“One more of us—one less of them.” I’ve received a report that Belgian Shoes in Gotham initiated a new convert last week. I can’t remember my first time darkening the doors of Aloof-shodding Central but here’s the recent converts update…
“…Loden green suede, black calf trim. Comfy? - doesn't begin to describe - the minute he put them on my feet I didn't want to take them off! It's a funny little shop, felt like somewhere in one of the arcades off Jermyn Street. Got a bit dazzled by choice of women’s, red patent with pink trim somewhat distracting so I looked at the mens instead and the kind gentleman helped me pulling out what I liked in women’s sizes. I tried the brown with black trim and the burgundy but as you know I like suede and have a bit of a thing about green shoes at the moment so went for these. Kind gentleman explained to me the rather arcane rubber soleing process. And when I mentioned your name they said 'oh Mr G_____, we know him well' ...”
Ahh…the “arcane rubber soleing process”…certainly a cornerstone in the mélange of Belgian quirky. That is unless you have a lot more money than sense. Everyone who buys these shoes under any circumstance has more money than sense but those who eschew the rubber sole are in a different league. And loden green suede is as good a pair as any from which to depart on Belgian voyage maiden.
And then from another correspondent, New Orleans attorney, former Esquire Magazine writer and Esquire Good Grooming Guide editor, George Frazier, IV …
“…I have a pair of dark-brown Belgians that are over 40 years old. I got them way back when I lived in NYC (the 60s). One bow is missing; one sole is pretty much trashed. I had them reinforced with thin rubber soles at the suggestion of a friend who wears almost nothing but Belgians (she's Dutch, so maybe she felt a geographical affinity). They're the most comfortable shoe ever made, and wearing them has a real the World's-Opinion-Can-Go-to-Hell feeling.” And then in a quickly amended email … “My wife reminds me that her mother bought me the Belgians about 30-35 years ago, so I guess they're not that old.”
Well I’ll say this George, IV…yours are officially the oldest pair I know about...even with your spousal amendment of a few years. Now if I can only get you to snap a digital photo of them (and those couple of pairs of Peale loafers…the trashed ones and the still intact pair) for my archive. Seems to me that a fella who had his own Stork Club house account at age six would have nothing less than shoddings of intrigue.
Finding a photo of anyone wearing Belgians is rare. Unless of course you read my drivel ‘cause I’m gonna bust a pair at least once a week and they always seem to coincide with my crotch shots. Two for one I say. But I did find a Laurence Harvey—Mia Farrow photo that has young Laurence sporting a pair circa 1967. I think it’s a publicity shot for the movie A Dandy in Aspic.
And the All Male Issue of Flair Magazine has a profile on Gary Cooper that sees him in pseudo-Belgian shoddings.
Perilously close but seemingly a bit more sturdy than Belgians pure. …
“he favors moccasin type shoes specially designed for him by Farkas and Kovacs.” Farkas and Kovacs by the way, made the first prototype that went on to be the ubiquitous tasseled standard still purveyed by Alden.
So what about the rubber aftermarket add-on? Let’s set up this tutorial with a comment from Brigid.
“ADG...love your blog and your cousin's too! I have a Belgian shoes question...what do you do to make them more sturdy/hardy/less fragile. I know you mentioned that you would post something about how to resole or double sole Belgians. I just can't find it in your blog. I have 2 brand spanking new ones and I'm afraid to wear them. I figure they'll last about one day...maybe two. Help!? Thanks. Brigid”
Brigid, we gotta talk élan, attitude and swagger first. Rubber soles or not, you must realize that to shore up…to make sturdy a pair of Belgians is an exercise in futility and an example of misdirected intent. Part of their quirky allure includes the fact that they feel like house slippers and are destined to physical decline faster than any other shodding with an MSRP over ten bucks. You just can’t care that much. If you do, you won’t enjoy them and they won’t enjoy being worn by you.
It’s an attitudinal thang Brigid. They are going to get trashed so have fun in them during their decline. When one pair declines to a certain point, you relegate them to things like…like Bumper Car driving.
So here’s the deal. You wear new Belgians until you get them really scuffed up and molded to your foot. Send them back for the rubber veneer too soon and you’ll have a pair returned to you that won’t fit properly. The soleing-gluing process tends to “tighten-up” Belgians so you gotta make ‘em your own before having the sole attached.
My latest ones are about ready to head back to Gotham for their rubbers. I’ve not sought out anyone inside the Beltway to do this work. I prefer sending them back to the mother church of faggy shoes and allowing their subcontracted farrier to do it. No used to be pound foolish and pound foolish-er.
I’ve seen ‘em come back with variations in the rubber but can discern no difference in the functionality of the latex layer regardless of the vendor.
True Prep mentions Cat’s Paw but word on the street is that there are many, many brands mentioned by name in that book. Shut up.
Rubber soles or not…wear ‘em like you own ‘em ‘cause you do. And you oughta be ashamed of yourself for paying that kind of money for a moccasin that won’t last any longer than it takes for AllieVonBelgians to sneak-smoke a Virginia Slims when she’s on Montauk drinking with her posse.