The old wives’ tale says you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes. But what is it that you can tell, exactly?
If I had known what the good ladies were on about earlier in my life, it might have saved me years of dating inappropriate men. The old dears would have stood around, tisking and saying, “Look at those old Converse trainers, grey with age and with holes in them. He just won’t do.”
It turns out people are very judgemental about footwear. And they might have a point. According to a study by some folk at the University of Kansas, people can accurately size up certain aspects about you with just a quick glance downwards.
They found that a picture of your footwear can give away your gender, obviously, but a casual onlooker can also make a reasonable guess on how nice you are, how rich you are, or how anxious you are to please.
It is like that scene in the film Silence of the Lambs, where Agent Starling meets Hannibal Lecter for the first time. Having noted her “good bag and cheap shoes” he accuses her of being “not more than one generation from poor white trash”.
Never mind the sly horror of the “fava beans and a nice chianti” part. For me, not previously having been in on this shoe knowledge, it was one of the most terrifying scenes in cinematic history. I became suddenly aware that all of my shoes were cheap, or a bit pointy and weird, and that this could have repercussions. Or, at least, it would if I had the misfortune to meet a psychopathic cannibal with a discernment for Italian leather.
Nor is he the only one. Although reports that a disproportionate amount of psychopaths are also bankers have been disproved, there are still denizens in the City of London who have strong feelings about shoes.
The Man in my Life recounts the tale about the chairman of the board who admitted he declined to hire someone once because the unfortunate had the nerve to wear brown brogues to the interview. In certain circles, black lace-ups are the secret signal among those who went to Eton, Oxbridge or who served in a regiment, an exclusive world where shoes ending in too sharp a point are the sure sign of an arriviste or – worse – a European, and where loafers are beyond the pale.
Luckily most people dismiss this sort of nonsense as the worst sort of snobbery. But those old wives aren’t practising a dark art. What I know now is that the cladding of the sole is obviously also a window to the soul.
For example, as a surly teen I used to scoff at women who wore white trainers with their smart skirt suits as they walked to the office, only to change into something sleeker when they got in. But it only took me 20 years of limping and blisters to realise that opting to wear sensible shoes for the morning commute means that I have, myself, become more sensible.
My grey walk-to-work trainers also suggest I am relatively amiable. Or at least, that is what people think of me, as indicated by my choice of practical and affordable shoes, according to the research.
But psychoanalysis of the shoe isn’t all sure fire. The researchers found that there was no correlation between loud shoes and loud people, for example, which explains why demure Louise in the office can still wear those brash, chunky-heeled boots with buckles. Likewise, subjects who wore dodgy trainers were often judged to have “liberal” political views, albeit the researchers found “no significant associations between political ideology and choice of shoe”.
And as it turns out, the slightly knackered black wedge shoes I slip into when I get to work are also a good sign. If they were brand new and in good repair, people would think I was anxious to please.
Which could suggest it is worth thinking about if you are, say, going for a job interview. Don’t go out and buy new shoes for the occasion, or it might mark you out as a bit desperate. It’s tricky, this shoe business. Because scuffed shoes are probably a no-no but too bright and shiny and you are a basket case. And chaps, if there is any chance one of the interviewers might be a public school-boy, best to leave the trainers or the brown loafers at home.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west