Most wanted: I came out of the old Wheelers in St. James one early evening about 30 years ago and made my way toward Piccadilly by way of Bury Street -there were a couple of lovely booksellers who’s window were well worth the detour. I passed an antique shop, closed for the night, and in the window was a pair of slippers, bespoke gentleman’s bedroom slippers, no doubt Victorian, made from giant tortoise. Whether they would fit me or not, I never found out. When I rang the shop the Monday following, they had already been sold. Needless to say, I have never seen anything like them again but it did peak my interest in that wonderful material, as you can see from my website. The “fish” that got away.
Favourite shoes ever: I must answer this question two ways. My favourite day to day shoes have evolved over the years. My original Church’s Cape Buck Suede Full Brogues were for many years my default shoes. But today, in German winter you will see me around town in a slightly less than reputable pair of Tan Plain Front Suede Monks, vintage 1970s, inherited from my father, a half size too big but ideal to take a warm inner sole against the cold. In San Francisco I’m seen in yet another pair of Suede Monks but these are Full Wing Tip Brogues in a rather dark brown, absolute beauties by Church’s (old logo) from the 1960’s or earlier. They are a good example of the kind of sculpted fit shoes of the mid-century and earlier can sometimes provide.
As to my all time favourite shoes; these were are a pair I never owned and only saw once, a pair of Brown Full Brogue Oxfords, made to measure for my father in Cairo by a shoemaker to the English trade, shortly after he was demobbed from the English Army. The exact date is unknown but can be estimated as around 1920, a year or two after the war and before his departure from Egypt. The only time I saw them was around 1970, worn by a man to whom my father had given them around 1930, a gift from one not so well off immigrant to an even poorer one. In 1970 the beneficiary of these shoes had become a man of great means, indeed a philanthropist of international stature, but he wore those shoes from time to time, he told me, to remember his impoverished arrival to these shores and my father’s kindness to him. Anyway, he said, the shoes were still good!