Saturday, September 25, 2010

Belgians Old and New

“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.

“ 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.

Onward. Belgianly.


Nelle Somerville said...

1. Is Alice your cousin?
2. If she isn't who is your cousin? I feel like a Maxeophite for asking.
3. My godfather, may he rest in peace, starting a resoling company. It was my first job out of college. Therefore I am weirdly obsessed with men's shoes and can spot a welt from a mile away. They resole Cole Haan's, Ferragamo's, dare I say Birkenstock's with the ORIGINAL sole. They are just a tad out of the beltway. I'm not sure if they have the original Belgian sole, but it is worth a shot. My god-uncle now runs the joint.

Summer is a Verb said...

I take umbridge at that! Virginia Slims??? Puuuhleeeze...I was a Marlboro Light gal. Virginia Slims were for cheerleaders and girls that wore makeup to the pool and didn't get their hair wet...XXOO

ps...and here I thought I was headed over to find myself outed for doing all my Belgian biz over the phone and not having stepped foot in in the store since the early ninties. Gasp

Richard M said...

The hard sole shoes for men are also beautiful! Planning to get some. Also, I have the same issue of Flair.

The Sluice Box said...

Last month I was in the Belgian store talking with a salesperson about all the different shoe color combinations that I'd seen Isaac Mizrahi wearing. I asked whether he simply chose a large woman's size. Rather than cross dressing, he orders custom color combinations. I didn't even know this was an option until he mentioned it.

When I took a pair into the local (San Francisco) shoe repair for the rubber reinforcement, they referred to it as applying a Belgian waffle, which I thought was clever. I was more surprised that they do such a business in this service that they'd actually come up with a name for the sole, which does have a micro waffled texture, similar to what's shown above.

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

Classic. Beautiful Belgian porn. Are you and your 'convert' doing this on purpose? I'm practically drooling over here.

LPC said...

That's it. You have now managed to transmogrify the shoes I have forever associated with my Aunt Priscilla and her Norwich Terriers into an object of desire. I want a pair. Oooh. What color....Next time I go to New York I'm gonna buy some and I'm gonna tell them you sent me too.

Anonymous said...

My question is... how to obtain Belgians under 300$? (or for that matter - under 500$! Or 200 - just dirt cheap.) Could be used, though.

- Poor Belgians Fan (ever had that problem? ;-) )

ilovelimegreen said...

Allie, I would be insulted too if anyone suggested I smoked Virginia Slims! I thought you were a Marlboro Lights girl before I even read your comment.

And ADG, you've convinced me to get a pair of Belgians. Next trip to NYC. I will definitely mention your name when I visit the Belgians shop.

ilovelimegreen said...

Allie, I too would definitely be insulted if anyone suggested I was a Virginia Slims girl. I thought you would be Marlboro Light girl even before I read your comment.
And ADG, you've convinced me I need to buy a pair of Belgians. Next trip to NYC. I will definitely mention your name. And if this appears twice, please delete one...not sure what happened.

Alan said...

Faggy shoes??? I take offense by that statement. Now black opera pumps w/ little bows, those are faggy (what I wear). I'll have to try Belgians one day for some diversity.

Belgian Convert said...

Laguna Beach Fogey - Please don't encourage ADG by putting the words 'Belgian' and 'porn' in the same sentence. And wipe up that drool and go get yourself a pair.

Main Line Sportsman said...

If they only made them in camo.....max HD or duck blind...

Young Fogey said...

Back in high school in the 80s, I wore skinny pink ties (1" wide).

Back in college in the New Wave 80's, I once wore a black wool skirt to a party. This one time at band camp--well, it was actually the dorm room of a friend from band, but bear with me--the girls wanted to put make-up on me, and I said, only if you put a dress on me, too. So, they put me in a dress, heels, and make-up.

When I start wearing black tie, along with the lace-ups, I will get a pair of opera pumps.

Obviously, I don't have a problem with faggy or fruity--yet even them Belgians are too much for me.

Gail, in northern California said...

Lord. Who notices shoes when you've included a picture of Gary Cooper?

ADG said...

LPC...this is great news. There's a story here. At least one blog story if not more. I see your decision as a reconnection to Aunt Priscilla and the WASP antecedents that your parents extricated themselves from in a very low drama way (allow the literary latitude here Prunella,I've got an active imagination, especially at 655am. For all I know, there was great departure fanfare and drama and you might have remain connected to Aunt Priscilla in mother-daughter ways till the end. See, I told you. I'm assuming that Aunt Priscilla has "gone-on.")

But this has to be managed properly. Your High WASP intuition will guide you without the need for outside counsel. But I'll reinforce what your good sense will prevail anyway. Your first pair should be understated. Forgo the crazy color combos offered and go with something understated. Perhaps Reggie and I should meet you in Gotham for the procurement event.

Gail...I included Cooper just for you.

Fogey...I wouldn't have told that. Opera Pumps are faggy...I've already told you that.

Alan...Alan, thanks for your comments and sorry to offend you. but trust me, hang around here long enough and I'll offend you again.

LimeGreenGal...You'll need custom made lime green ones. Of course.

MainLiner....ditto the above but in camo.

BelgianConvert...Belgians and "Instructional/educational" films in moderate doses is a good thing.

AnonymousPoorBelgians...I'm still in the same boat as you. eBay is your best bet.

LagunaFogey...Bring back TartanTuesday and I'll back off the taunts over here.

Sluice...I was aware that they'd do custom combos. Flusser had them do a pair of black suede with orange piping one time. I love the fact that they'll look you in the eye and with gracious benign indifference, tell you that they have no idea when to expect their arrival. And they mean it.

Richard M...yes, the hard soles are nice and obviously more durable and practical. Luca Rubinacci has a hybrid version of Belgians in his London shop that are nice too. BTW, I just bought that copy of Flair on ebay to replace the tattered version that I've had for years. This one is practically new.

Nelle...Allie is my bratty younger sister...the sister that I metaphorically taunt in the back of the proverbial vacation station wagon. Thanks for the link to the resoling company. Alas, part of the Belgians fun is getting on the train to take them back to Gotham for the tune up.

Allie...ok, enough of your high mindedness. The Butt Police four-wheeler will be at your house on Tuesday morning. Calipers first? Or the Scale? Your choice. Sgt. Slims will be writing the report.

garden and gun said...

Finally!!!!!been waiting for Belgie post. I have a pair of black Mr. Casuals that are in need of rubbers. I'm a Belgian wearer in Upstate SC and i appreciate all the Belgianeze advice past, present ,and future, I've shown mine whose boss!!!!

Richard M said...

If they're good enough for GFIV, they're Sho' nuff good enough for l'il ol' me!!

Anonymous English Female said...

Don't understand what so many of you men out ther have against opera pumps?? Only lily-livers with comb-overs wear patent oxfords. Real men, the true players, rock opera pumps. Trust me.

NCJack said...

Okay, folks, take a deep breath, put down the Belgians, slowly, you can do it. Now just baaackk up, deep breaths, that's it...ADG, keep some distance from AllieVonHottie....that's right, you'll be fine (Okay boys, get the tranks ready, stay alert, they could go rogue)

ADG said... won't go down that way. I'm too smoove. aren't to be trusted.

Richard M ...indeed.

Garden/ careful in those little shoes up around Clemson.

Patsy said...

Well, great. Now I want Belgians. And a cigarette.

Anonymous said...

ADG - Thank you so much for this Belgian shoes post. But I thank you more for the pep talk. I am a wuss, what's wrong with me. I sclepped into NYC on a hot summer day, spent an hour trying to figure out which ones to buy and I don't wear them?! Well no longer...I'll have you know that I wore my brown calf with black trim to jury duty in Connecticut. How funny am I?
Thank you're the greatest!

Giuseppe said...

Never got the deal with Belgians, probably never will. And yet, I can't help but feel like I'm missing out on some great party.

Is there soemthing wrong with me, or is it all of you who are crazy?

ADG said...

Brigid....I'm gonna post a picture of my Belgians that I wore on Saturday that are trashed. Jury Dusty...wear 'em and convict 'em!

G-Man....true on both counts...we are all crazy and you are missing something.

Patsy...don't smoke.

Young Fogey said...


Now you know how I feel about GTH! (Though I don't feel left out of the party.)


If I ever became Will Boehlke rich, I might try a pair of Belgians on in a store, and there is the outside chance I could just possibly take them home to wear as slippers.

But I'd probably just stick with velvet slippers (which I cannot yet afford).


Don't nobody here know who I really am, and even thems that knows my name don't know who I am, so who cares if they know I did crazy things in college? At least I wasn't wearing Belgians while doing it....

Reggie Darling said...

Hello Maxi: I think it is a grand idea that you and I should meet up with LPC here in Gotham and escprt her to Belgian Shoes so that she can (finally) join the real world, as one defines it. I've been hankering after a pair in animal print (can't decide between cheetah or tiger) and this is my excuse to break down and buy one, despite dithering and misgivings about stretching beyond my beloved plan leather ones. And I know you'll be able to find sumptin to tickle your fancy there (probably time for you to go custom, I suspect). Afterwards the three of us should then repair to the nearby L'Absinthe restaurant (see Reggie's review of it way back when) for at least one martini (each) to start with followed by a celebratory dinner. What say you?

LPC said...

Ha! I cannot imagine two better qualified equerry for said purchase. I will have to start the planning in motion. Of course, if I'm out there, Son and Daughter will need to come along:). You Can Go Home Again. Although, Priscilla and I were very close. She has passed on. My father is always welcomed back to High WASP territory. The Prodigal Son and all that.

Young Fogey said...

I recently read someplace that there was a correlation between wearing Belgian loafers and a decreased sperm count....

ADG said...

YoungFogey...that would be a non-issue for me at this point. Maybe even an asset in some instances.

LPC...Ok Prunella, sounds like we'll end up having a parade and everything.

Reggie...Custom? Probably not as I'm currently rendered broke after buying 20 Apparel Arts books. I'm certain though, that there will be enough of a credit line for me to pounce on another pair "in-house." Besides, the custom orders take a year. So yes indeed, we have a Prunella Parade to plan. day, you'll be in Belgians.