A physician, he felt that dressing well shows respect for others and he almost never went to the office in anything but a coat and tie – often a suit, sometimes a sport coat and gray flannels.
I would sit and watch as he picked out his clothes, running his hand along the ever growing collection of repp, paisley and woven ties until he found just the right one for that day.
After the jackets, shirts and ties had been sorted through, out came the shoes. Dad’s shoes were not handmade or exotic. They were however solid footwear of very good pedigree: Johnston and Murphy (the good line), Brooks Brother’s Peal & Co., and Barrie, Ltd., of New Haven (sadly, now defunct).
It still amazes me that for someone who wore dress shoes almost every day of his life, his footwear wardrobe was not particularly large. As I recall, he had a pair of each of wing tips and cap toes – black and brown; a lovely pair of shell cordovan brogues, brown tasseled slip-ins; a pair of penny loafers and a pair of white bucks.
Dad always kept his shoes in excellent condition; religiously polishing them to a deep, jewel like gloss. Of course each pair had its own cedar shoe trees – if you don’t have them for your shoes, stop reading now and go buy some.
The sense of personal satisfaction I still get from shining my shoes, looking after my wardrobe and getting the closet in order after a busy week was surely instilled at that young age. There is a certain rhythm and comfort in the ceremony of assembling and editing your personal possessions.
What actually brought these memories back to me was the never-ending rain that recently blanketed Washington. Normally when the weather turns like that I dress down for the office a bit and wear some heavy shoes and khakis, but I had meetings that week and needed to wear a suit.
Since I metro into the city and would be exposed to the elements for more than enough time needed to soak through shoe leather, this was an issue. I found my solution in the most practical of footwear accessories – rubber shoe covers. These waterproof envelopes turn your well shod feet into pedial all terrain vehicles.
I never actually thought that I would own a pair of these things; they were to me about as un-cool as you could get. I still see my dad pulling them on before he walked out the door on rainy mornings and recall how, in my youthful ignorance, I thought he looked silly. As a working adult however – and one who enjoys assembling a good wardrobe in the morning – I know now how invaluable they truly are.
Taking care of your shoes need not always be an elaborate or overcomplicated exercise, but looking after your investments is an important skill to learn. Keep the soles in good condition, give them a regular polish and remember that each pair should have their own shoe trees. And, as my dad taught me a long time ago, keep them dry.