23 March 2009

The Best New Shoes Are Old Shoes

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the best thing about having shoes repaired by a proper cobbler is that you get shoes that are like new, only better, because they aren't. They come back to you fresh, ready for another few years of service, but with all the comfort and suppleness that the last few years of wear have given them.

Here are my old Florsheim "Imperial Quality" longwings.

Regular readers of this blog may note both the frequency with which I once wore them, and their recent absence. That's because they started to look like this: So I took them to the friendly Armenian gentleman who runs this unassuming little shop:He's a real talker, this cobbler, but I love it. Every time I go see him, he regales me with tales from the old days and homespun shoe advice. I think he likes me because I always bring him well built old shoes to repair. He told me my wingtips are really old. He could tell because the original heels were attached only with nails, no glue. He said this is what shoes looked like when he was an apprentice. He then lamented the fact that he would not be able to repair them in quite the same way, but that of course his work would be top quality. He told me it's too bad they don't make double soles like these anymore, and that if I repaired these shoes every few years, they would last me a lifetime.
Then he said "These shoes deserve real shoe tress, the wooden kind. I only sell plastic ones, because most shoes today are so cheaply made that the tension on a wooden tree will split them. But for these, you should have wood."One week later, they're like new, only better, because they're not.I just need to find an excuse to wear a suit so I can give those new rubber heels a test drive. I've got a couple of surcingle belts that need to be shortened a couple of inches. Who knows what kind of stories I'll get with that.

p.s. on my recent disappearance of the last few days: The 2 year old has been sick as hell. I've been sleeping on the floor in his room, or rather waking up every 1/2 to help him, and keep him out of our room where the baby sleeps. He seems to be feeling much better today. Maybe I can start sleeping in abed again soon. The little girl is doing wonderfully, but she is only three weeks old. Add to that the new(ish) job, school, and the unending laundry, dirty dishes, and clutter that fill my house...well you get the idea.


Turling said...

I, amongst many I'm sure, feel your pain. Last night was the first night in memory when both my son and daughter each slept the entire night in their own beds. Hang in there.

Also, in this same vain, I have purchased a few pairs of shoes vintage recently and taken them to a local cobbler. I think your quote hits the nail right on the head. Plus, they are about 20% of the cost of the same shoe new. Fantastic.

Unknown said...


I totally feel for you with the sickness. Our 3 year old little girl got sick, then our 1 year old got it, then I got it and spent 3 days hallucinating on the bathroom floor. It's rough around here.

Hope the little teensy one stays healthy through it!

Wishes for wellness from Canada.


initials CG said...

Enjoy these beautiful moments. You'll miss them later.

Yeah, BS! But I get a kick out spewing it because I'm a little envious.

Great post! Old shoes like yours just get better with age. We don't, unfortunately.

ajvphilp said...

hope life calms down! I had all three of mine (5, 2 and 10mo) on my own while my wife was away for two days and none of them were ill! Still tired...

C said...

Great post Giuseppe. Sorry about the sickness going around.

I think that picture of you holding the beaten shoe is one of the best pictures I've seen in a while. Jacket cuff, shirt cuff, double row of nails, v-cleat, and years of wear.

Absolutely classic.


Giuseppe said...

I think the concrete sidewalk in the background was a great compositional element in the photo. Purely a happy accident.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you got shoe trees for your long wings. It's time to get real cedar shoe trees for all your nice shoes--they'll prolong the wear you can get out of them, make them smell nice (or at least less bad), plus shoe trees make shoes easier to polish.

Mateo said...

Oh great, don't scare me off from having a second one Giuseppe.

Andrew M. said...

I need to find a cobbler like that in my area. Did you just happen upon that shop?

A True Gentlemen said...

Its great you have a cobbler you can trust. I have always said that you should have "a guy" for everything. A guy that cuts your hair, a guy that does your taxes, or a guy that does your shoes. But your cobbler is correct. Using cedar shoe trees can protect the leather, fabric, stitching, and soles of your shoes by absorbing moisture, acid and salts. Cedar trees smooth out linings and insoles making shoes more comfortable to wear. Cedar trees smooth out creases and wrinkles that prematurely age leather.

And lastly, when looking for cedar shoe trees, use solid toe as oppose to split toe.

Speedmaster said...

Classic post, I LOVE it!! ;-)

Per Jacobsen said...

Just found you blog today, and I love it a lot.

I found a pair of really nice shoes, Florsheim as well, the other day, and think they need to be looked at. Where can I find your cobbler?

Thanks for the inspiration.