In my first week at college they made us do all manner of awkward ‘icebreakers’ and get-to-know-each-other exercises. You know the kind: say your name and three things no one else knows about you, or even more cringeworthy, state your name and accompany it with an action that best illustrates your mood. So 90s.
One such exercise involved us each filling a shoebox with personal articles which would then be handed over to someone else in the group to deduce things about our personalities. This particular exercise actually had me interested – sure, you’re going to put in a couple of wanky things that make you look suitably cultured and interesting, but it really is telling to note the things that people want you to know about them.
The shoebox that I received contained a single, beaten up old trainer – scuffed, with worn down soles and fuzzy laces. What did it say about its owner, Johannes? That he was unpretentious, outdoorsy and not too concerned with fashion. ‘You got everything right,’ said Johannes, ‘but you missed one thing.‘ What was it? The fact that he is extremely loyal. He had been wearing the same pair of shoes for years and had no plans of swapping them for a new pair any time soon. I’ve never forgotten that.
My own old faithfuls, my suede Country Road ankle boots, have reached a similar stage of character building. I have officially worn through the sole of the right one, right down to the ground. The veneer on the heels has been superglued back into place, the buckle straps, I lovingly refurl into place on a regular basis. They’ve been to huge rock concerts, interviews, dinners, on dates and to festivals. I’ve worn them so smooth in the sole that I routinely avoid near-spills in public places. During winter I lusted after a pair of Chelsea boots which were to become their replacement, so I thought. Not the case. Now, just before their official first re-soling, they remain my first choice.
I feel proud to be so invested in my old faithfuls. I still routinely wear a pair of low-heeled leather Crayon wedges that I bought when I was 17, despite friends and family telling me to chuck them on a regular basis. I see a good, solid shoe as something that is hard to come by. When you find them, with a little love, care (and possibly, a sense of humour), they will last you a lifetime.