Last October, I was wondering around the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. An absurdly largely shopping centre that contains its own Italian street and indoor ski slope, it has the best shopping in the Middle East. (Or did. So many of these things are going up everyday in the UAE that it has probably been overtaken by now).
Alongside the usual fashion brands, it had an Etro, a Carolina Herrera and a Berluti. I was impressed. As I walked into the Berluti branch, preparing to umm and err over a particularly beautiful pair of loafers, before inevitably walking out empty-handed, I saw that the sales assistant had his head in his hands.
Three Americans, in loud shorts, were complaining, almost shouting, about the prices.
“How the hell can these be three times the price of the Gucci and Prada shoes?” they asked. The assistant tried to explain that Prada, and to an extent Gucci, are not shoe companies. That their shoes are made by other people. And that some of them are, well, a bit rubbish. All that’s branded is not gold.
They refused to believe this. Instead, they enquired when the sales started. Berluti doesn’t have sales, the assistant replied. This was the last straw, and they stomped out (even though the oldest American, who was wearing some fairly funky tortoiseshell glasses, was staring wistfully at a pair of Club wholecuts in chocolate (see picture)).
There followed a rather pained conversation between me and the assistant, where he complained that he gets this everyday. Most shoppers in the Middle East, it seems, whether local or tourist, are after brand more than anything else.
I soothed him with some ooing and aahing over the loafers. But before I started with the umming and the erring, he taught me the Berluti shoelace knot. I’m glad he did, as I now tie my shoelaces like this everyday, unless I’m in a real hurry.
It’s simple, but effective, and I shall explain to you how to do it.
Start the knot as you would do a normal bow, crossing the two laces tightly (you can even cross them twice if you wish, which keeps them in place more effectively – I was taught that by a sales assistant in John Lewis in Kingston, when I was 12).
Form the two ends into loops, again as you would a normal bow. Then hold one of the loops while you go around it – twice – with the other. This is exactly the same as a normal bow, except that you go over the same place twice.
It achieves the effect of a double bow (where you tie the two loops and then tie them again, rather than going over the same place twice) but is far easier to undo.
Now, I’m not sure whether Berluti can be credited with inventing this knot. I’m sure I’ve seen it too many places for that to be the case. But it does work well, so there’s no harm in allowing them to christen it. Besides, it gives me a reason to make a star out of that poor sales assistant.
[For pictorial assistance, first look at the picture, which uses the Berluti knot. Then try this link – http://www.fieggen.com/shoelace/surgeonknot.htm – which I believe refers to the Berluti knot as the surgeon’s knot]