I have spent a couple of satisfying hours repairing a pair of old shoes with new soles and heels. Some creativity had to go into it, but the result is that they’ll last for quite a while yet, which is quite important when they are so comfortable. Co-incidentally I was watching series one of The Bureau, the French spy thriller, in which an Algerian general whom the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE – the French version of the UK’s MI6) want to secretly track with a GPS device, and fits one in a replacement pair of his shoes. Of course, he immediately knows that these are not his original shoes. The DGSE must have been in cloud cuckoo land if they thought he wouldn’t know his shoes had been swapped, even with an identical pair. Shoes become very personal things. Unfortunately, the general’s secretary, who was persuaded to do the swap was executed.
Somewhere there’s probably a good history of shoes. It would have a whole chapter on fetishes, with a special section on Imelda Marcos. We would learn more about why Arab culture features shoe throwing (remember George W. Bush’s humiliation?) as an insult. We would find out exactly who has made the best use of Cuban heels—Tom Cruise perhaps? Keir Starmer? Prince Charles? And of course, with a nod to The Bureau, let’s hear more about hollowed out heels and their use in espionage, etc. A chapter on the class history of shoes wouldn’t go amiss. The book’s centre colour plates would feature the shoes of famous people down the ages. I remember seeing a picture of Ronald Reagan sat on the front row of some campaign event, with a big hole in one of his soles. What this picture said, according to his PR people was that a) he was a humble man of the people and b) he was a tireless campaigner. Subliminal shoe messaging. And what about the role of the shoe in fiction? The only examples I can think of offhand are Cinderella’s glass slipper and Rosa Kebb’s poisoned shoe blade in From Russia With Love.
Whoever writes this book—perhaps called ‘If The Shoe Fits’ - will be onto a best seller.