I’ve had these shoes for around 6 years now, Size 7 Lambretta slip-ons brought from Brantanos in Aylesbury. After a full life serving their master, I was going to throw them out but remembered a BBC Documentary called ‘Blood Sweat and Luxuries’. Essentially the show was about a group of spoilt rich British kids working in the same conditions as Madagascan Sapphire miners, Ethiopian Leather producers and African Gold miners. The leather episode has by far the most impact.
We seem to forget in our busy lives where exactly the goods we buy come from (as Alain de Botton’s excellent book ‘The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work’ and Monocle Magazine have touched on in the past). We are detached from the efforts that went into their creation (can you name the man who made your kitchen table? What is your MacBook made of and by whom? How long did it take to assemble your car and where did the raw materials come from?). We seem to forget that the materials to make that leather jacket you may be wearing once belonged to a living, breathing, pulsating animal with limbs, organs, brains and bone. It knew not of self-consciousness. The flesh of the animal is flayed off, organs and feet discarded by hand, dipped in an acid bath to remove the hair, and coloured using dye. Watching that documentary made me realise the value of the material and to respect where it came from. As such, rather than discard the shoes, I wanted to (and felt compelled to) recycle them into something new, something beyond their original function.
All I needed was a sharp scalpel….
The shoes are exceptionally well made, it took a whole hour to dismantle them. The leather has aged well, after years of polishing and care, and (judging by the warp in the material) I now realise that my walking gait was somewhat off. An old shoe saying whose source eludes me - ‘It’s better to have 3 pairs of shoes that last 10 years than 10 pairs of shoes that last 3 years’.
Its incredibly interesting dismantling something you never thought you’d ever take apart, to realise just how much time and effort went into making it. You’d be amazed how many YouTube videos there are about shoe / leather craftsmanship, tools and ‘skiving’ (thinning leather by hand or machine).
It’s no longer a shoe, it becomes something else, mere sheets of worn leather, ready for a life anew beyond the original life of the object. This begs the question - does the form dictate what an object is despite its material construction? Is an object’s identity merely dictated by its function?
A thought I throw out to all Copywriters. Next time you’re stuck for ideas, try dissecting something you plan on throwing away. You may learn something.