Ohh how I loathe you crude beast! Although the wretched rubber thongs have been not so quietly flip flopping their way back into society over the past month, last week's near perfect temperatures made way for their permanent return on a daily basis. All over the city I must endure their flagrant trumpeting of casualness. They are the Blofeld to my Bond; as evil and disastrous a villain that ever was hell bent on world domination. Their thwacked chanting acting like a sorcerer's spell, entrancing the world into an unsightly display of feet.
My fear and paranoia have been escalating like a turkey's in November. Soon that annoying sound will be inescapable, The squishing of sweaty phalanges against soft neoprene and the reverberating pat of rubber against concrete will emanate from the streets. Rarely is there relief, for most think their flippers are welcome everywhere, like babies or cell phones. From the office ("but I'm wearing a skirt.") to the theater (with the most formal of cargo shorts) to the finest watering holes ("It's like so gnarly to be in this classy bar"), the nasal squawks of the Gilbert Godfried of footwear will resound. My own family and friends are among the worst offenders, flaunting their feet with reckless abandon. Even from inside my castle walls I must endure the clacking of sandal footed neighbors bouncing down the hall stairs. In the workplace, women are shedding their pumps for flops. Tourists are polluting our streets with Reefs and Tevas, some even (heavy sigh) paired with socks. And worst of all, grown men are forgoing their dignity for the chance to let their toe knuckles breath. I can grant exception to most women as their stylistic cues and daintier physique warrant overexposure, but how can a man take himself seriously with his feet flopping about in the open. No one wants to see a man's feet off of the beach. Period.
Perhaps the reason for my hatred is that I just don't understand. I fail to see the appeal of such a pedestrian article when boat shoes, loafers, driving mocs and even an espadrille exist as stylistic choices. Yet human's seem to be drawn to flip flops like groupies to a rock star. They remain a symbol of the casual counterculture (to which I hate to inform them, aren't so counter anymore) and rebellion against "the man" that made shoes a de facto societal norm. The excuses are numerous: "people were made to walk barefoot", "socks suffocate my feet", "my feet sweat and smell in shoes", "they are just, like, sooo comfortable". Blah blah blah. Regardless of the reason, they have become a idol of leisure to which people bow whether practicality or comfort is at issue. And their followers will defend them at all costs. True story: I saw a young fellow on the subway, strapping and well attired from head to ankle. Had I had to judge him solely on his feet, he looked like a hobo… his feet left black and dusty from the grimy streets, all but ruining his polished look.
After months of succumbing to such travesties, I ache for the fall when heavy boots tromp the streets and leather yet again meets marble floors. But in the meantime there is an accessible oasis offering repose. A revered gentleman's spot where leather reigns and a full vamp is heralded as a work of art no matter the season: the cobbler.
Nothing polishes off an outfit
like a freshly shined pair of shoes
Standing tall with the barber and (if you're lucky enough to have a good one) the tailor, a cobbler can provide safe harbor from the ugly modern world. Now more than ever, with my thonged nemesis looming about, I find it necessary to seek refuge atop the high chairs of my 38th Street shop to indulge in one of life's little pleasures - the shoe shine . I first started my shine addiction as morning relief from the rigors of the daily grind. After ducking out for breakfast, I would indulge in a session of shoe therapy at least once a week before returning to my desk. Walking through the door of the nondescript shinery, one is removed from the fast paced world of Midtown Manhattan and it's endless corporate poppycock. The Wayne's World basement boasts a homeyness, with accents including red vinyl seats, wood paneling and metal framed posters of hardline sports cars. It's unpretentious, unrefined, inexpensive and I love it.
It's but one high step to hoist myself up onto the elevated seat where I can lock my soles into the cast iron stirrups. Calm cascades over me and the weight of my worries is lifted, if only for a brief time. My breathing is eased, heartburn is settled and best of all there isn't a flip to be flopped in sight. As the process gets underway, some men reach for the paper but I prefer to remain in my disconnected haze and immerse myself in the technique. The motions, rhythms and movements are hypnotizing, only adding to the relaxation.
|Shining so bright you need shades|
Horsehair brush and shoehorn:
Each morning throughout the week
I give a quick brush to revive the luster of shines past
First, a quick towel wipe frees any excess dirt or dust and in extreme cases a saddle soap is used to cleanse the leather. The Kiwi tin is then popped and a base coat of polish is circulated onto the leather with a round applicator brush followed quickly my a massaging hand application. A tight weave towel is then sprayed and vigorously rolled over the vamp garnering a base shine. A second spread of polish is placed on the vamp and swiped with two large horsehair brushes. Finally, a shaggy towel is spritzed and forcefully slung across the vamp again to produce the high finished shine. After the final pull the towel is snapped with authority to denote the process has finished.
As I pay at the register I can hear the aged Italian cobbler singing songs from the old country as he pounds away at his craft in the rear of the store. To my dismay (and no doubt his), the crude threshold acts as a portal back into the other dimension where the world so often overlooks the details of style. One in which leisure and comfort reign and the propriety of the old guard is constantly threatened. But I move forward, my foot armor exquisitely shined in an attempt to battle the sandal wearing hippies in my path.
The shine costs $3, but the moments of reprieve are worth so much more.