Style | Swellboy

Swellboy on… a footwear crisis

The arrival of spring brings yet another footwear conundrum

Swellboy on… a footwear crisis

Image: Brijesh Patel

March 31 2011
Nick Foulkes

I seem to be intent on experiencing the changing seasons entirely through my feet, or rather my footwear. If your time weighs sufficiently heavily for you to be a regular reader of this online column (I feel the term “weblog” implies a level of seriousness and modernity that I am not always equal to), then you will know that I have been on a boot-buying binge this winter.

And then, all of a sudden the other day I saw the sun. It did not last for all that long, but it was definitely there, a largeish primrose-coloured disc in the sky. Like an electric switch (perhaps even one mended by Picasso’s electrician), my thoughts jumped from how I might best equip the ends of my legs for tramping through the snow and rain to how I might be shod during the summer. It is a fanciful exercise, not least because much depends on summer actually deciding to make an appearance, and it could well be that the apparition of said primrose disc was actually summer and that I was simply not quick enough when it came to switching shoes.

However, even though I am not by nature an optimist, I am trying to learn how to become one, and so I got on the blower to Hilary Freeman. Hilary has a shoe business called Edward Green and I have to say it is capable of making some of the best factory-made shoes that you will ever see. The past few weeks have seen us in learned discussion about the finer points of unlined shoes. The majority of my summer shoes are made by Pepe, the moccasin man of Marbella; however, there are times when I feel that something a little more formal is called for and in the past I have worn an old pair of Edward Green correspondent slip-ons in burnt oak and white reverse calf sans shoes. They are extremely natty; however, I have an issue with the toe puff.

The toe puff is an essential part of the shoe: it keeps the toe cap in shape and these days the required rigidity is achieved with a high-tech composite material that is light and unobtrusive. However, I have noticed that my un-stockinged feet do not always agree with the slightly hard edge of the toe puff. I remember Jeremy Hackett once telling me that in the old days (the dim and distant 1980s) when he had a shoe shop, he used to commission shoes without any form of reinforcement, lining or toe puff.

However, Hilary has told me that her experts are of the belief that the stress I might place on the nose of a shoe without a toe puff might be too much for it to bear. I am now on the horns of an argumentum cornutum. Maybe it would be better if summer decided to give things a miss this year; as a result, my footwear arrangements would be a good deal less complicated.

See also

People, Shoes