We’re only going back 40 years for this week’s calendar entry, but we find my grandfather doing something I think has been largely lost from day-to-day life.
I think — think — there was one time in Massachusetts, close to 20 years ago, when I brought a pair of shoes in for professional repair. It is possible the shoes were my wife’s, and I was just a middleman in the process.
Other than that, I have spent my adult life buying one pair of inexpensive work shoes after another, and discarding each one when they get too cracked, dirty or worn to appear professional.
(Phrased that way, it sounds kinda depressing and Willy Loman-ish, doesn’t it? My life has been an aimless progression of cheap, tired-looking shoes. Excuse me while I go crash my car or something. Nobody dast blame this man.)
I remember shining my dad’s work shoes as a kid, though, with the Kiwi shoe polish and the soft rag. So I can recall a time and place when men put effort into making their business shoes look good.
(Or, more accurately, when men trained their kids to put effort into making their business shoes look good.)
And I am led to believe there was a time when men actually had their formal shoes worked on by skilled professionals, to make a pair last.
I still don’t think people nowadays view a pair of professional or formal shoes as quite so much of an investment.
I don’t have any studies to prove that; and I recognize that I am falling victim to the journalist’s curse — “I think XYZ; ergo, lots of other people must also think XYZ.” But I’m still willing to put forth that proposition.
There are plenty of reasons to explain why my grandpa would have gotten his shoes fixed up by a pro. Things like tradition, and frugality.
It’s also possible that the shoes referred to on the calendar were actually my grandma’s, and my grandpa was — like me — just a middleman in the process.
(Since my grandmother didn’t drive, it would have been my grandpa’s responsibility to go get the shoes, even if they weren’t his.)
I’m fairly certain I know why the shoes were worked on. Not too long ago, I wrote about a family wedding at the end of April of ’74. My grandparents would have wanted to look sharp for any such occasion, all the way down to their shoes.
I am sure they did, too. Sharper than I look on any given work day.