Two years ago my friend, the very talented artist, illustrator, writer, and designer Patricia Saxton took these photos of me with my boots. I am happy to report that two years later – thanks to caring for them and protecting them against the elements – the boots are still in good shape; in part because of the Kiwi shoe polish, in part because of shoe repairs at the cobbler. But mostly, because of my Dad. As a kid I would polish my Dad’s shoes. I would line them up with newspaper and spend time in front of the television polishing them to their shiny core. The black shoes, the brown shoes, and the cordovans. It sounds rather like a Charles Dickens tale but I remember it was quite satisfying and something about it must have stuck because now I do it for my own boots. And this is the season. Just as I am tucking my open toe shoes and sandals away for winter hibernation I am also evaluating the state of my boots and shoes and seeing what needs to be prepped for the upcoming weather and months.
This tradition has not only protected my shoes and boots but has also allowed me to hold on to what I own. We all know that shoes and boots can be expensive and few of us have the resources to replace them every year. That’s where polish and care come in; you can preserve what you have and save yourself a lot of money. And unlike other wardrobe items, shoes and boots are classics that rarely go out of style. They are worth the care.
Photos by Patricia Saxton
Tom Lonergan in his studio – Courtesy, T Magazine: Photo – Aaron M. Conway
I discovered a gem of a story in T: The New York Times Style Magazine about Tom Lonergan and his booming business as an independent repairman for the shoe company, Birkenstock. Here is a man who, after retiring from real estate 10 years ago, was looking for something to “keep him ‘out of trouble,'” had worn Birkenstocks himself, and enjoyed working with his hands. The company offered him a trial license as an authorized repairman as long as he agreed to buy the equipment necessary, which he did. Lonergan knew nothing about the rise in popularity of the Birkenstock sandal a few years ago (thanks in part to Céline’s Spring/Summer 2013 collection), or how it has grown to be a fashion hit in places like New York and L.A.; in fact, he has no idea about couture, or fashion trends and fads, or when this shoe went from ugly to super-cute.
What he does know is his craft – repairing over 1,000 pairs a year – that Birkenstock customers are long-standing and loyal. And that the business of repairing Birks may be going to the dogs. Says Lonergan, “The people who’ve been loyal wearers are really good customers. Plus, there’s always the dogs. People love Birks, but dogs love Birks. I probably get three phone calls a week where the dog has destroyed a pair.”
The Birkenstock Doctor, written by Alex Ronan, appeared in T Magazine on August 28, 2015.
My tall black boots. Photo Credit: Patricia Saxton
I own two pairs of black leather boots: a tall, high-heeled pair and a short pair of booties. When I bought them it was love at first-sight. I spent time thinking about how they would fit in my wardrobe. I coveted these boots. But now that they are mine I have not been maintaining them as I should or done anything to extend the life of these well-loved accessories. It reminds me of a movie, where the focus is on the falling in love part of the story. After the boy-gets-the-girl, the movie ends. When I planned my outfit for an important meeting recently, it came as a shock to me that my boots needed immediate attention. I went to Rago Brothers, my local cobbler, and had them repaired.
Last March I interviewed Tom Rago about the importance of maintaining your shoes and boots. According to Tom: “General maintenance is important to keeping shoes looking new. You take your suit to be dry-cleaned every two-three times you wear it; you should do the same with your shoes.” We fall in love with our shoes and boots. But if we are going to invest our hard-earned money in these wardrobe essentials, my advice is to find a reputable cobbler and do the work to maintain them and give them life. Because falling in love is a good thing but it’s the ever-after that we all want.