Letter from Melbourne - Shoelaces Made in Britain in a Garden Shed
Do Shoelaces Matter?If you have been wondering about Bertie —our asset in Melbourne —wonder no more. He hasn't turned double. Far from it. He's been on a deep cover op intel gathering on the international trade in shoelaces.
Let's see what he's found out so far...
My dear Tweedy
There are moments, Tweedy, when one asks oneself “Do shoelaces matter?” So I thought I’d better write to you because I know you’ll provide sage advice on this most unexplored of issues.
My own research has revealed two odd things about shoelaces: one, the Chinese saying “Never tie your shoelaces in a melon field if you want to avoid suspicion” and, two, an international trade in shoelaces that starts somewhere near the Burlington Arcade and finds itself in the eyelets of shoes walking down Collins Street, Melbourne (and perhaps the pavements, footpaths and sidewalks of other cities around the world where men who care about shoes walk).
The international trade I refer to is quite particular, having recently fielded a number of enquiries about where to get round, waxed shoelaces. I've even heard of orders being placed with those heading off on an overseas junket to bring back "those laces that came with my shoes from Northants".
So I come back to the question: do shoelaces matter? And if they do, where can one find a reliable supply of laces?
Thanks very much, as ever, Bertie.
By the way, Bertie: The snow this year is better at Innsbruck.
ImmenselyTalk of shoelaces can make seemingly well-balanced people highly agitated. We all have strong opinions on them. First of all, there's the choice of colour. If you start adding contrasting coloured laces to shoes — like the skinheads with their Doc Marten boots — will it appear a little affected and attention-seeking? Or is it adding a stylish contrast? I think the answer will depend on the combination and the circumstances. Wearing red laces in a pair of mid-tan Tricker's brogues to the pub is not unreasonable. I quite like the idea. Wearing yellow laces in a pair of black Oxfords to your court case is most unreasonable. I don't like the idea.
The Cheaney shoes below show the potential and potency of sharp (and confident) contrasts in a co-respondent shoe, as popularized in the 1930s.
If colour is a minefield of potential sartorial blunders, then stick to the same colour as the shoe.
Have you considered the Original Laces Company of Maldon in Essex, Bertie? They make a range of shoelaces by hand, and accept specific requirements for making bespoke laces. They supply laces for Foster & Son.
They make shoelaces in 'any colour of length' from 'waxed cotton, polycotton and striped grosgrain', which are tipped with metal aglets — silver aglets on request.
Most people will suggest flat laces for dress shoes and round laces for casual shoes. A Fine Pair of Shoes stock laces in black and brown and coloured — waxed and unwaxed — as used by British shoemakers. Flat and waxed laces stay tied better, but it's all a matter of choice.
Incidentally, if your shoelaces don't have a metal aglet, I read that dipping the ends in clear nail varnish will make them a bit more robust.
And if your next mission gets a bit hairy, Bertie, don't forget a good shoelace also makes a fine makeshift garotte. Remember your training.