A minor aristocrat, whose name eludes me right now, once claimed that the end of western civilisation was marked not by World War One or any other heinous conflict, but when it no longer became possible to employ a valet who would iron his shoelaces. Rumour has it Prince Charles’s gentlemen’s personal gentlemen still carries out this crucial duty, but he is heir to the throne (Prince Charles that is, not his valet) and is judged on many things, including footwear. Our man, who was along way down the list was perhaps overstating the case then, with regard to civilisation.
But even if he was it’s to be hoped the meticulous eccentric has long since shuffled off this mortal coil – or at least gone mad due to generations of inter-breeding – as otherwise he must think we live in a post-apocalyptic hell on earth. If to him crumpled shoelaces marked the beginning of the end, what would he make of the state we’ve gone and got ourselves into now?
I refer, of course, too the sad yet indisputable fact is that we no longer live in a country fit for leather soled, English shoes.
If you doubt this assertion try walking through any supermarket in a pair of Church’s, Loakes and Trickers or other quality maker without looking like you’re attempting ice skating for the first time. It’s hard. Once you’ve managed that, and believe me getting from one side of the shop to the other will take ages, amble outside on to the pavements and your progress will remain just as hampered. Chances are you will be overtaken by people with serious physical disabilities as traction is so poor.
Attempt the same feat in a pair of ‘sneakers’ – those vulgar creations that aren’t even useful for sporting endeavours – and you can negotiate the environment with ease.
It seems to me a crime against all that is decent.
Yet it wasn’t always so. Hark back to times before the manmade fibre and you will find a population at ease with the leather sole. It was fit for purpose, hard wearing. Even the sound a great pair of shoes make is as English as leather on willow, particularly late at night down a deserted street in November.
The thing that annoys me most is that people constantly complain Britain doesn’t make anything anymore. This is untrue. We have an entire town dedicated to making the best shoes the world has even seen. It is the same with suits; we have streets dedicated to crafting the finest suits and shirts in the world, regardless of what the Italians might say. But instead of recognising and embracing this fact, we build cities unfit for right-thinking, well dressed Englishmen everywhere.
It is enough to convince me architects and town planners are in the employment of rubber-soled shoe manufacturers.
So perhaps in the end our minor aristocrat wasn’t so far from the truth – first was his shoe laces, now it’s difficult to shop while remaining standing. It is a slow decline I grant you, in western civilisation, but a decline nonetheless.
Clearly therefore, it’s time Government legislated against crumpled shoelaces and slippery surfaces rather than wasted its time with all this Europe malarkey. After all, it is only when a nation can stand on its own two feet without slipping, stumbling and falling, that it can begin to move forward and be great once more.