I’ve had them for more years than I care to remember…
They were seriously expensive, back then in Bolton in the late 1980s. In a rare solitary moment, I had a coffee, then strolled through the retail side of ‘The Reebok’, as the new development was called then. All of it centred around the impressive new ground of the Bolton Wanderers football team.
I examined the boots. Lifting them up from one of the shelves in the posh shop near the cinema’s ticket office, then guffawed and put them down…swiftly.
How much?! I muttered. Clearly a fashion item for younger chaps, I reasoned. So we wouldn’t need any of that…. Mind you, I mused. They’re beautifully made… but no…
My outdoor world was dominated by the ferrying and entertainment of two growing boys, both under ten. Fashion boots had nothing relevant to offer me. No.
But, maybe, I thought, slowing my exit. A direct contradiction to how I’d felt when I put the expensive boots back in their place. . The colour of the shoes might have done it? My beloved maternal grandfather owned some tough shoes that colour; re-soled several times, of course, and polished every day until they glowed with that deep tan.
It became my favourite colour. One look, now, at my small pile of old briefcases mouldering in the under-eaves storage would confirm that.
Quality, grandad always said, was the most important thing in life. Better to have one thing that you loved (and looked after) than two or three that never gave you that ‘glow’ of pride. A deep tan glow…
I stopped at the door of the posh shop and turned. ‘Stitching,’ Grandad had said. ‘Stitching is everything. The best leather’s no good unless it’s stitched together right!’
I picked the boots off the shelf and examined the stitching. At once, you could see what a quality item they really were.
But soles, I thought, mentally quoting grandad again. No amount of good upper leather will rescue them from a shoddy sole.
If you’re a walker, you’ll know the name ‘Vibram’. They’re a byword for quality, now. But back then they weren’t well known. I had to admit that their thick rubber compound spoke of comfort and durability. And the photo above confirms how well they’ve withstood the battering of the last thirty years.
For the past decade, they have been my gardening shoes; trudging and grunting with me as we turned a disused canal bed into the other half of a garden. Now, its finally done, and, in a summer like this, my wife and I can enjoy the fruits of the hard work – once we’ve mown the extensive lawn and done the weeding.
Sadly, they’re destined for the recycling. That fabulous multi-decade stitching has finally given up the ghost, and the leather is now too thin and brittle to take them to the menders…
But I’m so glad to have given in to that illogical impulse, prompted by the wise words of Grandad. Hello, old friend… and goodbye old friends.
©Stephen Tanham 2021
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.