Vintage view: Couture shoes


Vintage view: Couture shoes

The eagle-eyed will notice that despite this being a discussion on the fetishistic intensity of vintage shoe collecting, the image of the shoe I’ve chosen, is simply, well...wrong.

Devotees of couture, shoes and HBOs greatest hit, will instantly recognise the Hagasi jewel satin pumps by Manola Blahnik, a gentrified perch slipped onto the somewhat gnarled feet of Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) by Big (Chris Noth) at the end of the movie Sex & the City (2008).

However, for a true fan, these beauties should be cobalt blue. This is my column, however, and as I cannot shell out the €811 required to stagger around in sublime architecture for the feet, I can at least fantasise over these emerald green ones. How could I ever wear them out — anywhere?

Seriously, shoe collectors have to contend with that tension daily. Wearing the shoes to the venomous curses of their companions who cannot afford them (more than half the fun), and imagine the risks — scuffs to the leather sole, malicious treads of the toes and spearing by lesser heels, and unexpected toxic streetsplashes.

Hannah Safter writing for Vanity Fair in 2015, pointed out that the price of the label all but doubled, due to the feverish female traffic to Saks Fifth Avenue, prompted by Carrie’s urban adventures.

Nothing, clothes included, appears to move women like pelting the foot, something described by Carrie in STC (having blown another pay cheque on a pair of tartan mules by Blahnik), as nothing short of a ‘religious experience’.

Let’s tease out the steps here. Vintage shoes are those dating from the 1970s. Collectable shoes, heels especially, can date from any year. When the run of that particular designer shoe or boot stops, their potential desirability increases — be that 20 years ago or just three.

Quality is absolutely crucial, and it’s unlikely that any shoe without hand sewing, balance of design and beautiful crafting will have lasted a few furlong’s gallop down any concreted pavement or busy dance floor. Unless they were boxed and put away, price tag swinging, chances are they have been worn.

Leather or tenderly cared for fabric shoes and boots from Spain, France, and Italy that speak their time and the swish of the brand, are the most sought after.

Shoes can be damaged simply by being stored. Custom-made shoes may carry the name of the manufacturer and shop in the insoles.

Shoe lust is a cruel, fickle condition, and with cooling ardour comes the release of millions of shoes back to the market in excellent condition.

Really, we’re looking for shoes that look as new as possible, not ‘worn in’, free of any obvious moist foot-print ground into 1,500 pounds of pressure per square inch through a half inch heel.

Also, avoid stretching, bruises, deterioration of the lining, damage (especially to the heels) and all but tiny repairs. It’s unlikely there will be no flaws whatsoever, but scratches to coloured leather can be very difficult to disguise and collapsed heels are a disaster.

Plastic and vinyl shoes and boots are just for fun and not worth more than €10 of your money. If you want to see how exquisite and perfect a pair of €358 Chanel sling-backs or €600 Louboutin rare mesh and suede ankle boots are expected to be, try

Founded in 2011, the site is predated daily by every designer shoe nut across the world shy of the full price ticket, seeking every brand from Alexander McQueen to Yves Saint Laurent. (London) also has a great selection from the 70s forward in the €100 to €400 range. Buying from any online outlet or auction site, it’s vital to ensure not only the condition, but fit.

If you find a collection of interesting footwear when clearing out for an older or deceased relative (silk, satin, leather, pointy toes or eccentricities like clear Lucite heels are a good sign), don’t pitch them into the clothes bank.

Take the best examples to a top class consignment outlet that specialise in designer outfitting. Who knew Auntie Bunion wore Marabou Mules! You may be surprised at the worth and interest in those neck-breaking stilettos.

There are dealers online interested in shoes predating even 1950. Boxes and dust bags provided with the shoes at time of purchase will also be of interest, so keep them together.

Charity shops offer racks of fascinating footwear, but in my experience the staff is hip to the worth of Jimmy Choos and Bionda Castana, and price accordingly or pass on to up-market retailers.

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