Magazine article The Spectator

Heel Thyself

Magazine article The Spectator

Heel Thyself

Article excerpt

I am buying a pair of shoes. And this is something I have never done before.

Not really. Not at a Savile Row tailors where the shop assistant asks you questions such as: 'Would you say you are conservative by nature or are you more of an extrovert who likes to be noticed?' Bit of both, frankly. But it's more a case of reaching a certain age and realising that I have never been properly shod. Worse, I've seldom bothered to polish my shoes or been interested in what other people wear on their feet. Then, a few weeks ago, a snappily dressed man from our local audio systems shop came over to install a big, brash flatscreen TV in time for the rugby World Cup and I couldn't help noticing that he was wearing spectacular brown shoes with a sheen on them like William Hague's pate.

Which is why I am standing in the shoe section of Kilgour (founded 1923) trying on fudge-coloured loafers designed like a power boat. They have a band across them but it's pushed back further than is usual on shoes of this style, leaving a good length of shoe that tapers swankily down to the toe.

Sleek and narrow. Modern. I like it -- so does the shop assistant, but then Kilgour's Italian creative director, Carlo Brandelli, shows up and we have a three-way conference. Apparently, this is what happens when you buy shoes costing £295.

'The style is fine but the colour is not you, ' says Carlo. 'It will tell people that you are trying too hard. You need something more subtle -- possibly dark blue suede or simple black leather.' But I want the fudge, not least because this kind of defiance would amuse my late mother, who brought me up to believe that brown shoes should never be worn after 6 p. m.

The deal is done. The assistant packs the shoes individually into cashmere bags that in turn are transferred to a huge carrier with Kilgour's name on it. I was going to take the Tube home but what's another £12 for a cab when you've just broken a habit of a lifetime? And anyway I couldn't wait to put them on and didn't want to appear overeager in the shop by walking out in them. In the back of the cab, I pull off my Ford Mondeo treads and put on my Porsche replacements. 'They're quite smart but I hate the colour, ' says my wife, back home. 'And it's not always attractive when a man obviously is so keen to show everyone that he has spent a lot of money on his appearance. Are they comfortable?'

Not sure, to be honest. I hadn't given comfort much thought but now you mention it, yes, they are extremely comfortable and I am sure they will outlive me by quite some margin. Good shoes do. I still have several pairs of my father's shoes and one or two of my grandfather's. They sit in shoe-trees at the back of the cupboard because they are too good to throw out -- but I can never wear them because they were made by Lobb's of St James's Street especially for their respective former owners. …

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