Archive for the ‘Shoes’ Category

Vurspring durch Technik Chic

In Shoes on September 29, 2013 at 4:01 pm


Which three brands do you think I’ve bought the most pairs of shoes from over the years? Well, Prada is probably first, but after that you’ll be surprised. They’re all German: Birkenstock, Haflinger and Worishofer.

Apart from their country of origin there are two things which these three brands share, which make them appealing to me. The first is that their shoes are based on comfort and utility. These are shoes designed for feet and for walking, rather than for style and posing.

And the odd thing is, that in the spirit of that phrase of the 20th century Modernists ‘form follows function’, although ugly and ungainly when compared to, say, a Prada shoe designed to delight the eye, there is something aesthetically pleasing about them.

It was an American architect, Louis Sullivan, who came up with that sound bite, but I’ve always associated it with a German institution: the Bauhaus art school, the early 20th century cradle of Modernism, reigned over by Walter Gropius.

His philosophy, which Sullivan put into words so well, is that things which are designed simply to do what they are required to do with the greatest efficiency and no unnecessary fuss will naturally please the eye. Plug ugly Birkenstocks, in the Gizeh style (even the names are fugly…) oddly please mine.

BirkenstockThis most practical of German shoe brands was the first of these utility shoes I allowed myself to buy, long after secretly admiring them on my acupuncturist back in the late 1980s. I couldn’t let myself buy them then, as they were just too strongly associated with vegan healthwear.

In fact the only shop where you could buy them in London in those days was the Natural Shoe Store, where the shoes very strongly resembled the food eaten by its customers. Brown and good for you.


I finally gave in to my secret desire when I saw them in black patent on Sydney’s Oxford street twelve years ago. I’ve bought a new pair every summer ever since. This year’s are orange patent and very fine.

Having become addicted to the comfort of the cork sole in summer, I then discovered Haflinger clogs, which have a similar arch-supporting cork sole, but thicker, so you get a bit of a Sarkozy lift.


The top of the Haflinger clog is felted wool, which makes them beautifully cosy through the English winter. They are my house shoes, perfect for hours standing cooking on my cold, tile-floored kitchen. I might wear them out to the corner shop, but no further.

I did wonder if I’d gone too far down the utility shoe route the first time I bought a pair, but stopped caring what they looked like once I discovered how comfy they are. And my fears about their aesthetic credentials were assuaged one weekend when my friend Caroline Burstein – of the legendary Browns boutique family – came down to the coast one weekend wearing her Haflingers.

My next discovery, Worishofers, aren’t quite as ugly as the other two shoe brands, but are definitely utility shoes, designed for comfort in wearing.


The first time I saw them was in a small pharmacy near my mother-in-law’s house in Belgrade. They caught my eye among the Scholl sandals and the plastic clogs, because there was something sexy about them in a pervy way, the raised heel of the cork wedge sole, in a mule style, and the punctured leather cross strap hinting at a lady who liked to be comfortable, but would never give in to frumpery.

I immediately wanted to buy them, but stopped myself, thinking I must be such an addicted shopper, I had to snap up whatever whatever was available in any given situation – even if it was orthopaedic shoes.

The next time I saw them was in an achingly cool hipster shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York…

So it turned out I wasn’t the only one who found these shoes oddly appealing. I immediately bought a pair and found they are a summer dream shoe. Very comfie, with a good lift and a certain MILF cheekiness, with the cool credentials of being a utility brand.


Which is why so many celebrities have been snapped walking the summer city streets in them. And with this new success, like Birkenstocks, they are now becoming available in groovy new finishes, such as leopardprint, although I think I will stay loyal to the red, mule style for life.

Which I will be able to do because the other crucial detail these three German shoe brands share is that they all keep their most popular styles going, year after year.


I do wish companies at the slightly more fashion end of things would do this. I know in store shopper interest is peaked by novelty, but I think repeat purchases is a lucrative market at lot of brands miss out on. And with online shopping they could showcase the new lines in store and sell the permanent range on line.

If only TopShop still did the Martha jeans I so loved, but that’s it, one season, then gone. Likewise my perfect sleeveless silk high-summer dress, by Saint Tropez. The only chance I have of getting another of those is to have it copied in Singapore. Boo.


But having consigned the last pair, knackered and battered to the bin after two years hard wear, I’m about to order my fourth pair of grey felt Haflinger clogs. As long as they keep their side of the bargain, these three shoe brands have got me for life.

I just have to decide whether to go braid or no braid… and I think I’m leaning to braid this year.

Which items do you buy on repeat? Or wish you could…


Eight pairs of shoes…?

In Actors, Celebrities, Shoes on June 28, 2013 at 7:13 pm


I was gripped by an item I saw this week on the Daily Mail’s website in which Emma Watson says she has only eight pairs of shoes. Eight!

The comment was inspired by her glimpse into Paris Hilton’s actual wardrobe, which the heiress allowed Sofia Coppola to use in her film The Bling Ring, starring Watson and based on the real-life spate of robberies of Hilton and other young LA celebrities, by a group of spoilt teenagers.

Despite being in command of her own £26 million fortune, Watson was astonished by the sheer volume of designer gear Hilton had – much of it unworn, tags intact.

It’s ‘consumerism as a form of kleptomania,’ said Ms Watson, who is clearly as smart as someone accepted by both Brown and Oxford universities should be. Almost as smart as Hermione Granger.

But back to the eight pairs of shoes… EIGHT?!?! I’ve taken that many on holiday with me – and then I bought two more while I was there.

I’ve got so many pairs of shoes I honestly don’t have a clue how many there are in total. I think I will count them, out of interest, but not right now – I’ll get back to you with that number. Meanwhile I’m doing a mental tally, to see how I square up with Hermion-emma.


Quite a lot of my shoes are in permanent storage on top of a cupboard. There are at least six pairs of really old vintage treasures up there – the oldest from the 1920s – which I bought at jumble sales in the 1970s. Haven’t worn them for thirty years, but can’t part with them. Too special.

There’s also quite a collection of really fabulous (and generally rather camp…) serious designer shoes that I don’t wear any more, but which – along with the vintage ones – I’m saving for my daughter (probably condemning her to size 12 feet in the process).

And out of for nostalgia. I don’t want to forget the season of the Prada d’Orsay pump…oh, happy days in Milano. I bought two pairs. Impossible to walk in, but such things of loveliness.


The next level in my shoe hierarchy are the ones I wear occasionally and like to keep around, just in case and because they’re also beautiful objects to look at. But when I do a rigorous inventory of the shoes I really wear, it comes down to just over twenty pairs, which quite surprises me.

So then I start to wonder, when Emma W. said ‘shoes’, did she mean absolutely every pair of foot covering items she owns, or just ‘proper’ shoes?

Was she discounting her practical utility footwear which, in my case, includes Havaianas, Converse, Nike neoprene mesh trainers, Ugg boots, Hunter wellies, snow boots and espadrilles? Some of them in more than one colourway. Well, all of them actually, except the snow boots.


Then there are my two most-worn  pairs – the annual Birkenstoks (this year’s are apple green patent) and my 20-year old conker brown RM Williams riding boots – which both sit somewhere between utility and proper shoes. Do they count by the Hermion-emma standard?


And how about my Sperry deck shoes and purple suede Fairmount driving shoes? Cowboy boots?

I don’t think any of them can be classed as ‘shoes’, as in feature accessories. They are necessary life aids and iconic items which everyone should have acquired by my age. So if we agree on that, this leaves two more categories of real shoes: day wear and evening. Both of which are subject to seasonal adjustment.

For winter day I’ve got my 15-year old Paraboot brogues, navy brothel creepers, patent loafers, black RM cuban heels, black brogue ballerinas and pointy black Prada pumps.


For summer day it’s Sambag snakeskin ballerinas, smart espadrille wedges and red patent glamour slides.


For evening and best I have vintage croc pointy pumps, very special woven leather Prada pointy pumps, gold Prada sandals and glittery Repetto tango shoes. I’m not showing off, I’ve had all of them for yonks. I look after my footwear diligently, with shoe trees, re-heeling, toe taps etc and they pay me back in years of wear.


So now I’m thinking, did Emma Watson really mean she only has eight pairs of shoes for this season? As in the fashion season.

Working on the latter calculation, I’ve only got one pair of shoes I bought for this summer: divine lilac Sperry nubuck oxfords with fluoro pink and rope sandwich soles.


I feel better about that now.

How many pairs of shoes do you have?

Single sole

In Shoes on January 28, 2013 at 10:25 am

329944_in_xlHow is your single sole? As opposed to your single soul, which is another conversation entirely and one most perfectly addressed by the film of Bridget Jones Diary.

I will never get over the moment when the lift doors open and there is Hugh Grant at the height of his glory. The first time I saw it a full howl escaped from my throat. About twenty viewings later I’ve just about got it down to a yelp. The boating scene absolutely kills me too.


He is my perfect man in that film. Well, apart from the skinny American woman in the bathroom, but the stiletto sharp intelligence, the throwaway wit, the hair, the unbuttoned shirt, the naughty eyes, he just kills me. He was brilliant in real life too, at the Levison Enquiry, sigh… Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, shoes.

‘Single sole’ is the term marvellous Net-a-Porter has come up with for NON platform shoes. I let out another kind of yelp when I first saw it, captioning a picture of the Jimmy Choo above, in the site’s most excellent on line magazine. Here’s the link.!/179/2

It’s such a funny term and so necessary to make the difference between the two kinds of shoes – being normally soled shoes and the platform monstrosities which have dominated the last few years of footwear. Like these monstosities by Guiseppe Zanotti.


If you’ve been reading me for the last year, you will already know what I thinof platform pumps, particularly the nude pump. I HATE THEM. I hated them on sight, weird mutant woman Mr Tumnus feet. They are like Barbie’s permanent high-heel-ready plastic trotters, but worse.


Even after the entire Royal family, who are the world’s most unstylish people, all wore them to Will and Kate’s nups and Ascot, people who should know better were getting around in them.

royals in nude pumps

I don’t hate platforms entirely. I appreciate extended leg length as much as the next stumpy woman. I loved them in the 1970s, when they were new to teen me and I embraced them enthusiastically again when they first re-appeared in the mid-noughties. I still love these Louboutins – they’re properly camp – it was just that the genre then hung around way too long and started to look cheaper and cheaper, in the pursuit of novelty, even when they were £500 shoes.


I still love a wedge. I can’t wait for summer to roll around so I can get back into those. And I love my brothel creeper ‘flatforms’ too, it’s just the endless Louboutin rip offs, I can’t bear.


It’s probably my age, but if I’m going to spend far more money than is quite moral on shoes, they are going to be Manolo Blahnik. Particularly these two styles, which – alongside a whole new collection every season – he has always done. Any shoe style that can still inspire lust, twenty years after you first saw them has to be a classic.



Rule: flatter shoes can be as chic as towering torture chambers

In Celebrities, Famous people, High heels, Shoes on January 26, 2012 at 1:58 pm

BLOGGER’S NOTE:  this post pissed a lot of people off, so I’ve amended parts of it – on the specific advice of the people who got in touch and told me what they didn’t like and why. I’m very grateful to them. I stand by my opinions, but I would never knowingly use offensive terms about particular groups of people.

I’ve also nipped and tucked it in a few other places, because if so many different groups of people got the wrong idea, then that means I didn’t write it well enough in the first place. I think it’s clearer now.

I’ve never thought of Dita von Teese as a bastion of women’s rights. In fact I’m proudly old school feminist about the whole ‘burlesque’ revival. It makes me really uncomfortable. It’s just a fancy name for striptease, which encourages the acceptance of looking at women as objects. I don’t accept it as ‘stylish’.

In fact I’m convinced the whole thing is part of a New World Order global conspiracy of Stepford Wives fundamentalists (a word which, I now realise, spookily contains the sub words ‘men’ and ‘mental’…), who are also behind the current trend for very young women to wear the style celebrated in TOWIE, Desperate Scousewives etc – more make up and hairspray than a young Priscilla Presley (below) and higher heels than the most outrageous drag queen.

Well, obviously not, but I do wonder why we have casually allowed these repressive looks back into the lexicon of style. I really worry about the human Barbie dolls currently being held up to my little girl as the ideal of female aspiration. And not just for looks – for life.

All up, I’m really looking forward to the backlash to the false lash, when we’ll all be challenging 1970s Lauren Hutton again, rather than 1960s Danny La Rue.

Phew, glad I got all that out, now back to Dita. While her choice of career confuses me, I have always admired her style. She’s one of the most elegant and immaculately turned out women in the world. But my respect for her chic ranked up a whole new notch, when I saw the picture at the top – and others – of her wearing her signature groomed style, but with shoes you could drive a bus in, let alone run for one. And not in a caught coming out of the gym way (although I believe she was fresh from pilates in some of these…), but as part of a gorgeous planned outfit. Hurray!

Not because I don’t love high heels – I have a large collection myself – but I can’t wear them all day every day and I feel intimidated by the pressure to do so. At the Paris and Milan fashion shows (which I covered for many years as a magazine editor-in-chief and later as a newspaper fashion writer) it’s almost like a gladitorial contest, who can wear the highest shoes for the totter from the limo into the venue and out again.

So to see Dita wearing flats with all the elegance she wears her heels is a real inspiration.

And she gets another big gold star for the bag she’s carrying in the top photo here.

It’s the Saigon style by venerable Paris luggage brand Goyard, (older than Louis Vuitton and much more discreet), which is a great choice in itself and she’s had it amusingly emblazoned with her monogram. So that’s all good, but what I really love is that there are loads of pictures on the internet of her carrying this particular bag with different outfits.

She’s using it as an investment piece, her go-to bag, that she carries every day, just like a real person – rather than yet another cashed-up meta-consumer showing off yet another of her box fresh Birkins. (Bernie Ecclestone’s daughter, Tamara, has a special room for hers…)

Flat shoes and cost-per-wear? Dita, you’ve won me over.

Truly Glorious Goodwood

In High heels, Men, Older women, People, Shoes on July 30, 2011 at 12:13 am

I’d always thought the name of Goodwood’s annual summer race meeting was rather self-congratulatory. Now I understand it’s simply the most accurate description.

I went on Thursday for Ladies Day and had what I can only describe as one of the most glorious days of my life. The weather was glorious, the setting is glorious, the racing was glorious – and the people watching was truly glorious.

Although it was Ladies Day and Grazia ’s lovely Paula Reed was out with her Channel 4 crew filming the ‘fashions in the field’ (to quote one of my favourite Aussie terms), it was the gents who caught my eye.

And they were ‘gents’. Gentleman of the old school, looking so happy and at ease in their natural habitat and their preferred summer plumage.

Not for Goodwood the painful morning dress of Royal Ascot’s Royal Enclosure.

Even in the smart bit of Gooders – the Richmond Enclosure, my new eden – the dress code for men is nothing more taxing than a suit and tie.


The ideal version being a linen suit worn with a panama hat. They all looked so happy in that get up. Feeling a bit jaunty, but not done up.

The relaxed but chic atmosphere of the event put me most in mind of Henley Regatta, with the big difference that Goodwood is not peopled by a superrace of breathtakingly beautiful love god rowers.

The young men at Henley can make you swoon away – in my early 20s, I could hardly stand it – at Goodwood, I enjoyed admiring the style of the more mature ones.

And it made me reflect, that one of the benefits of growing older is that there is an ever increasing pool of people to find attractive.

Of course it was also fun checking out the women’s oufits, and once again I found I was more taken with the seasoned racegoers, tearing to get to their favourite spot in the stand to watch the race, than I was by the fillies.

Those towering platform stilettos beloved of the under-40s do not look right for the races and they’re so unpractical. I saw a lot of sh’agony – shoe agony – as a result, because you spend your whole time at Goodwood milling about over very uneven terrain.

Over to the parade ring to look at the horses – the true beauties of the day – back to the Tote to place your bet, time for a quick drink, study the form, then over to the stand to watch the race, back to the Tote to collect your winnings, then off to the winners’ enclosure to watch the presentation and generally perve, queue up for some strawberries, listen to the band, and so on.

The whole event is one long passagiata. Which equals people-watching paradise.

I had a wonderful time, not unenhanced by winning on three races and going home £96 richer. Watching the beautiful Gifted Girl romp home, ahead for the whole race, coming in at least four lengths ahead (or so it looked to me…) was a moment of true bliss.

But watching Frankie Dettori, my absolute favourite jockey, collect his second trophy, for winning on a horse I hadn’t backed, was just as good.


I’m already planning next year’s visit. And, of course, I’ll be taking my lucky handbag.


I must add here that I went to Goodwood as a guest member of the press, but that’s not why I’m raving about it. This is my personal blog and I write what I like on it. I can’t be bought – as Giorgio Armani will tell you. He once banned me from his shows for writing a frank and honest review of one I didn’t care for. Not used to being told the inconvenient truth, he got the hump in a big way, but later forgave me.

I’ll be going back to Goodwood next year on my own dollar.


I took far too many pictures to post on here, so I’ve created a Flickr account if you want to have a look at the whole lot (and see what I was wearing ha ha ha).

I don’t really know what I’m doing on there yet, but it’s the ‘set’ called ‘Goodwood 2011’ and you click from shot to shot. They’re all captioned which takes you through the flow of the day.

Changeover challenge

In Book, Shoes on May 6, 2011 at 6:00 pm

As promised last week, here is a taster from my new book Style Notes. In bookshops now – and the perfect Mother’s Day gift ha ha ha.

It is available outside Australia via the internet, although I’m not going to suggest one  particular site, for fear of offending all the others! Please Google it.

As I said last time, I did the chapter-heading  illos inside – but not the gorgeous ones on the cover. Thanks to the very clever Emily O’Neill for them. 



Local authorities in large cities should be obliged to provide shoe changing cubicles for women. Standing on one high heel, on a hard surface, while you try and cram on the second shoe, is a highly dangerous activity. Surely health and safety standards demand that comfortable seating be provided for it?

Also a hook for your handbag, so you don’t have to leave it on the ground during the shoe changing manoeuvre. This is a security issue, as it would be very hard to pursue a handbag thief while wearing one high-heeled shoe. Providing this simple amenity could instantly reduce the crime rate.

There are also clearly broader security issues for the greater public safety. If you think about the number of women you see – especially around 5.30pm near any business district – leaning against a wall changing their shoes, with bags littered on the pavements around them. Who is to know which bags belong to innocent shoe changers and which might contain an Improvised Explosive Device? The shoe changing cubicles could have bag checks with x-ray equipment and possibly sniffer dogs.

Most of all, though, providing adequate shoe changing facilities is a human rights issue. It’s extremely damaging to the self esteem to have to change your shoes in public. In some cultures it is considered highly offensive to show someone the soles of your feet. According to our own social mores, it’s devastating because everyone knows you can’t hack it full time in the heels. It’s humiliating. Your status as a woman is in question.

The other thing they clearly need to put on the statute books is a service of free osteopaths, who could operate in booths next to the shoe changing cubicles. These are obviously necessary due to the crucial woman hours being lost to back and neck pain caused by carrying very heavy handbags, containing the other pairs of shoes.

The recent availability of roll-up and folding ballerina pumps, specially designed for the mandatory double-shoe commute has alleviated some of the handbag weight. But as the bag is only lighter while the more challenging shoes are on the feet, this advantage is offset by the catastrophic effect on the spine of walking in high heels.

Perhaps the shoe-changing cubicles could also include a range of vending machine offering pain killers and a selection of podiatory requisites. Obviously the osteopaths would offer a complimentary foot massage after each spinal realignment.

Another way the government could combat the increasing problem of shoe-related female physical and mental health issues would be to provide adequate education in the area. It really is quite shocking that walking in high-heels is not on the junior school curriculum.

Studies have shown that women who do ballet from a young age find it much easier to walk in high heels in later life, so introducing the subject of walking on the balls of your feet in kindie makes obvious sense. Complimentary courses in bunion management and corn care can be introduced at the high school stage.

Another area where health policy is really slacking is in offering an adequate array of foot plastic surgery options. Toe lengthening for a more attractive sandal foot and the removal of the unnecessary ‘little’ toe, which senselessly restricts the range of shoes many women are able to wear, should all be freely available on Medicare.

Once these measure are in place, the next stage would obviously be a system of ‘walkers’. This could be a very useful way to get the long-term unemployed back into the workforce. They could be collected from pens on street corners, next to the shoe-changing booths, and be used to be lean on while negotiating kerbs, stairways and that tricky first escalator step.

If none of these proposals are adopted we will have no choice but to stop wearing ridiculously uncomfortable high-heeled shoes we can’t actually walk in without experiencing searing discomfort and ruining our feet.

What a ludicrous idea.



Rule: It’s really not necessary to wear skyscraper heels during the day

In Famous people, High heels, Shoes on April 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm



How glamorous does one person really need to be? Isn’t Elle McPherson fabulous enough just being alive and walking around on those legs with that hair and that smile, those lovely boys and that international business? These days, though, it seems that’s not enough.

Not only do you have to be the yummiest of mummies, and delightfully devoted, taking your kids to school yourself – you have to do it in towering high heels. Shoes with heels so wickedly spikey high the designer himself called them after the devil.

Let me be clear, I am not criticising Ms MacPherson here. She looks amazing. She’s not just wearing those jeans, she’s working them, and there’s no doubt the Christian Louboutin ‘Lucifer’ shoes propel the outfit from every day comfy to high-octane glamour. But really… is this now the bench mark for working mothers’ daywear?

What makes it hard to take is that later the same day, Elle was photographed, by some nasty intrusive paparazzo, sitting in the hairdresser’s, joyfully taking the Lucifer shoes off and rubbing her aching tootsies.

It’s all part of the conspiracy of the high heel. A living lie of ambitious women tottering around in towering heels for the most mundane of occasions and playacting an air of insouciant comfort.

‘These old things? Oh I just knock about in them…They’re like slippers to me. I can’t wear flats.’

I’ve lost count of the number of Anna Wintour wannabes who proclaim they only ever wear Manolos. One that particularly sticks in the mind was a New York plastic surgeon, who wears them while she operates. I don’t know about you, but I would really rather have my surgeon concentrating on her scalpel, than her stilettos.

Victoria Beckham is another power mum always seen in punishing heels, despite the fact that wearing them has gnarled her poor feet to such an extent, she might have to have bunion surgery.

Back in 2007 she told a journalist from London’s Daily Mail, ‘I always wear stilettos but they have given me awful feet. I hate my feet, they are the most disgusting thing about me. Part of the reason I wear such amazing shoes is to take the eye away from my horrid feet and on to the stunning shoes.’

Yet four years later, despite knowing the heels have ruined her feet, she’s still trooping around in them. Of course, that’s her look out, but what bugs me about the Killer Heel Conspiracy is the impact on young women, of celebrity role models perpetuating this lie that high heels are a good idea for every day life.

I’m not against heels per se – they’re fun and yes, they do lengthen the leg and make you look taller and slimmer – but I’m fiercely against the idea that they are a casual shoe.

Wearing them every day has become a kind of competitive prestige behaviour. As though you’re not a true wonder woman if you can’t dance backwards in high heels – whilst also being a perfect mother, supportive partner and a peer-revered internationally successful businesswoman. If you can’t hack the heels you’re not in the club.

In this way the Killer Heel Conspiracy damages not only the feet of those who fall for it – but the self esteem of those don’t. Let’s not give it further credence.

Frankenstein shoes

In Shoes on January 25, 2011 at 6:56 pm
by Ben Watts

 For this week’s mid-week special I’ve decided to stay out of the archives and discuss something new, because I need to discuss it now. It won’t wait until Saturday morning (so you might get an Archives Special then, we’ll see). I need to know what you all think urgently.

Anyway. It’s about these here shoes. I saw them in the window of Prada in London’s Bond Street and they literally stopped me in my tracks.

I immediately snapped this picture and posted it on Twitter with the following comment:

I think these are the ugliest shoes I have ever seen.

Quite a few people agreed with me. But then something happened: I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I kept turning the concept of them – the outrageous concept of marrying the brogue, with the espadrille, with the 80s trainer – over and over in my head, like sucking on a giant gobstopper.

And then I started to like them.

What they are, I’ve realised, is a hybrid clone shoe. The terrible experiment of an evil mad shoe professor, gone horribly wrong. A Frankenstein shoe, made of the body parts of other shoes and just as ugly and scary as that mythical monster.

They also make me think of that saying about God making the hyena out of all the spare parts he had left over from making all the other animals.

But what they finally are – and this was the clincher for me – is a brothel creeper. They are a brother creeper made out of bits of other iconic shoes.  A hyena hybrid brothel creeper. Bring it on.

And I love brothel creepers. They are a properly iconic shoe and what makes them particularly interesting is their long-time association with youth sub-cultures.

They’re said to have developed after WW2 from the rubber-soled army desert boots, but first appeared in the style we know now in the 1950s made by George Cox of Northampton, the traditional centre of the British shoe industry. Thrillingly they’re still in Northampton and still making them.

Back then in the early 1950s, they were immediately adopted by Teddy Boys, becoming part of their classic rig out.

I first started wearing them in the late 1970s when I was a punk rocker. All cool punks wore creepers – see Mr John Lydon on the left here -which was ironic as Teddy Boys were our greatest enemies. But like everything great about punk it was naughty Malcolm McLaren’s idea. He and Vivienne used to sell creepers in their shop Let It Rock, which opened in 1971, so it was natural that the shoes became part of the dress code, when he invented British punk a few years later.


Although I think us stealing their shoe style was one of the things which pissed Teddy Boys off so much about us punks (and as these amazing pictures by Ben Watts show – you really don’t want to piss off a Teddy Boy…).

by Ben Watts

I wore them again in the 1980s – as did Bananarama, although maddeningly I can’t find a pic of them doing it – and last year the idea suddenly crept into my brain that it was time they came back into my life again.

Then, in the way of these synchronistic things, I was having my hair done back in the summer and I noticed that lovely Cetera (who does my colour at John Frieda, if you’re interested…), was wearing them.

Like me she is at the weenie beanie end of the height spectrum and we had a very satisfying chat about the genius walkable plus height-boosting combo that’s unique to a creeper. You can run in a creeper, be it for a bus, or from a Teddy Boy.

In my clubbing youth I used to walk from the Music Machine in Camden, all the way down to our squat in Clapham North at four in the morning without a second thought, in mine.

The same day I saw Cetera’s creepers, I discovered that the very excellent Office shoes were doing them (including a fine style featuring leopardskin), so this iconic shoe is definitely having another fashion moment – and Miuccia Prada is right on it as always.

So I now love the shoes I initially thought were the world’s ugliest. I love them for being a combo of four of my favourite shoe styles and for being so fabulously outrageously wrong. But I don’t think I’m game to wear them. I think I’m just a little too old to be quite so wacky.

But it’s never too late to wear a classic creeper. I’m going to the British Boot Company in Camden to score myself some black suede George Cox originals.

So what do you all think?
George Cox brothel creepers

Feet first

In Shoes on January 18, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Here is your mid-week archives special. I can’t quite remember when this one was from, but it was 2003 or earlier. How time flies. But even eight years later, this subject still makes the back of my neck prickle with outraged irritation.


I sometimes feel we are living in a culture so decadent it makes the last days of ancient Rome seem as restrained as a Shaker barn raising.

There’s so much bare flesh on open display everywhere, filth all over advertising billboards, hideous spam porno in your email inbox every morning and endless ghastly reality TV programmes which celebrate all the worst human characteristics – avarice, envy, selfishness, competitiveness, wind etc.

Then I open American Vogue and read an article about women who have cosmetic surgery – on their feet. Not elective surgery to relieve painful conditions such as bunions, ingrown toenails, or plantar warts, but completely unessential vanity surgery to make their feet look nicer.

‘I got tired of burying my toes in the sand when I went to the beach. It was humiliating,’ says a 37 year-old sales consultant quoted in the article. A woman who clearly has far too much time to think about herself.

The crime nature had committed against her? Her second toes were longer than her first. But not after Dr David Ostad had gone in and shaved 2 mm of bone off the second knuckle of said blighted toes.

Feeling sick yet? Not Ms MeMeMe, she’s thrilled with it all.

‘The transformation is amazing and I was back in high heels in two months.’ Well, thank GOD. She must have felt like the Elephant Woman of Easthampton before the op.

‘More aristocratic, less peasant-like,’ was the request from an unnamed actresses to another New York plastic surgeon, with regard to her own clod hoppers, which were clearly the only thing between her and an Academy Award.

The surgeon was happy to oblige (beach house, beach house, beach house) and promptly lengthened her toes with bone-grafting techniques, removed soft tissue from her instep to narrow her feet and administered fat injections to hide unsightly veins and tendons.

Is there something wrong with me that I find this outrageously vain and self indulgent? Am I some kind of self-righteous do gooder for thinking this doctor’s bone-grafting skills could be better used by land mine maimed children in Africa than by spoiled thespians in Manhattan?

Not that I’m unsympathetic to women who dislike their own feet. I have several friends who long to wear strappy shoes in summer but feel they can’t, because they have less than lovely tootsies. Rather as I would love to wear skimpy little sundresses and feel I can’t because of my overcatered mammary glands. But you get on with it don’t you? You ack-sen-chu-ate the positive and move on.

Not these self-obessed over-indulged New York nugget heads. Consultant podiatrist Suzanne Levine D.P.M. who, it says in the article, ‘regularly performs surgery in her three and a half inch Manolos…’, offers a service where she injects collagen into the balls of people’s feet so that they will find high heels less excruciatingly uncomfortable.

‘Designer high heels like Sergio Rossis may be gorgeous,’ says Dr Levine, someone I would very much like to slap. ‘But they’re very slight-soled. As you age, your feet become less plump, making these delicate shoes less and less comfortable to wear.’

Fine. So stop wearing them.

And it doesn’t end with the collagen. After they’ve had these various foot perfecting procedures (and probably Botox to get rid of those humiliating ankle wrinkles) Dr Levine’s clients then return each month for foot facials (hello?) which cost US$225 a time. This makes me so cross the top of my head is itching.

It’s not that I’m resentful of people having more money than me – so much money they can throw it away on foot facials – or so much spare time they can spend an afternoon a month just having their feet massaged, it’s the overwhelming obsession with the self I find so repugnant.

Come to think of it, they wore sandals all the time in Ancient Rome, didn’t they? I wonder if Caligula ever had a foot facial.

Here’s something these highly-competitive women might like to take part in: the 80 Metre High Heel Sprint held  annually in St Petersberg (in aid of breast cancer charities, judging by all the pink).



And rather than having toe surgery, they could just wear these to the beach.

The shoe whisperer

In Shoes on December 3, 2010 at 4:39 pm

I find it quite encouraging that at my very great age I’m still having blinding flashes of illumination with regard to shoes.

The latest was re-learning the idea that new shoes need to be worn in, rather as you run in the engine of a new car. This is something I had entirely forgotten over the great stretch of time since the early 1980s when trainers first started to be worn as acceptable daywear, and not just for sporting purposes.

Be they the bright white Reeboks of the early trainer era (sing-a-long with me: I’m working nine to five….), the cool All Stars currently widely adopted, or the mid-period Prada Sport trainer/shoe mutant, the collective effect has been to make us all rather lazy about shoes. We expect them to be instantly comfortable. The footwear equivalent of microwave popcorn.

This has led directly to the great rise in uptake of the ‘comfort shoe’ even among people who should know better. People like me. I confess there have been days when I have actually left the house in my cork-soled felt-topped hobbit clogs, too challenged by the prospect of putting on anything more demanding. I might as well have strolled down the street wearing a Slanket (aka as a ‘Snuggie’, either way it’s a fleece blanket with sleeves).

So I’ve decided that apart from Converse for strictly casual outings, any shoe that you can wear right out of the shop and on until morning, is not one you should be happy to be seen sporting in public.

What brought me to this renewed understanding is the current wonder crop of fabulous shoes on sale in London. It’s one of those rare seasons where there is an almost bewildering plethora of relatively walkable shoes, smart enough to be worn to a business lunch, on offer.

Working on the principle that you have to get them while you can, I’ve snapped up wedge desert boots, brogues with a chunky mid-height heel, silk-tasselled black velvet smoking slippers and black patent loafers. I’m wearing the loafers right now as part of my programme to break them in at home, before setting off on a real life mission in them.

Because now I remember that was what you had to do before the trainer revolution made us all so lazy. You had to break in a new pair of shoes like a horse. So I’m rediscovering the lost art of shoe whispering.

You start off wearing them round the house with really thick socks, until the leather starts to give, the toe starts to bend and the whole thing begins to mould to your foot. At the same time, you are also getting your foot used to the shoe. These ones are a bit rubby on the heel, so both shoe and skin need to adapt, one to soften, the other to callus over.

Only once those processes are well started, should you risk the first short outings in your new proper shoes, and then eventually, after a few trips to the corner shop, they will finally be ready to spend a whole day with you.

It might seem like a lot of bother, when you’re used to instant comfort footwear, but when I look in my closet, the things that have given me the most back over the years – the cowboy boots, the brogues, the riding boots – have all involved this process.

I’ve also realised that several pairs of shoes I had written off as major shopping errors actually just need a bit of effort to beat them into submission. This has to be good news.

So re-embrace a more rigorous era of footwear and remember – comfort shoes are the Slankets of footwear. Wear them wisely.

Mid-heel brogues and patent loafers from Office. Smoking slippers from House of Bruar. Slanket from hell.

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