Thursday, October 24, 2019


... I loved shoe salesmen. Not the dispirited store clerks they have now, but actual shoe salesmen who knew their business.

Yes, I'm talking about real shoe men who knew shoes and feet that went in them with an expertise that rivalled that of NASA engineers.

Rick Garvia
The Road Gets Longer If I Stop (, 2013)

1961 | Vero Cuoio ad detail (Genuine Leather)
Source: Calzature Italiane di Lusso magazine

That, in a nutshell, is the definition of a "shoe dog", also "shoe-dog" or "shoedog", any way you wanted it. 

The key things are the dedication and the expertise of the craft. The obsession, also. 

To further illustrate the term, take novelist George Pelecanos: back in 1994 he placed a shoedog in the novel of the same name:

“That skinny kid, at the store—”


“Yeah. He called you ‘Shoedog’. You gonna tell me now what that’s all about?”

“You might not understand, man. It’s about having some kind of direction in your life.”

“Try me.”

Randolph leaned over the table. “You ever see a dog, man, when he’s walkin’ across a bridge? Well, that dog, he doesn’t look left and he doesn’t look right. He keeps his head down, lookin’ at his paws makin’ a straight line, all the way. And the only thing he’s thinking about, the whole time, is gettin’ to the other side of that bridge.”

George P. Pelecanos
“Shoedog”. (Hachette, 1994)

Hope this is clear. If not - or even if it is - the novel "Shoedog" comes highly recommended. 

Hideous lettering and layout | Don't judge this book by the cover
George P. Pelecanos | Shoedog (Hachette, 1994)

More recently the term "shoedog" gained notoriety thanks to Nike's co-founder Phil Knight's memoir:

“Shoe dogs were people who devoted themselves wholly to the making, selling, buying, or designing of shoes. Lifers used the phrase cheerfully to describe other lifers, men and women who had toiled so long and hard in the shoe trade, they thought and talked about nothing else. It was an all-consuming mania, a recognizable psychological disorder, to care so much about insoles and outsoles, linings and welts, rivets and vamps.”

Phil Knight
From: “Shoe Dog” (Scribner 2016) 

Phil Knight
Shoe Dog (Scribner 2016)

We cannot say when the term came to life; we do know however that the oldest use of the word in novels (that we know of) comes from beloved/hated critic Leslie A. Fiedler in his short stories collection "Pull Down Vanity, And Other Stories".

“I am a shoe salesman, a shoe-dog my colleagues prefer to say, too frail and timorous to work ever in the great downtown stores, where each pants leg is creased to an ultimate sharpness, each skull, ferociously brushed and brilliantined, shines in the subdued light, and the quick crackle of conviction spreads from the insolent smile, the jaunty stride, noiseless on the thick carpeting."

Leslie A. Fiedler
From the short story "An Expense Of Spirit" off “Pull Down Vanity, And Other Stories”(J.B. Lippincott Company, 1962) 

The short story was first published by the magazine Partisan Review in January 1949 (available online at Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center); Fiedler also used "shoe dog" again in another story called "Nobody Ever Died from It" (1956), also collected in "Pull Down Vanity".

The author doesn't delves much into the word meaning, but the book highlights a few passages that shine a light into it. Maybe, he too, was a shoedog after all. [2]

1921 | I.Miller | Deluxe Shoes
Ad detail





In November 2010, The New York Times run an article titled "American Speech: Lingo of the Shoe Salesman (1934)". It was taken from the archive of American Speech – “a quarterly of linguistic usage” published on behalf of the American Dialect Society.

It goes to a great length to explain terms such as "up", "McKay", "wrap-up", "chromo","compo", and so on; unfortunately when it comes to our term - at the very end of the article - we got a laconic explanation:

From what has been said in the foregoing paragraphs, it may have been noticed that the shoe salesman’s lot is not a happy one. This perhaps accounts for his name. In the lingo he is known as a shoe-dog.

American Speech - Vol. 9, No. 4 (Dec., 1934), pp. 283-286

Yes, perhaps. Or perhaps not. Shoe salesmen may not be very happy, but that it might apply to NASA engineers, runway models or X Factor judges. Especially X Factor judges, so it doesn't add up. Good thing is the date - 1934 -, so that we know "shoe dog" was already there. 

1957 | Sidney's David Jones' store
Feat. I.Miller shoes


Leslie A. Fiedler was indeed a shoedog:

“As mesmerized as he may have been by imaginative literature, Leslie got his earliest knowledge of the world through real-life experience. Like so many of his fellow Jewish intellectuals, who would later constitute a major force in twentieth-century American criticism, Leslie earned his first paychecks doing nonintellectual work. 

His Saturdays at the shoe store his uncle managed would begin at eight in the morning and last until he and his fellow workers had cleaned the place at eleven or eleven thirty at night.”

Mark Royden Winchell
From: “Too Good to Be True: The Life and Work Of Leslie Fiedler” (University Of Missouri Press, 2002) 

1967 | Ferragamo | ad detail
At Saks Fifth Avenue


Time to "wrap-up", but if you happen to know more about the word "shoedog", please let us know.

ca. 1911 | Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones
The Shoe Shop

Thursday, October 17, 2019


The Coronation Shoe was a Delman shoe manufactured by H.R. Rayne and designed by Roger Vivier.

Let that sink in.

1953 | Roger Vivier | The Coronation Shoe
Source: Heavenly Soles (Cross River Press, 1989)

Over the years this piece of information felt by the wayside leaving the sole Vivier claiming fatherhood. Of course Delman acquired by Genesco - and slowly fading into oblivion - didn't help, but it is truly remarkable that H.R. Rayne forgot about it in spite of their role as Royal Family's supplier being prominently showcased on their website

Moreover, H.R. Rayne was the first name to be erased from the whole deal as we were able to retrace only two mentions: one in 1953, when Delman celebrated the joint venture with Dior, and another one in 1957, although, we are sure, more sources can be traced in the U.K.
The only book that touch upon the Delman - H.R. Rayne collaboration is Mary Trasko's "Heavenly Soles": the picture on top comes from page 68 and following is the original caption: 

"… design by Roger Vivier of the coronation shoes for Elisabeth II, 1953, created in association with English manufacturers Rayne. The gold kidskin sandal had a slight platform for comfort (since the Queen remained standing during the three-hour ceremony) and a heel studded with garnets. Pen and pencil on paper. (Roger Vivier, Paris)"

1953 | Roger Vivier
Le Soulier De La Reine
Source: hprints

This is the most famous shoe never seen when shod (cause the length of the gown) and even when not shod. No pictures are in existence of the Vivier's Coronation shoe, nor the original artefacts since they were not part of "The Queen's Coronation 1953" (Buckingham Palace, 27 July-29 September 2013). 

More than that, even serious historians doubted that Vivier designed the Coronation shoe:

In a recent discussion I had with Alexandra Kim, a former curator at Kensington Palace, Kim said: 
...there are no surviving (coronation) shoes that they know of and no record of them being Vivier… it seems highly unlikely that the queen would wear the shoes of a French shoemaker for this event and I also think that she might have chosen more comfortable/practical shoes for an event which was long, with a heavy crown to worry about and shoes that wouldn’t be seen.” 

So, here goes the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth:

"I made the design here in my peaceful workshop after being inspired by the rose windows of Chartres and I sent it to London last December," he (Vivier) said. "The Queen accepted the design and I have made a unique pair of shoes which are at the same time light and strong to bear the strain of Coronation Day."

He said the model was to remain secret up to the Coronation next Tuesday so no other woman could copy it ahead of time and wear the same thing.

Robert Ahier
United Press Staff Correspondent | May 25, 1953

Chartres Cathedral | Detail
Photograp: Francesco Bandarin
Source: Unesco

It is understood that, as soon as Coronation Day was over, Herman Delman cashed in on the project:

"Delman is the creator of the gold kid slippers Queen Elisabeth wore on Coronation Day ... the new queen's slippers, with an open "rose-window" medallion edged with jewels on the toe and rubies in the slender heel, are being duplicated for sale in America this fall.

The Journal Herald | July 14, 1953

"Her majesty wears a size five, narrow", according to Herman Delman, head of Delman, Ltd., whose French salon made the shoes for Elisabeth.

The shoes cost the court nearly 20 guineas (slightly over $50) - but Delman hastens to add that next fall there will be copies available in all sizes for American women at less. About $49,75 he figures.

Arizona Republic | July 5, 1953

Delman's Coronation Shoe up for sale
In spite of the caption, the pair on the left is more likely "inspired by"
Source: Left - The Corpus Christi Caller Times | August 30, 1953
Source: Right - The Leader Post | June 4, 1953

Given all the above, we now have proof that Vivier designed the coronation shoe via Delman while the role of H.R. Rayne is certain but vague. We'll leave that to our friend Miss Rayne to further investigate.

Delman's Coronation Shoe up for sale
Source: The Leader Post | June 4, 1953


Here things get interesting: in 2013, for the 60th Coronation Anniversary, the brand Roger Vivier (the man died in 1998) manufactured a Coronation Replica to celebrate the event and they failed to mention the original was made by another brand.

2012 | Roger Vivier
The Coronation Shoe REPLICA in Hong Kong (January 2013)
Source: LifeStyleAsia

On the other hand, Delman and H.R. Rayne said nothing, but Bally Of Switzerland went beyond outer limits:

Bally has created an exclusive exhibition in Australia and Singapore to commemorate the 2012 Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, showcasing two replica pairs of shoes worn by the Queen at her wedding and coronation. 

Selected from the Bally Shoe Museum’s treasures, these replicas of the shoes worn by HM Queen Elizabeth II for her 1947 wedding to His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, and her 1953 Royal Coronation will be on display for the first time in Australia and Singapore in selected Bally stores during August. 

The Queen’s wedding shoes, crafted from duchesse satin, and her Royal Coronation shoes, created with gold kidskin, will be on display exclusively at the Bally Queen Victoria Building Boutique in Sydney, from August 1-8, 2012. 

Source: Bally

Now: how silly is that? Actually Bally didn't say they made the coronation shoe but only the replica, only it bears no resemblance to the authentic Coronation shoe. 

The Coronation shoes according to Bally | Replica
Source: Bally

Replica of the shoes worn by HM Queen Elizabeth II for her 1953 Royal Coronation, displayed for the first time in Australia at Bally Queen Victoria Building Boutique in Sydney — at Queen Victoria Building.
Source: Bally.

In the end, we're left here with the moral that marketing reigns supreme and makes a mock of footwear history along the way.

One final thought: how come at Kensington Palace there are no surviving Coronation shoes? Who is the one that - at a certain point - decided to throw them away? 

THAT would be nice to know.

1985 | Andy Warhol
From the Reigning Queens portfolio
Since 2012 part of the Royal Collection

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


Next, we went to work with my aunt, who had a shoe factory. We had to work with gallons of glue, and a lot of the workers were addicted to sniffing it. They would sniff that shit and be high for hours, so we did it too, and we got high as fuck. Imagine me at 12 years old, sniffing glue and making shoes, out of my fucking mind. 

It’s a weird high, man: I’ve never really experienced anything like it since. It’s a little bit like being on acid—you hallucinate and you hear voices. At one point I remember I sniffed so much glue that I saw my dad. I saw him standing at the door in front of me, and I freaked out. He was pissed at me: it was very serious, and I saw it as a sign of him saying, ‘Cut that shit out or you’re going to die.’

Max Cavalera
From: My Bloody Roots (Jawbone Press, 2014)

1957 | Richard Clark representing Sbicca Of California
Source: LIFE magazine (February 25, 1957)

This prompted a family meeting in which Mum, Pop and Pat decreed that I should now ‘get a proper job’. So I went to the Royal Arsenal Co-op Society warehouse in Woolwich, where I got a job packing and loading shoes from seven ’til five, with the option of doing an hour-and-a-half’s overtime. This was great ’cos the manager would always clock off at five and we’d end up playing football in the yard and getting paid for it.

Ginger Baker
From: Hellraiser. The Autobiography Of The World's Greatest Drummer (Perseus Books Group, 2010)

Ca. 1924 | Master shoemaker
Photograph: August Sander
(The Master Craftsman from People of the Twentieth Century)
Source: MoMA

“Your career is important to me, Jack. And the reason your career is important to me is because it’s unique. If I wanted to be in the shoe business, eight million shoes all the same, I’d be in the shoe business. The business I’m in, this crazy mad business of show business, not shoe business, in which I thank God I’ve had a certain modicum of success, in this business, every new face, every new body, every new voice, every new talent that comes through that door is a separate and unique challenge, another opportunity for me to prove myself. 

Do you know what I mean, Jack?”

“I think so, sir,” Jack said. Today he wore brown loafers and tan chinos and a polo shirt with an alligator on it and an open, welcoming, guileless expression.”

Donald E. Westlake
From: Sacred Monster (Mysterious Press, 1989)

1940 | Master shoemaker
Photograph: August Sander
(The Master Craftsman from People of the Twentieth Century)
Source: MoMA

I finally found my home in a Red Wing store. But I couldn't wear work boots everywhere. Sometimes I needed sneakers and of course, dress shoes. This got a little tougher when there was a major shift in the world of shoe retailing that would frustate my life to this very day: the death of the professional shoe salesman.

The Toes Knows, Part Two

"He's liked, but he's not well liked"

Arthur Miller, Death Of A Salesman

Not true. I loved shoe salesman. Not the dispirited store clerks they have now, but actual shoe salesmen who knew their business.

Yes, I'm talking about real shoe men who knew shoes and feet that went in them with an expertise that rivalled that of NASA engineers.

Rick Garvia
From: The Road Gets Longer If I Stop (, 2013)

1930's | Shoe salesman

“A man makes a pair of shoes - the best - he expects nothing of it: he knows they will wear out: that’s the end of the good shoe, the good man. Any kind of a scribbler writes any kind of a poem and expects it to last forever. Yet the poems wear out, too—often faster than the shoes. I don’t know but in the long run almost as many shoes as poems last out the experience - we put the shoes into museums, we put the poems into books.”

Walt Whitman
From: “Walt Whitman Speaks” (Edited by Brenda Wineapple, Library Of America, 2019)

Igor Stravinsky, Tennessee Williams, Charles Willeford, George Clooney

Shakespeare, John Fante, James Crumley, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Adams ...

1963 | Jerry Lewis | Who's minding the store?
We insist: the best shoe salesman in the history of celluloid shoe salesmen

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


This is what Tchaikowwsky says in one of his letters: "Since I began to compose I have made it my object to be, in my craft, what the most illustrious masters were in theirs; that is to say, I wanted to be, like them, an artisan, just as a shoemaker is .... (They) composed their immortal works exactly as a shoemaker makes shoes; that is to say, day in, day out, and for the most part to order."

Igor Stravinsky
From: An Autobiography (Simon & Schuster, 1936)

1954 | Shoe Business
Photograph: Kees Pot

I got the job because Dad had procured for the top boss his position at the Continental Shoemakers branch. (This was still before the poker game and the decline and fall of “Big Daddy.”) Of course the bosses were anxious to find an excuse to get me out. They put me to the most tedious and arduous jobs. I had to dust off hundreds of shoes in the sample rooms every morning; then I had to spend several hours typing out factory orders.

Digits, nothing but digits! About four in the afternoon, I was dispatched to the establishment of our main client, J. C. Penney, with great packing cases of shoes for their acceptance or rejection. The cases “were so heavy that it was a strain to lift them: I could carry them only half a block before having to set them down to catch my breath.

Tennessee Williams
From: “Memoirs.” (Doubleday Books, 1975)

1963 | Who's minding the store?
Jerry Lewis | best shoe salesman in the history of celluloid shoe salesmen
Source: La Madraza

“Concentrate on shoe stores. Did you girls ever use a restroom in a shoe store?"

"I asked once," Aileen said, "but they said it was for employees only."

"You know why they said that? It's because the rest rooms in shoe stores are the dirtiest johns in the entire United States. Shoe salesmen, wearing suits and ties, think they're too good to clean up their john, so they let it go to hell. You can get two hours' work, or six bucks, for every shoe-shop john you clean. They're filthy."

Charles Willeford. 
From: “New Hope For The Dead” (St. Martin's Press, 1985)

1972/2007 | Hank Willis Thomas

“What do you do?” Michael asks Sam.

“I’m a shoe salesman.”

“That doesn’t sound like much fun.”

“You didn’t ask me what I did for fun. You asked me what my job was.”

“What do you do for fun?” Michael asks.

“Listen to Tammy Wynette records,” Sam says.”


“How come you wanted to be a shoe salesman?” Michael asks him in the car.

“Are you out of your mind?” Sam says. “I didn’t want to be a shoe salesman.”

Ann Beattie
From: Fancy Flights (1974, part of “The New Yorker Stories” - Scribner, 2010)

1951 | Naturalizer | ad detail
Source: LIFE magazine

"There was a generation of [75-year-old] women in my area ... who had [a] toe cut off to fit into the tight tight pumps," said Clooney. "So every time you'd see those women coming in, you'd be like [points to the other side of the room] 'You take that lady. I am not going near that."

George Clooney
Source: moviefone (2012 - Not available anymore)

Max Cavalera, Walt Whitman, Donald e. Westlake, Ginger Baker.

Shakespeare, John Fante, James Crumley, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Adams ...

1941 | The Devil & Miss Jones
Young Female Terror At play
Source: LIFE magazine