I mean, seriously … How often do you really look at a man’s shoes?

It’s the famous quote from the cinematic masterpiece The Shawshank Redemption. As part of a cunning plot to escape a maximum security prison, a man who has been entrusted to shine the Warden’s shoes, ends up walking out of the prison wearing them.

In the film, it’s a clever line which makes you think — would you have noticed the shoes? If you were one of the hundreds of prisoners or tens of prison guards that saw Andy Dufresne walk along those claustrophobic corridors that day, would you have seen it? Would you have spotted he was wearing shinny black dress shoes instead of his usual dull and worn prison regulation brown kick abouts?

I like the quote. I really do. But when I first heard it, and first though about it, my answer was quite different to those which were expected to come from, and most likely indeed did go on in, the heads of most audience members when watching that great film.

How often do I really look at a man’s shoes? All the time, I replied to myself. All the bloody time.

I suppose I don’t so much as look at them, but notice them. Shoes, for me, are an eye to a human being’s personality. Shoes aren’t like shirts, which you change each day. No siree Bob. Trousers, sure, can last a little longer, but still I’m sure most people have a certain rotation they live by. A simple system that sees most of the bottoms to their outfits never go on show for too long in a row. The same, and even more so, can be said for dresses or skirts or shorts.

Of course, a lot of this is situation dependent, and some shoes are only ever worn when the blue moon doth rise, and then seldom ever again. But the shoes which we chose to wear on these sparse occasions never represent the jangling keys to our soul. Our ‘good shoes’ aren’t exactly our ‘favourite shoes’. No, the ones we love the best are the ones we wear the most.

Not everyone takes their time to select a shoe that will serve them in multiple categories, however. For firstly there are the ascetics to be considered. The look of a shoe is the most important aspect for most of us, and indeed is what first draws us towards a particular type of footwear. Then there is comfort and reliability to be considered — will this shoe survive a muddy day out in the countryside, followed by a less muddy but no less messy night out in the city? Then there is the cost. Some people shop purely with price alone as their guide, and as long as the shoe fits their budget and their foot, then that’s the shoe for them.

But here is where my main point lays. The reasons we chose a shoe are not all generic. The priorities we assign to the purchase of a pair of shoes are often the priorities we assign to how we live our lives. Does it not serve to reason that those who buy a shoe based on practicality and overall thriftiness do too infuse those principals into their daily life? A person who is taken by the pure outlandishness of an explosion of colour which graces a pair of trainers, and then buys said footwear without beguilement of price or functionality, do they also live their lives as impulsively and devastatingly as their shoe buying habits suggest?

The answer is — who really knows. The warden nor the other prisoners in The Shawshank Redemption certainly didn’t. And unless you take the time to notice other people’s shoes yourself, neither will you. SH

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