My Grandma, Edith, was a stylish, intelligent lady who had a wonderful saying – “show me your shoes, and I’ll tell you who you are.”
Never a truer word was spoken.
All the impact, and awe inspiring beauty of wearing a perfectly tailored suit, bespoke shirt and rakish accessories, comes crashing down to nothing, if you’ve scrimped on your foot candy.
I implore every chap out their, “don’t spoil the ship for a ha’p’orth of tar.” (another Edith special)
I’m talking about those dreadful, flimsy, pointy, plastic-looking abominations with heels and soles as thin as rice paper. The ones with shiny laces, often in a shade of not-quite-black, or dog-poo yellow-brown.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’ve worn some shockers in my youth – faux snakeskin grey loafers (with Spencer trousers and white socks), burgundy and black lizard skin cowboy boots (with a dinner suit!) – but making mistakes is all part and parcel of the rich tapestry of life.
After the Dr. Martens of my college days (worn with silk waistcoats and Yohji Yamamoto high-waisted trousers) , I finally got on the right track and bought some Barkers from Russell and Bromley, for my first job in the City of London.
What followed has been a love affair with shoes. I honestly get more excited about buying a new pair of shoes, than getting a new bespoke suit, probably because I get more of the latter – perks of the trade!
As far as brands go, I’ve been a bit of a tart.
Jefferey West, Oliver Sweeney, Grenson, Edward Green, Church’s, Gucci, Prada, Tods, Lidfort, Foster & Sons and Cheaney have all been represented in the Michelsberg wardrobe.
Clearly, there are many (many) other brands out there that deserve mention, but on a personal note, my next step up, will be a pair of bespoke shoes from Yohei Fukuda.
Your footwear, like every other part of your dress, is a reflection of who you are, and whom you aspire to be.
A member of the establishment is more likely to appreciate an oxford, or, brogue from John Lobb’s, or, Crockett & Jones.
Someone looking for more flair, might check out Berluti, Gaziano & Girling, or, if they have two million dollars to drop, a diamond encrusted loafer from Tom Ford.
I’ve seen stuff that’s made my jaw drop – recently some spiked loafers from Louboutin – but just because I couldn’t wear them, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t work for somebody else.
There is but one rule that IS important, in fact the very reason for this post, and that is KEEP YOUR SHOES CLEAN.
A scuffed, dirty shoe, no matter how expensive, is a horror-show of epic proportion.
It does to style, what Mr Blobby did for music. Like a dirty fingernail and bad breath, it shows a lack of self-respect and highly questionable personable hygiene.
My brother Edward, as a gift for my 40th Birthday, bought me a beautiful shoe-cleaning box from ‘A Fine Pair of Shoes.’
Every morning, before I sit down for breakfast, I clean my shoes.
I find it therapeutic, a way to mentally start preparing for the day ahead, and perhaps oddly, really love the smell of shoe polish.
During a recent lunch to Sous le Nez, I was impressed by the ‘mirror shine’ on a pair of Trickers, worn by my customer, a Mr Larking. A commercial real estate lawyer by trade, it all made sense when I found out he was ex Royal Navy.
Determined to up my game, I visited Fin, the Manager of Cheaney shoes in Leeds, to give me a crash course in achieving such glossy levels of excellence.
I’m going to give you the basics below, but like a French girl learning to cook at her Grand-mere’s knee, there is no substitute for being shown how to do it, live time.
Stage 1: apply a couple of coats of polish (Saphir polish – they do Cheaney’s own label – is the best according to Fin) with an applicator brush, and then brush off with a big horse-hair brush.
Stage 2: damp up a 100% cotton rag (an old shoe bag will work well), add a couple of circle of polish, and do lots of firm, little circular motions.
Stage 3: add a few drops of water during polishing to ‘smooth out’ the polish. If you use too much water, you see water droplets forming, in which case you add more polish. Use too little water and the rag fees too hard to move. It’s all about touch, feel, finger strength and critically, patience.
Stage 4: a wonderful ‘mirror shine’ will form, the perfect final flourish to a gentleman’s armour.
So, if you see a chap letting the side down with a grubby pair of shoes, do him a favour and quote Billy Batts from the film Goodfellas (when he’s busting the balls of Tommy AKA Joe Pesci):
“Go home and get your f*cking shine box.”