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If the shoe fits

by
May 23, 2017

November 2015

A few weeks ago I bought a pair of grey suede shoes that I thought made me look like Elvis on his day off.

Musical, but relaxed and sharp with a whiff of sexual revolution in the air.

Then after a couple of weeks of staring down at them, I thought they made me look more like Liberace on his day off, or my Uncle Bunny who wore cravats and smelled of Old Spice.

Luckily they now sport an engine oil stain, which signals a tough, manly life.

Shoes are powerful things that say a lot about the wearer.

Get the right shoe and you command the crowd.

Chose the wrong ones and doors will slam.

Ask Jessica Mauboy.

Old lawn mowers know the power of a good shoe.

After an exhausting day watching the grass grow, there is nothing so invigorating as a brisk walk to the fridge for a cleansing 1995 Gewurztraminer Spatlese with a pair of grizzled boots flapping around your ankles, laces free to the breeze.

When the chief gardener appears, the boots shout ‘‘hard yakka’’ whereas in fact there has been nothing happening but grass-watching.

I tend to wear shoes until they fall apart like forgotten castles.

There is nothing so lonely or ghostly than a pair of empty, worn-out shoes.

Particuarly the shoes of the dead.

Shoes piled outside the gas chambers at Auschwitz are somehow more poignant and horrifying than the piles of their wearers’ bodies.

Vincent Van Gogh knew this as only tortured souls do. Between 1886 and 1888 he lived in Paris and scoured the flea markets for old shoes to paint. They have since become emblems of the harshness of life and of the uniqueness of each human story.

Here’s what the philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote after staring at Van Gogh’s painting A Pair of Shoes: ‘‘On the leather lie the dampness and richness of the soil. Under the soles slides the loneliness of the field-path as evening falls. In the shoes vibrates the silent call of the earth, its quiet gift of the ripening grain and its unexplained self-refusal in the fallow desolation of the wintry field.’’

I’m not a German philosopher so when I stare at my shoes I think earthly thoughts like ‘‘my feet hurt’’ or ‘‘damn, I need new shoes’’.

People grow into comfortable shoes and a strange symbiosis takes place — shoes take on the soul of the wearer while the wearer is crafted by the shoe.

As a schoolboy in Wales my mother sent me down the road in round-toed sandles when The Beatles were wearing pointy-toed Chelsea boots.

My shoe fetish got the better of me when I paid an older boy my lunch money to wear his Chelsea boots every day for a year during dinner break.

I now have a protruding bunion on my left foot which deforms every shoe I wear.

So the circle turns — the shoe shapes the wearer, who in turn shapes the shoe.

Which begs the question: Do sports shoes make you fitter?

I wonder if Heidegger thought about that.

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