My experience with vintage shoes has mainly been marked by hasty purchases, buyers remorse, and a closet full of footwear that was oh so tempting online, yet downright disappointing upon arrival. And yet time and time again I find myself scouring eBay, or perusing through thrift stores like a perspective dog owner at the pound looking for a pair of neglected shoes, that “just needs a good home.” You might ask, with my success rate hovering somewhere around my shoe size, why do I willingly fall into a leather soled money pit time and time again? The answer lies in the old gambler’s mentality: because for as many times as I lose, I have to win once in a while. I’ve only ever really struck gold twice, but the two pair below are enough to make me forget all my missteps. Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.
I have no idea what year these Church’s tassel loafers are from, nor do I know how many owners they’ve been through in that time, nor do I have any idea as to what type of leather they’re made out of. Hell I can’t even tell what the original color was. What I do know is that these might be the heaviest and stiffest tassel loafers I have ever come across. They’ve probably been polished and conditioned about ten thousand times over the years, and yet the leather still feels as stiff as the day these tassels embarked on their inaugural stroll. They’re discolored, scratched, and could probably roast a chicken if placed in direct sunlight, but I’ve yet to come across a pair of shoes that works better with seersucker trousers. I figure, my feet might be boiling, but at least my legs will be comfortable, I mean that’s a fair trade right?
I recently read someone describe Belgian Shoes as “Fifth Avenue Crocs.” They of course meant it as an insult, but I bear no allegiance to Fifth Avenue, so I could care less about any snarky nouveau riche jabs and on top of that I hear Crocs are quite comfortable, so they share that at least. Sure they’re fussy, and sure pretention, (not suede or leather) seems to be the main material for each pair. And yes, as the retail store’s Vera Bradley count on any given day implies, most of their costumers are aging Upper East Side women. And, yes as if that wasn’t enough, each pair is literally sealed with a bow, so go ahead and call them dainty all you want, you’re goddamned right they’re dainty. In fact call them whatever you want, I could care less because if I could choose to wear any shoes on any given day it would be Belgians. They’re comfortable, they go well with most everything I wear, and despite their apparent fragility, they wear in beautifully. Case in point, this pair I picked up from the Brooklyn Flea just a couple weeks ago. They’re been resoled multiple times, their backs are worn down, the suede is beginning to fray, and based on the errant ash stains I would guess the they were some sort of “smoke break slipper,” but so what? Perfection? “Rules”? These are the sort of things that should be fads, not footwear.
Your hands wrinkle, your feet wrinkle, so why shouldn’t your shoes wrinkle too?