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  • Philip Bryer

One for the Money

Updated: May 12, 2020

A pair of black slip-ons, a pair of brown lace-ups, a pair of trainers. That would do me. That was me. Pretty conservative with what I chose to put on my feet, not risking anything too outré or likely to attract attention. Well, that was then…

…but this is now:


It was on an otherwise humdrum train journey that I underwent a transformation. On the way from Taunton to London with Mrs B, sitting in an empty carriage when a lanky figure boarded at Bristol Temple Meads. He strode past us and sat alone at the front, legs crossed, an ankle dangling across the aisle. But what an ankle! What adornment! What style! What a shoe!

Deep and beauteous leathered tones, a no-nonsense buckle, a gorgeous sweep through the instep to the perfect point of the toe. I was hooked. I excused myself to the gents so I could pass by and get a closer look. This was art and no mistake. I loitered rather too long and a glowingly handsome face turned enquiringly towards me, I nodded and motioned with my eyes that I was only passing by on my way to the toilet. A gesture that I realised immediately could have been misconstrued, but luckily the protagonist of our story chose to ignore me in favour of staring out of the window at the much more appealing sight of the countryside flashing past at 140 mph.

It wasn’t long afterwards that we were on holiday in Rome. Walking along the Via Veneto, I stopped like the Roadrunner does when it encounters a pile of corn in its path. GADOIIINNNGGG! Pair of black buckle-up shoes, not quite as swish as those sported by my famous inspiration, but a not-half-bad start. I slipped off the crumpled Hush-Puppy-style suede lace-ups in which I’d been trekking the Roman streets for 3 days and apologised to the exquisitely elegant saleslady for sullying her deluxe emporium (and no doubt her delicate nostrils) with the horrid things. She, of course, was charm itself, and I walked away €150 lighter but never happier.

I won’t bore you with a list of purchases I’ve made since (although I’d like to); the blue suede tasselled loafers, the red suede ankle boots, the monk strap dress shoes that turn a barely-damp pavement into an ice-rink - a small price to pay. Or the ‘vintage look’ ones - when I took them into Timpson’s to be re-soled, the helpful lad advised me how, with the careful layering of polishes, I could remove the scuffing and bring them back to looking nearly new.

“They’re supposed to look like that,” I said, “they are nearly new.”

“Yeah?” he replied, not unreasonably, “well I wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes that looked like that.”

Back to Italy a few years on, another shop window, another emergency stop. In we go;

“Excuse me, the shoes in the window? Those?” I pointed.

“Ah, I am sorry sir, but those are ladies’ shoes.”

“You wouldn’t have them in a size nine, then?”

All that remains is for me to credit the man who started all of this; film star, Oscar nominee, and National Treasure. Thank you, Richard E. Grant, you changed my life.

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