Today's blog entry is a guest post by Nicola Lyon.
My father is an expert shoe-shiner. I think his mother taught him the value of being impeccably dressed and a stint doing national service honed his polishing skills, but he has a real passion about it. I always used to wonder what all the toothbrushes in his kit were for and why would you need a cloth and a brush? But he knew and our shoes were always clean. Very, very clean. Our shoes would go missing at night and reappear with a sheen as if Grimm’s elves had themselves been involved. Now, when I visit home, they still do. I personally think I rebelled against the routine because rebelling is what a lot of daughters are supposed to do, is it not? But he definitely made an impression. I feel remarkably untidy in unpolished shoes and I do live by the adage that you can learn a lot about a man by his shoes. Women too! We are told not to judge others, but we do. If people didn’t judge a book by its cover I would never have got a job as a graphic designer.
I am not saying I have never ventured out in dirty shoes but I have done so distracted, in the same way that I might feel if going out in creased clothes, or made up for a party in perfectly applied make-up but no lipstick.
Swarovski rhinestone covered heels are all well and good and a lot of fun and those embellishments can cover a multitude of sins including misshapen feet. However, I do crave a simple well made shoe, perfectly designed to enhance the foot and ankle and elongate the leg. I find myself glancing down at them admiringly when my mind should be elsewhere. Quality leather feels just as good on the inside as it looks on the outside. But they have to be perfect. Minimalism calls for attention to detail and every scratch and bump will cause distress to my distracted mind and my anxiety will rise as I notice a dull area that I know cannot be fixed by rubbing with a damp finger but I try anyway.
I myself, have not been blessed with beautiful toes and a slight tendency to walk pigeon toed means I am prone to scuffing. One foot has a cheeky bone sticking out, a “bunion" (such an ugly word), that becomes painfully obvious when the colour of the leather wears away even a little, highlighting the dome of the offensive area like a spotlight.
I have come to judge hotels by the goodies they leave in bathroom. It’s one of the first things I check out after I’ve claimed my side of the bed. I can do without the shower cap and overly perfumed body lotion but a sewing kit and shoe shining glove are a sign that the hotel knows their clientele are those rare birds who can still sew on their own button and don’t require room service to polish their shoes. Invariably though, I find myself searching out a local store for that little jar of polish and have collected various brands with instructions in several languages. A souvenir bought along with a vow that next time I will pack better. I am very impressed if I am provided a single serving application of polish, though it is rare. How I wish they were provided in disposable wipe form - maybe they are, somewhere. The lone shoe mitt is good but not much use to me when I am faced with a patch of bare beige leather on a pair of black court shoes. I do, however, strongly appreciate the gesture and they do make excellent cleaning cloths for your laptop screen.
The truth is I think subconsciously I like the process of buying the polish. A travel kit is so simple. Reassuring simple. And cute. Some polish and wax, a couple of brushes and a cloth. Usually wrapped up in a leather wallet. Shoes and a bag - two of a girl's favourite things are they not? So why are women not so interested in the process? Women are happy to paint their own nails if they can’t get a mani/pedi conveniently. Some of us can french tip our friends’ nails with the precision of a brain surgeon. Why not look after the ridiculously expensive shoes we’ve been craving after for six months? If only to examine them in detail as we do it.
I’m a strong believer that we should learn how to do these simple processes well so we are prepared in an emergency. Come the apocalypse, we may not be looking judgementally at each others feet as I do today but it would be nice to know we are confident about doing a simply task well. Like making a good cup of tea. So many ways, so many traditions. How charming is that? So "Jane Austin”. I haven’t much to boast about on my list of acquired skills but I have managed to procure a husband regardless. In a technologically savvy world isn’t it comforting to go back to some basic tasks and do them well? And they don’t all need to be “girlie” tasks. I’m the one who puts the Ikea furniture together. I’ve been the one to figure out why the car is making that awful noise and if there’s an accident involving blood I’m your go-to girl. But when I put on my little black dress I have a pair of well polished pumps that I cleaned myself and I know they have been done well because my dad taught me how.
- Nicola Lyon