07 January 2012

Cheap Commodities; or, and Speaking of Shoes

A guy should have a shoehorn. Besides making it easier to get your shoes on, it also keeps your shoes from getting wrecked at the back. Short ones are fine, but I like the long ones that allow you to sit practically upright while using them.
I recently went to the cobbler retrieve a pair of shoes that he'd finished working on, and picked up this shoe horn, made in Japan of plastic, for $4.00.  Or,

...you could shell out $105 for this one, carved of actual oxhorn, with a leather strap. A nicer, fancier, dare I say it, more "artisinal" thing? Sure, I suppose. Does that really make a difference here? Most assuredly not. From the description of the expensive one:

Shoehorns allow the foot to slide into a leather shoe without crushing the back of the shoe, and a longer horn lets a man sit upright during the process.

Yep. So does my four dollar plastic one.

Put the money toward the shoes themselves. The shoe horn is a cheap commodity.


Bruce Partington-Plans said...

I picked up a long-handled shoehorn, with a cane handle and a clothes brush on the other end, for £1 in my local thrift shop. Now I can put my shoes on - quite gracefully, as you say - and brush down my clothes (albeit not at the same time!). Such a clever idea.

francis jones said...

what seems strange to me is that a lot of people spend money in order to show other people they have money. who sees somebody else s shoe horn?

Stefan said...

I got one from ikea.

Brandon said...

If you have an IKEA nearby, they have an excellent shoe horn for $1. Available only in stores:


The colorways seem to change randomly.

Giuseppe said...


That's the beauty of blogs. All you have to do is take a photo and let the world about all the expensive stuff you have. You can even write about it in a tone of voice that suggests that those who cannot afford such things are basically unwashed savages.

notanymore said...

The Japanese know shoe horns. I can assure you of that.

bostonhud said...

I second the Ikea shoehorn plug.
Those things are awesome.

Yankee-Whisky-Papa said...

I have a brass one with a brass duck-head as a handle. I paid $4 for it at a shop somewhere near Woodstock, NY. Grandfather has a spring-loaded one that is 4 feet long and built like a riding crop. The spring prevents breaking.
I once was subjected to extra questioning by TSA when I suggested that they supply shoe-horns to the public to ease the taking off and replacing of shoes which they demand. Now, I keep a small plastic one in my briefcase for the airports.

Young Fogey said...


I think the appeal of a luxury item like a horn shoehorn is in its use: the look and feel of the material probably give the owner pleasure.

I'd like one, but I know I sure don't need one.

I know some wealthy people. None of the ones I know are into ostentation. YMMV.

Roger v.d. Velde said...

I like reading ASW, even though I know I'll never want to buy a shoehorn or a tie that costs more than my trousers; or a cardigan that equals my monthly food bill.

I just have to take from it what applies and go my own way where my opinion differs.

I do take heart that it hasn't gone the route of Permanent Style, which although very interesting, has gone from Anglo-Italian style tips to one man's diary of visiting tailors I can't afford to. And I don't want to always be the boy with his nose pressed to the window of an expensive toy shop he'll never be able to afford to enter.

Your blog successfully shows that style is no longer just the preserve of the moneyed classes (even if we rely on purchasing their cast-offs!).

ThriftyTeacher said...

I absolutely love this blog! I have a cheap, plastic shoe horn molded out of plastic that resembles actual horn material that I have had since I was in highschool. I believe it was given to me by the store when I bought my first pair of black wingtips (Bostonians).
If you don't have an Ikea near you, Wal-Mart sells a metal shoe horn for very cheap. Wherever you get one, it is an essential tool for every man's kit...however, I do like that expensive shoe horn that was pointed out. But knowing me a shoehorn such as that would equal at least 5 pairs of shoes at my local thrift store haunt or a plethora of great jazz records for the turntable!

Anonymous said...


I've done Felix in H2, a small outfit in the basement of the Pru, and another cobbler shop on Mass Ave in Arlington. The gent who runs Felix was the best of the lot, but do you have a place you'd recommend?


JKG said...

@Roger v.d.: Oh my, yes. I started reading P.S. about a year ago and I wholeheartedly endorse your take. Where does this guy get the dosh? Doesn't he write for magazines? I still get the email updates, but it's hardly been worth clicking through -- always another masturbatory post on extremely high-end sartoria. My closet aspires thence, but my wallet will never comply.

As to the shoe horn question: I don't really see the distinction between seeing a shoe-horn as a cheap commodity and buying a plastic one, and seeing a pair of glue-soled corrected-grain brogues as a similarly cheap commodity and buying those on the same ground.

I agree, there are some things we can all do without. But if you could, for example, "thrift" a horn horn, why wouldn't you? Surely $4 spent in that direction is an improvement in so many ways over $4 spent on plastic from far away?

Lark said...

A fancy shoe horn seems like a great gift and a lousy purchase. Would I enjoy using a fancy shoe horn? Sure would - I like using my grandfather's sterling pocket knife and my deluxe bike light too. Would I feel silly and ostentatious buying one for myself? Yep.

I'm a bit weary of a certain tone in style blogs. And I find myself wondering if - should I come into money - I could bear to devote that much of my time to my next trip to the tailor.

In my young day, I lived in a developing country where I really did devote a lot of time to the tailor - because I was bored, lonely and lamentably overpaid in the local currency, which translated to something like nothing much if converted to dollars. It wasn't an especially fulfilling practice.

mjp said...

(Great blog - long time reader!)
I have the IKEA one, and it works great. I also have a brass one that I found in my Dad's garage, which is very nice, but short.
I think shoes horns are the kind of things where the cheap plastic version does the job, but finding a cool metal, wood or horn one for a few bucks (or for free!) is somehow "nicer".
My shoe polishing kit is in a cardboard shoebox, but I always check out flea markets and antique stores, just in case they have a nice wooden box.

gjc said...

Just ran across this web sire Affordable Wardrobe. I never join anything online, but decided to on this site. I live in the Kansas City area and have been shopping in thrift shops for years. I have abetter looking wardrobe than most men who shop at expensive retail shops. This includes suits, sports coats, dress slacks, overcoats, shoes, and whatever I can find. To be honest I'm a cloths hound. Would like to hear from anyone in ref. to this subject. Thanks

SUM said...

SHOE - an outer covering for the human foot typically having a thick or stiff sole with an attached heel and an upper part of lighter material (as leather)

EBE said...

I was always puzzled by the very long shoe horns that you can use from an upright seated position. You still have to bend over to tie them. Unless you wear nothing but mocs.

DB said...

Love your blog, but this may be one of the few posts I disagree with. I have a beautiful shoe horn from my great-grandfather, and I derive significant pleasure being able to use such an heirloom regularly. In your case, Giuseppe, you might not have a nice shoe horn from posterity, but don't you think your son (who seems to be quite the dapper aspiring sartorialist himself) would enjoy having a nice shoe horn that his father used every day?

Jho78 said...

You guys, ox horn wards off the devil, so you have to factor that into the cost.

Giuseppe said...


Great point, never thought of that.


True, but nor for $105. He can have my Barbour jacket and my record collection.


Savas Shoe Repair in Davis Square, Somerville. He's my man. He enjoys working on quality shoes as much as I enjoy having him work on them.