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Of shoes - and ships - and sealing wax

I'm a creature of habit when it comes to the way I dress. I went through most of my undergraduate years wearing pale blue denim, rollneck sweaters and waistcoats, and for the past ten or eleven years, I've mostly worn black Levi 501s, black t-shirts, boots, and woolen sweaters. Part of the reason is that I just can't bear to waste time trying to work out what to wear each morning; if the choice from my day-to-day wardrobe consists of three identical pairs of jeans, dressing is a task requiring no effort or thought.

(and yes, I'm aware that this is a typical geek justification)

My choice in day-to-day footwear has varied a bit over the last fifteen years. There was the dalliance with chisel-toed, Cuban-heeled biker boots (ended mainly because I was constantly having to get them reheeled), there was a fling with fashion Doc Martens (ended because I found that I was getting through a pair every six months; the cardboard insoles kept falling apart), and a longer relationship with black Caterpillar six-holes.

I stopped wearing CAT six-holes because they changed the specification (they used to have a standard eyelet at the top, followed by two hook eyelets, which made relacing easier than if the top three eyelets had been hooks, which is the new configuration). Since then, I've been wearing black industrial Doc Martens (steel toecap, seven-hole), which have the twin advantages that they don't have a cardboard insole that rots after a couple of months, and they're cheaper than the fashion DMs.

(Another aside. I'm not the only person who obsesses about clothing specifications; both al_riddoch and theno23 have waxed lyrical about the benefits of Dutch army-surplus combat trousers - the One True Trouser, to hear them speak of them - over other equivalent brands. The chief difference, this post aside, is that I don't tend to evangelise about my choice in clothes)

Anyway, the current pair are about eighteen months old, and the soles are wearing a bit thin. I also seem to have stepped on something pointed, since they're letting in water through the sole. Tried shopping for a new pair in town this afternoon, and found that the one place that had them before is out of stock for at least the next month, and that all the other chains only stock the (inferior) fashion boots.

And then I had a brainwave. The building supplies mail order company Screwfix sells protective clothing in addition to the eponymous screws and sundry fixings (I must have dominant Bloke genes, because I've spent many a happy hour leafing through the catalogue, ogling novel drywall fixings - but I digress). Lo! and behold, they not only also sell Doc Martens of the sort I was looking for, but cheaper than on the high street (£40 compared to £50), and with free next-day delivery.

I'm slightly appalled, and rather pleased, that I've now ordered two pairs of boots (paying the premium for early delivery on Monday morning) from an outfit that sells ironmongery, kitchen cabinets and power tools.

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i normally just buy random shoes from the US on conference trips. the exchange rate is insane.


If I had that sort of foresight, I'd do that. However, I normally pack as light as possible (which limits baggage space for another big pair of boots), and my shopping sprees tend to be limited to electronics and books.

Besides, I've deliberately not been to the US since 2004.

Uniformity of style certainly makes it easier to decide what to wear. Although just this morning I was looking through my wardrobe and wondering why half of my T-shirts are black and more than half of my trousers are jeans, when I virtually always wear blue T-shirts and moleskin trousers. I suspect black shirts and jeans must be better at breeding in captivity.

Quite a lot of my t-shirts are for academic conferences, software products, or technology companies (the rest fall into a class I'd describe as "ironic").

And yes, you're right about jeans breeding; my jeans normally wear out either in the seat or the knees, and I've normally got several pairs in the wardrobe which would be indecent when worn in public, but which are not so far gone that I can't wear them around the house.

The One True Trouser is the German Moleskin army-surplus. Plenty of useful pocket volume (my major problem with most jeans is the patheticly tiny pockets), very comfortable, and very hardwearing.

Plus, no zip to give up or fall down. Button fly is the One True Fastening...

I tend to wear jackets, so I have all the pocket space I need there. Anything bulky goes in a shoulder (laptop) bag; I developed sciatica partly by keeping my wallet in my back pocket while sitting, and don't like to spoil the line of whatever I'm wearing.

You're right about button flies though.

I've never seen the point of back pockets. As you said, you sit on them...

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That's a pretty good life for a pair of boots - any idea who they're made by?

I tend to wear mine out by wearing them every day (if I can, I try and buy two pairs at the same time, which prolongs the lifetime of both).

Sooner or later they won't let you into to somewhere. This probably isn't a huge risk for you most of the time because people don't associate parenthood or academia with hooliganism and so you're not going to have your boots checked by a guy with a radio and an attitude problem at toddler group, or the Web Conference but sooner or later you'll be going out somewhere with grownups and they'll ask you to come back with non-work boots.

Steel toecaps are the main difficulty I have in replacing my Cats. The cheapest online places assume that you want them for use on a building site, which means "protection". Previously I found that catalogue mail order was the best route, but a lot of those companies are in trouble because of the Internet and now don't stock things you'd be willing to buy based on a text description on the web, e.g. mens boots. Meanwhile Amazon, previously king of the long tail, is apparently confused by shoes and can't grasp that having six pairs of my preferred style in stock, four brown sizes 6 to 8 and two "natural" size 9 will never result in a sale to someone who wants black boots. (They also don't inspire a lot of confidence by providing pictures that don't relate to the style and colour chosen). I gather that Amazon's shoes aren't actually from Amazon but rather a "trusted partner", maybe that trust is misplaced.

So in the end there's a good chance that I'll end up having to go into an actual shoe shop, despite the fact that I already knew the exact specification of the shoe I want to buy. Unlike some people I don't have a problem with shopping per se, I just don't think it's fun traipsing around shops when you already know exactly what you want and could quote the manufacturers UPC for it and I particularly object to paying a high street store a premium for making me come and collect the product.

After that of course I went back to Amazon to see what laughable selection they had today, and found what I wanted, albeit they've managed to list Caterpillar Colorado Black as a separate item from Caterpillar Colorado - available in Brown, Tan, etc. but not Black. "B+ Much improved, keep trying"

Re: Steel toecap

Sooner or later they won't let you into to somewhere [...] you'll be going out somewhere with grownups and they'll ask you to come back with non-work boots.

The simple answer is that I choose not to go to those sorts of place. I've eaten in Michelin-starred restaurants while wearing boots, and they didn't seem to have a problem, or at least not one that they were willing to raise with me.

I don't like the big vertical-drinking pubs where the game seems to be to see how many pints you can pour down your throat before chucking out time and the obligatory street scuffle and post-scuffle/pre-coital kebab. I can understand why the bouncers in such people don't want to admit people who can do more damage than usual with their feet. I prefer not to drink in places where it's expected that some of the clientele will resort to kicking each other before the night is out.

The only time I've had someone get arsey about my choice of footwear, I was wearing a relatively new, well cared-for pair of oxblood Doc Martens. I *looked after* those boots. I polished them every day, far more often then the lackadaisical treatment I give my boots these days.

And then I went into a pub in Coventry on a Friday night about a decade ago, and had a bouncer step on the toes (badly scuffing the surface finish, crushing the toes and leaving great big creases in what had been pristine leather) "to make sure they weren't steel-toed". Now, I'm not even sure that DM have ever made steel-toed boots (an industrial item) in oxblood (a fashion colour). I do know that oxbloods were popular amongst skinheads and other petty fascists for the reason that blood didn't show on them, presumably after you've given someone else a good kicking. When this happened, my hair was as long as it is now, and I was wearing a velvet jacket, which is not really the chosen uniform of the Street Fighting Thug.

Were your toes inside at the time?

Re: Steel toecap

They were, yes. It was quite clear that the bouncer expected me to be wearing steel toecaps from the amount of pressure he used.

I first started wearing DMs after our Head Mistress expressly forbade it. Although I don't think I ever dared wear the eight hole boot in school, I was an instant convert to the shoes, which were also banned. Thanks for this, I'm just reliving a moment of adolescent rebellion:-)

I switched to Solovair when DM departed these shores, they cost roughly as much, and you can order them online. There's also the warm fuzziness of not clogging up the environment with "boot miles" of shipping from china, while helping keep some good honest yorkshire-man in pies and pints.

(Also the steel toes I bought for ambulance work kept my feet lovely and dry when I went paintballing!)/troll.

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