Old cobblers: bad things happen to good brogues

Archie Hume of A Hume Country Clothing discusses the enduring relationship between a man and his brogues.

The day arrives in every man’s life when he has to step up – and out of his old trainers – when he realises that the joys of a wild misspent youth can’t go on forever.

As J.M. Croan puts it, ‘The point at which your world opens up and you realise you’re not the centre of it.’

This day, or close to it, tends to be the time those on the verge of manhood invest in their first pair of brogues: a statement of intent. Not altogether a setting aside of the trappings of youth. That would be going too far. As some other wise soul said, ‘Maturity is a high price to pay for growing up.’ Can’t remember who said it, but they’re right. So, no more a dawning realisation that stepping manfully into the world is a better option than the diminishing returns of a protracted adolescence.

However, manhood requires the right footwear. So, time to buy a proper pair of ones and twos. Not some lurid hip hop hi-tops that will haunt you in later life and make you cry out in the wee small hours with deep unending shame.

Good, solid brogues. Potentially a pair of Loakes. Proper shoes that will convey the correct impression that you are indeed a grown up and not some shambolic excuse for a human being.

God knows most of us need all the help we can get.

Brogues have been escorting men safely, comfortably and stylishly through life for generations. Year after year of dog-like reliability, steadfastly there and waiting at the door, never out of fashion, always eager and – to stretch this analogy almost to breaking point – like a dog, a pair of beloved brogues looks good with pretty much anything; jeans, a suit, chinos, tweed. Perhaps not shorts, but you get my drift.

So if you are one of the many, many men who’ve made the important, well-advised purchase of a pair of decent brogues at some stage in your life you will completely relate to statements such as; I’ve had these old brogues forever, or I love these old shoes, I wear them all the time, or even, these were my dad’s.

Good brogues last forever. It’s no wonder people become so attached to them. A pair of Loake Chesters will see you through the good, and the not so good, times. These bad boys will last you longer than Bruce Forsyth’s career.

Still a life lived on the fl appy, bony bit at the end of your leg is a hard one and even the most well-crafted stalwart of English shoemaking is eventually going to show a bit of wear and tear.

For a pair of brogues belonging to the average British male, the catalogue of insults and injuries will look something like this:

1. Pub related staining associated with endless hours spent in close, sweaty proximity to other males in sports bonding/beer swilling-type activity.

2. Welts, scratches and divots incurred by attending numerous Ceilidhs and smiling politely as an army of merciless women trample with less care than an invading army across your feet.

3. A faint damp odour acquired after the unremittingly wet Lake District camping trip you went on with friends, neglecting to pack any suitable footwear. Scafell anyone?

4. A certain mottled, lined appearance from lying at the bottom of a box, forgotten in the garage for three years after you got married, had kids and moved home.

5. Salt damage from the time you had to wade fully clothed into the surf to rescue your youngest child from being swept across the Atlantic to Newfoundland – whose idea was it to holiday in Harris anyway? What’s wrong with going to Portugal like everybody else?

6. More welts, scratches and divots incurred by vigorously demonstrating you haven’t lost it by pogoing to the Jam’s ‘Going Underground’ at the office Christmas Party. BTW. you have lost it.

7. Small indentations representing teeth marks belonging to the puppy you never wanted but seem to have, that has rapidly grown into the dog nobody wants to walk but still needs walked.

8. Add to the list water damage from repeatedly walking ungrateful hound before work in torrential rain.

9. An upward tilt to the toecap resembling the smiling upper lip on a comedy horse – see Mr Ed – the inevitable result of years of loyal service.

10. A dark patch believed to be Lagavulin but possibly Highland Park acquired during a lively and memorable race day. You’d be more certain of the whisky if you could remember whose hipflask you were swigging from. Perhaps not so memorable after all…