Back row (l-r): Brown wholecuts by Dune; black One Collection ‘Chance’ by Jones; brown One Collection ‘Step’ by Jones; black tassel loafers by Church’s; grey suede and leather two tone by Russell & Bromley; mid brown shoes by Zara; light brown Chelsea boots by Zara
Middle row (l-r): Black pointed shoes by Zara; black punchcap Oxfords by New & Lingwood; tan punchcap Oxfords by New & Lingwood; cream punchcap Oxfords by Grenson; patent shoes by Zara; black and peanut patent/leather co-respondent shoes by Dune; black canvas/leather co-respondent shoes by Dune
Front row (l-r): White shoes by TopMan; brown deck shoes by Austin Reed; oxblood double monkstraps by Nunes Correa; grey and white detail leather shoes by Zara; brown suede shoes by Nunes Correa; brown leather/canvas co-respondent shoes by Dune; brown and black leather wholecuts by Dune; patent leather Oxfords by Church’s
“Just how many pairs of shoes have you got?” they all ask when they spy me wearing a style that is making its debut. I decline to answer not because I take affront to the question but because I haven’t got the foggiest idea how many shoes I own. Do they want the numbers on the smart shoes? The leather ones? Or do they want me to include plimsolls, espadrilles and wellington boots? It was after a recent shopping excursion to the outstanding Crombie sale, and subsequent disappointment at the lack of a pair of tan tassel loafers in my size, that I decided to shine a torchlight into the unknown; there I was, ready to pay for yet another pair of shoes not knowing how many I actually owned. It is general wisdom that if you cannot readily quantify how much you have of something, you have too much.
Embarrassed by my footwear riches, I decided to sit down and count through the collection not only to satisfy myself of the actual quantity but to examine the range, to see how it had been built. I cleaned, polished and laid out twenty two pairs of smart leather shoes, all of which receive regular use. The strange setup reminded me of a photograph I had seen of the writer and celebrated dandy Nick Foulkes, sat amongst his own substantial shoe collection wearing a loud check suit, conveying a look that was an unusual mixture of apology, pride and satisfaction; I decided against replicating this mise-en-scène and left the shoes to convey what needed to be conveyed: quantity and variety.
It was somewhat strange to see all the shoes together. I had always been confident that I bought dissimilar shoes; “I don’t have” I would mutter “anything in this colour or style.” In truth, some of my shoes are quite similar indeed. It might surprise some that I, being a town-mouse, own so many brown shoes. I don’t subscribe to the ‘no brown in town’ rule as it has ceased to be relevant. Black is certainly the most traditional shoe colour to wear in the city, but considering the number of casual shoes that dominate the streets – plimsolls, All Stars and training shoes – a smart brown shoe no longer looks out of place. I noted that most of the shoes have a predominantly classical shape and style, about which I was not surprised, but I was amazed that I only owned one pair of smart slip-on shoes – a circumstance which I had attempted to adjust on my recent visit to Crombie.
I am rather glad I took the time to arrange the collection as it provides a perfect point of reference when I am considering further pairs; I know, for instance, that I have little need of mid-brown lace ups without taxing my brain or rifling through the boxes under my bed. As embarrassing as it is to own such a variety of shoes, please note that the collection pictured above does not include my seasonal range of espadrilles, plimsolls or driving shoes.