In some ways this post follows on from my ‘Notes from Rome’ series, although it’s more a stream of consciousness arising from what I saw.
One of the notes of interest from Rome was the prevalence of rubber and Dainite soled footwear, when I’d expected to see elegant, slim Italian leather shoes. I’ve always had my concerns about Blake constructed footwear and its suitability to wet climates. This is the reason I’ve never bothered to buy a pair, that and the fact the soles are harder to replace. The fact that the Roman male also knew this and altered their wardrobe accordingly is interesting.
Of course the fact that replacement is even a consideration is not a reflection on one construction method over another, in reality it’s a matter of the suitability of leather soles for the job they have to do, particularly in wet weather.
There are great benefits to leather as a material for the construction of fine and comfortable shoes of course, but it is with good reason that one is advised to never wear the same pair of shoes two or more days in a row. In the best of weather leather soles will wear out, in the wet the speed of degradation is multiplied.
All my shoes – the exception being deck shoes and luggers – are bench made, good year welted and leather soled. I have fewer pairs than some and more than most and yet the rate and expense of replacing the soles has become irksome. Even rotating my footwear extends their life by a few months a pair only.
I know plenty of people who upon acquiring a new pair of leather shoes wear them once and then nip down to the local cobbler and have a patch of rubber added to the sole. I’ve contemplated this, but to date I’ve been reluctant to do it. Firstly, I’m told that placing a piece of rubber over the top of the sole isn’t terribly good for the leather underneath. Secondly, if I’m simply plonking a bit of rubber or plastic over a leather sole then doesn’t this negate buying leather soled shoes in the first place? Of course there is a third issue, that sense that you can’t call yourself a well dressed man if your shoes aren’t all leather.
But inspired by the Roman example, I feel I need to turn a weakness into a strength. I feel I want something made for the job, and to make it a part of my look. For the Roman male it was perfectly natural to incorporate a shoe made for dealing with wet weather, forgoing their slim elegant Blake constructed shoes. So perhaps it’s time I thought about doing the same.
If my Roman adventure taught me anything it was how well heavier rubber soled shoes can be incorporated into a look, including business wear. A logical step really, most of us bring out heavier suits, coats and knits for the autumn and winter seasons, so why not extend this to winter footwear.
For the casual wardrobe this is not such a problem, but the business wardrobe requires more care and attention to proportion. An increase in the heft of the footwear would be better balanced by a corresponding increase in the weight of cloth. Heavy flannel would seem a natural fit.
It will take some planning and some cash to rebalance my winter wardrobe, but by this time next year I hope to have added some serious winter weight.