When a good friend of mine was made redundant at work, the replacement agency that was helping her find a new job actually hired a fashion consultant to take clients shoe shopping. Shoes, according to the experts, are the most important thing you wear when going on a job interview in Paris.
I found this little bit of trivia amazing. I shared it with Mr French and the Parisiennes. But, of course, they concurred. C’est normal. If someone does not take care of their shoes, beh, they are just not serious. Which explains why even the seven year olds in the playground have perfectly polished shoes. My daughters’ friends; average teen boys, all have dress shoes. And wear them on a fairly regular basis. Its a national habit. But having nice shoes is just the beginning.
Shoe care starts immediately upon leaving the shoe store, when Mr French asks if we have waterproofing spray at home. At first, I thought this was a joke. He buys some fairly expensive shoes, and is worried about waterproofing? Don’t you buy them that way and the stuff wears off with time? Non ! When you buy a pair of shoes in Paris, you’ve got to waterproof them before you can ever wear them. And then waterproof them again, every 6-8 weeks for the rest of their lives.
And since they are nice shoes, they will most likely have leather soles. The problem with leather soles is that they are fragile and need to be protected. You’ve just spent several hundred euros on a pair of shoes, you would think, you would HOPE that they were ready to wear for years to come. But no, after wearing those brand new, gorgeous leather soles exactly five times you are off to the cobbler’s protecting the soles and putting taps on the heels.
At last, you can finally enjoy wearing your shoes; sashaying through the city streets, crossing your legs ‘just so’ at the local café, bobbing your ankle at exactly the right rhythm to appreciate your stunning footwear and generally feeling chicer than the widow of the deposed president of a tropical island state. But wait. Is that a scuff over your left pinkie toe? Damn, did that stumble in the paving stones eat into your leather-lined heel? One day on the town and already you need… a shoe shine.
Fortunately, that is when Frenchmen come into the picture. On any given Sunday night, men throughout the city are taking out their shoe shine kits and getting ready to polish their shoes. I know CEOs of multi-national corporations with full time help who choose to shine their own shoes. Bankers, lawyers, the waiters at your favorite café, and even the gentleman who delivers my groceries, shine their shoes. Every week! “Its relaxing” they claim. “I enjoy it.” They insist. Whatever. I, for one, am happy to contribute to this relaxing moment by adding some shoes of my own. And of course, every morning as he heads out the door, Mr French stoops down, polishing cloth in hand, giving his shoes their daily caress before I get my kiss goodbye.
There is a specific routine to proper shoe shining, but in France, it is like the BBQ, almost exclusively a man’s realm. I suppose I could get all self-righteous about women’s equality, and demand to know more, but really, I’d rather let them have this one. Shine away, Monsieurs! Shine bright!
For everything from animal skins to heel forms to make your own shoes, or just a bit of polish in any color imaginable/ BHV