This is that guide.
I used to commute to work in a town, using a car. This was simple, and on average only drove me to a state of near-homicidal rage eighteen or nineteen times per week. As a car commuter, however, buying shoes was easy. Like most people, I would drive to a shopping centre, and go to a shop like this:
Once there, I would navigate past the racks of anything that was made too obviously of plastic or smelt offensive, until finding somewhere near the back of the shop the Moderately Priced Shoes. This would result in purchasing a shoe like this:
Which as I’m sure you’ll agree, is only a bit disappointing. I would wear these shoes for about a year, after which the combination of accelerator pedals and office carpets would cause them to undergo some internal collapse, then repeat the experience.
Now I work in the London.
London imparts unique demands upon the commuter’s footgear:
The essential problem with the Moderately Priced Shoe is that it is designed mostly for driving around in an Audi A1 and treading the threadbare carpets of the damp-infested flat you’re showing to some disinterested punter. It is not designed for the many miles the average London worker is likely to rack up from now until they invent the Waterloo, Office & Pub Line.
London’s unique demands mean that within a mere handful of weeks, the Moderately Priced Shoe will look like this:
A bit of a problem. At least it is when the kind of films that used to star Norman Wisdom, which represented the world’s only demand centre for comedically worn-out footwear, are no longer produced.
You might be thinking at this point, “well, Londoners are smart. Some days they are sober for a few hours in the morning. Haven’t they solved this problem?”
Well yes, they have.
In London, if you want shoes, you go to a shop like this:
And you buy a shoe like this:
This is the brogue. There are various sub-types which may or not officially be brogues, but all have a certain broguish quality to them.
The brogue has many features ideal for London commuting:
- High comfort.
- Improbable durability.
- Modular construction allowing worn-out bits to be replaced as needed.
- Loud soles for very pointed and deliberate walking behind people going too slowly.
- Sharp, strong heel stack allowing the “accidental” spiking in the shins of anyone insisting on kicking the back of your feet on railway station stairs.
There is, in fact, only one problem with it:
The entry level price of a solid, Goodyear-welted brogue shoe (or in my case, a similarly constructed cap toe Oxford) is at a level which, while not totally unaffordable, is still enough to trigger my stock “you could buy a car for that!” response -although if I’m honest, what with my predilection for browsing the murkier reaches of eBay Motors, the more luxurious of the Pret sandwich offerings can trigger that response:
“Well, surely there’s a sensible middle ground,” I hear you say. “There must be a shop offering shoes with a sufficient broguishness but a price tag that would only buy you, say, a 1992 Vauxhall Cavalier with an automatic gearbox permanently stuck in third.”
There is not.
The entire world of mid-priced men’s shoes seems to be a competition between manufacturers to make the pointiest object possible that can still be placed on a human foot. Marks would appear to, but the reaction of a Marks shoe to a wet day is much the same as that of a 1981 Lancia Beta. (Which you cannot buy for the same price, probably due to none of them being left owing to said extreme water-solubility.)
Anyway, eventually I found a pair I liked in a sale. Relatively few people died. Like an economic policy from the Bank of England, I’ve succesfully made the misery go away by postponing it for a bit.
And this is why I don’t like buying shoes any more.