" is what I was going to touch on before aravenel beat me to it. People completely misunderstand what the word investment means as it applies to perishable goods. It has nothing to do with putting money into shoes with the expectation of capital appreciation, dividends, or interest earnings. It has everything to do with quality. You can invest in quality, and end up with a better value in the long term, but only if you care for it. Using cars as an analogy fails on many fronts, though it is the most frequently brought up analogy when these discussions erupt.
I think that a better analogy that most people can relate to would be furniture. From day one, an article made from particle board looks cheaper than an article made from mahogany. Most people can see the difference up front, and if not, give it some time and I promise the difference will become readily apparent.. After the article starts being used, the one made from mahogany begins to take on character, while the one made from particle board begins to look worse and worse. People often obsess over the first scratch on a smooth surface, but when you see an antique that has so many scratches and dings that it is exuding character, it is a thing of beauty. The article made from mahogany can be stained, it can have it's finish restored, it can be waxed and polished to bring out it's natural beauty. Blemishes can be sanded or filled, if one desires.
There is very little that can be done to something made from particle board. Most people buy articles of furniture made from particle board because they don't care about the difference in quality, they can't afford it, or they don't intend for it to last long enough for it to matter. There is a reason you don't see articles made from particle board in fine antique shops. It doesn't generally last long enough to make it there, and even if it did, it has very little resale value. If an article made of particle board does reach antique status, it is probably because it received little or no direct use that would lead to showing wear. It just sat in a corner with a picture frame on it for 50 years. You can use furniture made from fine wood. Kids can bang their toys on it. You can eat on it. You can knock silverware and dishes against it. You can spill stuff on it. You can carry it with you for years. It can be used like this for centuries if well cared for. As soon as particle board gets wet, it swells and distorts.
When you buy furniture made from fine wood, you are making an investment. Pure and simple. You can use it the rest of your life, pass it on to your kids, grandkids, and great grandkids.
Of course there are people that only want new stuff. They are the ones that often buy particle board stuff to use until it looks bad, then they throw it out and get new stuff. People with more money than sense may buy fine wood articles and still replace them frequently, but they are the exception to the rule. To each their own.
This is the definition of investment that applies to fine footwear. No, shoes won't last for centuries (with regular use), and a lot of what I said above about wood furniture doesn't directly apply to shoes, but much of it does. There is also a lot more to a good quality pair of shoes and how long they last than just cemented vs. stitched construction. Shoes can disintegrate from the inside out before the sole wears out. Using someone as an example that buys cheap shoes, and gets a certain number of years out of them as a reason that cheap shoes are adequate isn't really logical. If a person can get 10 years out of a pair of $100 shoes, good for them! The same person will still get far longer out of a pair of $300 shoes! The quality difference exists no matter what. If a person only gets 1 year from a pair of good quality shoes, then they probably only get a few months from a pair of cheap shoes. Don't confuse spending more money on something because of a brand name with spending more money on quality. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. The two don't necessarily go hand in hand.
Obviously the law of diminishing returns kicks in at some point, and you are paying for beauty and finishing as opposed to durability. Again, don't throw the baby out with the bath water. That doesn't negate that higher quality is better than lower quality. Do people exaggerate the short life of a cemented pair of shoes? Often, yes. Does that mean that a high quality pair of shoes won't last significantly longer and look better through the process? No. If you enjoy watching a quality product age, take on a unique character, and become a companion that goes with you everywhere you walk, then invest in quality. If you don't care about that, then buy cheap ones.
+1 very well said. This was what I meant when I said the investment wasn't a monetary one.