Worshipful Company of Cordwainers

Walking in other people’s shoes

Posted by: JHM Date: 06 May 2018

Past Warden Caroline Squire reflects upon shoes and politics.

When you think of general election campaigns, shoes are not the first thing that spring to mind. Unless, perhaps, you’re a disgruntled voter throwing one. But as a Cordwainer and recent parliamentary candidate I know that they should be a serious consideration.

How to do you balance the practical and presentational footwear challenges of walking miles during the campaign, with looking the part at the various events in between the pavement bashing. Comfort and support vs. killer heel (and err, obviously instinct…) for the hustings. Welly boots in an urban constituency could be just as much a faux pas as not having them in a rural seat. Then there are the potential pitfalls of brands and how those are judged by different voters.

In fact, the more you think of it, the more political shoes appear. Put aside the practical need and think about how they can be viewed as status symbols simply because of the number you have or the labels attached. What about where and how they are made? Do you buy British? How are the materials sourced? What type of labour is used? Are your flip-flops made from recycled plastic waste found in the sea? Do you recycle old shoes or (as the Cordwainers do from time to time) support the various ‘sole for soul’ charities that provide footwear to those in need?

Shoes in politics make more headlines than you might imagine, from President Trump’s compliment on the Egyptian president’s shoes, to their use as a personal ‘non-controversial’ PR tool by our own prime minister and her leopard print kitten heels. More importantly, we should consider the contribution of the footwear industry to the British economy. Worth over £7.7 billion[1] in the UK alone, it supports a significant number of direct and indirect jobs nationally.

So, shoes should not be overlooked. They can tell a story about you, from the miles you have walked, to the beliefs you support. And it’s not just politicians who should remember the old adage that it is important to consider what it is like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

[1] Passport, Footwear in the United Kingdom, Euromonitor International, April 2016 (kindly provided by the BFA)