lifestyle

Richard Marles: "I never understood my wife's love for shoes. Until now."

Rachel, my wife, has a shoe cupboard.

Well, actually, it’s more like a shoe gallery. Don’t get me wrong. It’s far from opulent. But in the his and hers shoe contest there is a clear winner.

To me it seems that there are rows and rows of shoes: some shiny, some worn. But each has its own story to tell. There are shoes for the house. There are shoes for work. Shoes for going out. Shoes for playing. Shoes to be happy and shoes to be sad.

Every pair has had its moment in the sun: when it was purchased, rippling with excitement, as the box was opened, the shoes put on, laced up and admired for the very first time.

“There are shoes for the house. There are shoes for work. Shoes for going out. Shoes for playing. Shoes to be happy and shoes to be sad.”

Rachel loves her shoes.

In a corner of this gallery there is a small ghetto for my shoes. In essence, I have a pair of thongs, a pair of runners, and three pairs of black work shoes which are used for everything else as well.

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The items which adorn my feet have never given me the same satisfaction as they do for Rachel. Her shoes are a seamless extension of her being. While my shoes never seem to fit. They make my feet sore and cause me blisters. Whenever I have finally found a pair that are comfortable they soon develop holes in their soles or come apart at the seams.

Shoes don’t like me. And yet Rachel loves her shoes and they love her back.

Then I had a conversation with William which changed my life. An old friend who is a shoe retailer, William gave me a shoe intervention.

He told me it was time that I grew up. “Life is too short to regard garments and apparel in simply utilitarian terms. They are the way the world sees you and in turn a reflection of how you see yourself.” This was more philosophy than I was expecting as I rubbed my aching feet.

Richard’s shoes weren’t giving the same pleasure that his wife derived out of them.

He continued: “Shoes are about attention and detail. They carry with them the love of their maker. Humanity is denied when their essence is ignored.”

William was going deep but he had me listening.

“Go to a real shoe shop like McClouds in Queen Street. Be properly fitted and buy a beautiful pair of Loakes shoes. When you see the price … suck it up and then buy two more pairs. The more you spread their use the better the shoes will wear. And the more you pay upfront the longer the shoes will last and the less you will pay over time. When it comes to the shoe economy, more is actually less.”

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Wow! I’d been wrestling with shoes my whole life and here, in a nutshell, was the insight to the entire problem.

So I went to McClouds and encountered a retail experience direct from Harry Potter. Indeed this could have been the very best shop on Diagon Alley. Inside was green felt and Chesterfield couches. The smell of new shoe leather came over me like a warm breeze.

Richard Marles – shoe addict.

I was immediately welcomed by staff who gave me the kind of service that placed me at the centre of the universe. Tea was offered and feet were measured with a tenderness that felt like a massage. I picked and chose box after box with an endless sense of indecision. Quite reasonable shop assistants would have been entitled to lose their cool and send me packing. But for the staff of McClouds I could do no wrong.

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The shoes themselves were handsome and refined. None had been sired by a machine. Instead they had been brought into this world by the caring hands of old cobblers with tacks in their mouths and a little hammer in their hands who’d been making shoes for centuries.

Eventually I purchased my three pairs of brand new Loakes shoes.

They were simply magnificent. They hugged my feet, caressing them with every step. They shone with a class that belied anything else about me. They were sturdy and durable. And as I walked they even squeaked contentedly. Lo and behold my shoe world was resolved. William is a genius.

“They were simply magnificent.”

Every year I now retire one pair and purchase another. New Shoe Day is one of the highlights of the calendar. I rip open the box and take a deep breath. I am in love.

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At this moment Rachel is mildly disturbed that I am not the man she married. Yet at the same time it is a small price to pay for the empathy it brings.

I now see Rachel’s shoe gallery in a whole new light. For in life’s pursuit of happiness it is a veritable monument to human achievement. And out of the ghetto, at last, my Loakes take pride of place within it.

Richard Marles was elected to Federal Parliament as the Member for Corio in November 2007. He is the Shadow Minister for Immigration and Border Protection. He lives in Geelong with his wife Rachel and four children.

What pair of shoes do you own that you’re ‘in love’ with? 

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