My best pair of shoes will probably outlive me, or at least they will if I look after them like my father showed me how.
Sadly they are the exception, because the rest of my shoes – and those I buy for my children – hardly seem to last two minutes these days.
It’s not particularly that they’re cheap shoes – in many cases they’re not – but they are modern shoes and just don’t seem to be made to last.
More specifically, it’s the soles that let them down and it deeply grieves my inner miser to throw away a pair of shoes whose polished leather uppers are in fine fettle, but whose soles are in a sorry state and past salvaging.
Even if you could find a proper cobbler these days, they would be unable to repair the modern “composite soles”, which, to be fair, were never made to be repaired.
We live in a throwaway society and shoes, like so many commodities, are made to be slung out and replaced at the first sign of obsolescence.
Here is my particular bugbear, the one which has prompted this futile rant against inferior footwear.
The shoes I’m wearing now have nice brown leather uppers. They weren’t particularly cheap, or expensive, but they looked like decent quality shoes which would serve me well for wearing to work. They were comfortable too ... for the first couple of weeks ... and would be still if not for the soles which looked chunky and durable, but were not.
After just a fortnight’s wear, the paper-thin veneer of rubber hiding the “honeycomb” structure beneath had worn its first puncture. You hear it first ... a hissing noise as you put your foot down or lift it up.
That I could live with, but in wet weather (with which we are amply blessed) the hissing turns to slurping as the cavity below the puncture becomes a mini suction pump. As you step down on a wet pavement (God forbid a puddle!) the air is forced out, and as you lift your foot, the water is sucked in. And what separates the rubber sole and leather insole? Cardboard that’s what... a substance ideal for soaking up water and turning to a soggy mush. So my still new shoes are bound for the bin.
One of my favourite musicians, Mark Knopfler, sings a song called “Quality Shoe”, a homage to footwear that became old friends. Which takes me back to my best shoes.
Why will they outlive me? Because they are old-fashioned mill clogs, made to measure, handcrafted in good thick leather and with wooden bottoms finished with an easily replaced solid rubber sole.