I was never blessed with an instinct for fashion. Not that I wander around in tweed jackets, nylon trackies or sandals, you understand, but the latest trends in clothing tend to pass me by. I have a functional wardrobe, and little desire to augment it with catwalk chic or cutting-edge style. You won't find me frequenting those smart boutiques that abound in certain quarters of London, nor hunting through the racks in high street chain stores in search of cut price imitations. I'm far more likely to carry on wearing one particular item long after the rest of the country has discarded it as passé, then when that item finally wears out to go wandering around the sales trying to find something that matches it as closely as possible. I don't understand how people tune into the fashion zeitgeist, nor how they work out what's in and what's out. So my question today is this. How the hell did square-toed shoes get to be so fashionable?
They've caught me unawares, square-toed shoes. I own round-toed shoes, and have done for several years because I thought they were nice and normal. But I looked down on the tube yesterday morning (like you do when the carriage is packed and your head's at a funny angle) and half the world was wearing square-toed footwear. I checked again in the office and, sure enough, a significant number of people had joined the square-toed clique. It was generally the younger trendier folk, the ones who wander around in chocolate coloured trainers on dress-down Fridays, but this new faddish footwear had permeated my workplace without me noticing. Why wasn't I told?
And they were everywhere on the tube on the way home too. In one Central line carriage all of the six seats opposite me were filled by an improbable line-up of matching square-toed men and women. I even managed to snap four of them here (lace-ups, heels, boots and slip-ons) in this surreptitious cameraphone photo. What is up with these people? Do they have sawn-off toes? Are they sheep? Where has this fad sprung from?
I'm guessing here, but I suspect there's a conspiracy afoot. Chief executives of footwear companies must sit around in smoky committee rooms plotting out which style of shoe they want the public to buy next. They cycle each season between round-, pointy- and square-toed shoes, encouraging the gullible to replace their footwear every year with the latest must-have tip-shape. No matter that pointy shoes pinch your toes something rotten (so I'm told), last year people were happy to suffer them in the name of fashion. No matter that flattened shoes look like part of some medieval pantomime costume, this year it's hip to be square. At least next year my ordinary curved shoes should be back in fashion without me having to pay a penny to the shoemakers. Load of cobblers, all of them.