I have been obsessed with shoes ever since I was a small child… long before I even knew what fashion really was. I was about nine or ten, and it was the mid-eighties when young girls still dressed like young girls and I didn’t care that my knees were scraped from bike-riding accidents. I had my opinions on clothing, but wore pretty much whatever my mother gave me to wear. Shoes on the other hand, it was very important, that I decided on myself. The only opportunity I really ever had to indulge in the obsession however, was on the occasional trip to the mall. Whenever we made one, I was sure to drag my mother to store at the far end, in between the jeweler and the gourmet cooking shop, where on any given visit there were three or four pairs I would lose sleep over, until I could call them my own.
I’m the same today. It’s a bit of an addiction. Beyond the normal collection of shoes one owns as simply ‘footwear’, for sheer utilitarian purposes, my closet is home to many a pair that I have, simply because I wanted them; because my heart skipped a beat at first sight of them; because…well, for the sake of fashion, I suppose, I needed to have them. And when I say many a pair, I mean many. But like mothers say they could never choose one child over another as being their favorite, I cannot choose a favorite pair of shoes. I adore them all. Some are tokens of trips I’ve taken to far-off places (because, what is a trip to a foreign city without seeing its best shoe shops?); others are no more than a great pair I found on sale at a chain retailer, that despite their ubiquity, somehow electrify me. This collection however, though as special as a collection of China dolls, is not one I simply look at. No! I wear my shoes! Sometimes I wear them to near death…or at least severe blemish, to a point of unacceptable raggedness. This, my friends, is where the love comes in.
I speak of the faithful cobbler.
For it is he and his handiwork that have saved the lives of some of my most prized fashion possessions, and saved me from having to find equally fantastic replacements for them, which as much as I love shopping, we all know, can be quite a chore.
A few months ago after too much clicking down the cement-floored hallways of my office and no more patience to deal with the mini metal taps on the worn-down heels of my boots, I made a trip to the little storefront with that ever-present blue neon boot in the window. I opened the door to the shop whose front end was no more than six square feet and stepped to the counter hoping the entrance bell was heard over the noise of the buzzing machines in the background. My cobbler friend arrived less than a minute later with a ‘hello miss’, his hands covered in shoe polish and a buffing brush in his grip. I imagined his name might be Geppetto, with a face quite like the woodcarver from Pinocchio. I presented him with my bag of problems and thought what a wonder it is they can keep track of anything as I noticed the dozens upon dozens of random shoes stacked in pairs on the shelf behind him.
I stood watching him examine my three pairs of boots and began to worry about the impact their absence from my closet was going to have on the coming week’s wardrobe, as surely they’d be gone a few days. And then leaning on the counter, uncomfortable in my stance, I changed my weight from foot to foot and realized the discomfort in the very pair of boots I had on. And after asking on a whim if a 5-minute repair was possible, I found myself waiting in my socks while my cobbler was fast repairing them at his workbench. Minutes later I was walking back to the office in what may as well have been a new pair of shoes, and by week’s end I had the three others back, shiny and new.
For the next week, my deskmate at work wanted to gag me, I’m sure, because I wouldn’t shut up about how thrilled I was at the cobbler’s job and my old boots being back in my closet… perfect… like new… once again. If it weren’t for my incessant rants, however, another coworker wouldn’t have been so lucky. With a desperate situation involving a broken heel and an upcoming weekend wedding, I inadvertently saved the day.
What can I say? I’ve got a thing for the cobbler. It’s love. It’s that silly neon boot in the window, the bell that chimes when you walk in, the smell of leather and shoe polish wafting through the air, the buzzing of the old-world machines busy at work on repairs. And best of all, the cobbler himself that always brings you back your beloved shoes.