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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Ross’s Ramblings: Have quality leather shoes gone the way of the dodo?
More traditional leather shoes have been almost totally eclipsed by sporty, softer and more comfortable footwear, Ross Robinson writes. FIREFLY

My mind has been rambling as the warmer weather approaches and I want to discuss a puzzling trend: what is happening to leather shoes?

I spend time on Queen Street downtown every day and observe thousands of shoes worn by people passing by the Court House.

I tend to notice shoes worn by men — and the relatively rapid decline of shoes made of leather.

Real leather, genuine leather and synthetic materials all share the marketplace, confusing the casual shoe buyer and wearer.

Is comfort the sole reason (pun intended)? What are the advantages and disadvantages of leather shoes compared to synthetic, manmade materials and what does the future hold for our feet?

After Dr. William Brown’s informative artificial intelligence seminars at our wonderful library earlier this year, it was simple to do basic research.

I confidently sat in front of my efficient laptop computer, an AI convert.

I learned that the now-extinct dodo bird was a flightless bird endemic to Mauritius, an island east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Extinct since the 17th century. Who knew?

It wasn’t that long ago that Dack’s wingtips and classic Oxfords were status symbols, guaranteed to last and last and last.

Indeed, over four decades ago while selling Century 21 Real Estate franchises in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, my self-purchased reward for a successful sale was a pair of expensive new shoes or a sharp silk tie.

In Moncton in 1981, I reached a personal sales goal and proudly bought a pair of black, genuine leather Dack’s.

For the past 30 years, I haven’t worn them often, just on special occasions: With my kilt for St. Andrew’s  Society functions, to funerals and weddings with my best bespoke blue suit.

Each time, I enjoy taking my Dack’s off the shelf, and removing the cedar shoe trees. Sort of spoiling myself, as it were.

Way back in 1996, I even had three-quarter-inch risers inserted in the two heels, to lessen the vertical difference between my beautiful bride and me at our Palm Beach wedding.

Nothing is certain, but I fully intend to be wearing these faithful shoes in my casket or at the crematorium if  ever pass away.

But enough rambling. Let me get back to my perceived point.

My frugal and abstemious father, a product of the Great Depression and a career purchasing professional, occasionally questioned my habit of purchasing silk ties and Dack’s brogues: “Polyester ties are just as colourful, and much cheaper. And, less expensive shoes serve their purpose.”

His practical, very understandable terms of reference never allowed him to truly appreciate my dashing neckties and wingtips.

He just didn’t get it, eh?

Last evening I spent a few hours at the factory outlet mall over in Glendale.

The Cole Haan and Brown’s stores were unhurried, as most shoppers were perusing soft new shoes sold by Puma, Adidas, New Balance, Nike, Aldo and Skechers.

More traditional leather shoes have been almost totally eclipsed by sporty, softer and more comfortable footwear.

It’s the way of the world and the change has been relatively rapid.

I also reflect on the many feel good shoe shines I enjoyed in airports around the world. It only cost a dollar or so, but the subtle psychological boost was always priceless. I was a big shot for a few minutes.

I sincerely hope that shoe shine professionals, so hardworking and pleasant, have been able to pivot as leather shoes disappeared.

Their prospective customers were, counterintuitively, men wearing shiny shoes.

They wanted to have shiny shoes, unlike people who were wearing scuffed up shoes.

Those people didn’t care.

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