I cannot understand how some people fail to appreciate the significance of their shoes. After all, if you are badly shod, you can hardly put your best foot forward.
Way, way back, in The Sloane Ranger Handbook, Ann Barr and Peter York observed that “Sloanes become hard of hearing if you’re wearing the wrong shoes. How,” he asked, “can one really understand a person wearing the wrong shoes?”
Your average punter decides they want a pair of brogues, and that the only further decision is black or brown. But that’s not enough for the serious shoe aficionado like myself. Full brogue, semi-brogue or quarter brogue? Longwing? Royal or Scottish? And when you say brown, is that tan, chestnut or oxblood?
And are we talking country or town?
You can see where this is heading, can’t you? Because your average punter also decides they want a bottle of wine, and the only further decision is red or white. But that’s not enough for the serious wine aficionade like myself. Beaujolais, Burgundy, or Bordeaux? Left Bank or Right? And when you say Bordeaux, is that Cru Bourgeois, Premier or Grand?
And are we talking lunch or dinner?
It’s a long road to knowledge. You start off learning the basic, physical requirements; how to put on a pair of shoes, how to remove a cork. Then you grow up a bit, and put away childish things, like velcro fastenings and screwcaps.
You learn there are both shoes and wines suitable for particular occasions. Vintage port and patent pumps are both ideally suited to formal dinners, but anachronistic elsewhere.
Indeed, there are shoes and wines whose very purpose is embedded in their names, like dessert wines, or trainers; do not bring them out unless accompanying dessert, or training.
The point, of course, is that the details are important. The details are everything. And it’s the people oblivious to the details who are most likely to be judged by them. Which is why the chap in the Mister Byrite shoes is likely to be cheerfully, obliviously wielding a bottle of Echo Falls.
There are those who follow what I can only describe as the CJ approach to both wine and shoe buying: function, and value. Fit is important, they’ll say – fit for the foot, fit for the food. That’s the basic requirement. But if it does the job, and doesn’t cost too much, then that’s all that matters.
Except that it’s not, and this month I had it all confirmed. It emerged that investment banks had failed interview candidates who wore brown shoes with their City suits. And I should think so, too.
And frankly, I think they should also have pointed them towards the drinks cabinet, and asked for a glass of claret, dismissing anyone who even lifts the bottle of Burgundy.
There will be those who say that there is a fundamental difference between shoes and wine which I am ignoring. That we need to have shoes, whereas we do not need to have wine. To which all I can say is, speak for yourself.