The Blog from Oi Polloi presents:

For this week’s edition of The Antiques Clothes Show we’ve got the slightly painful story of Proper Magazine editor and all-round witticist Mark Smith’s Thorogood boots. Let’s hear it Mark…

As a regular scourer of eBay it’s fair to say I’m a bargain hunter of some repute. It’s in the genes in Stockport, ask Cheadle Heath’s David Dickinson, or ‘Creosote Carl’ as we call him our house.

A good three years past, while on a routine late night search of the famous auction site I saw some tan-coloured Thorogood shoes. I was instantly reminded of both the Duke’s luxurious leathery skin and also Red Wing Boots. The fact they were a quarter of the price of Red Wings appealed to the cheapskate in me and I pressed the ‘buy it now’ button with haste.

Like most eBay bargains, when they arrived they were sort of underwhelming. The best bit was the moment just before I opened the package. I’m weird like that. They were essentially boots but without the ankle bit and I just couldn’t get on with them. Maybe they’re built for a thicker-set gent. A docker or hod carrier or something. Someone with 38 inch legs and biceps like Popeye. While I’m not exactly Weedy McWeed, these shoes are proper big lad fodder. They had a couple of outings but it was clear they were destined for the corner of the wardrobe marked “Er yeah, them”.

They remain there.

Happily, I was undeterred by this fruitless sojourn into Thorogood-dom. Around two years ago last month, I found myself preparing for a trip out of my comfort zone. Literally.

As editors of the world’s best pisstaking style bible Proper Magazine, myself and Neil Summers had somehow maneuvered ourselves into a position where we would be legitimate attendees to a Paris fashion show. Ok, so Capsule isn’t loads of pallid-skinned coke-fiends traipsing up and down a runway wearing grapes on their shoulder. But it’s not the sort of thing lads from Stockport tend to turn up at. And it’s certainly not what either of us expected when we began Proper. As it turned out, the whole thing was akin to Ashton market, albeit with no snides, no ice cream man/Greggs pasties, fewer buggies and lots of very tall men in hats. And obviously loads of nice clothes.

While it ended up not being too much of a departure from what I’m used to, prior to going I felt the need to up my sartorial game somewhat. The day before we left I decided to spunk (yeah, I just wrote spunk) what remained of my paypal balance on a pair of new boots.

At the time I was writing a couple of bits here and there for Oi Polloi so it made sense to engage my staff discount coupon and check the footwear page. Eventually I arrived at the Thorogood Moc Toe Boot. These were a chocolatey boot version of the Dickinson-esque shoes which remain consigned to my wardrobe’s naughty step. I tried them on, walked around a bit, kissed my bad self in the mirror and decided that yes, I was having a pair of these. A brief pad about the stock room (incorporating a moonwalk, just because) and I was convinced they were cool enough to cut a dash and comfy enough not to cut my feet up. I got the second bit wrong quite badly.

Two years on and I spent most of autumn and winter with my now battle-softened Thorogoods on heavy rotation. They’re my beaters, as the kids say. They are slightly tired but that for me is when boots like this are at their best.

A rewind back to Paris circa January 2011 though and it was a different story entirely.

After a little wander around Manchester Airport I started to worry that I hadn’t factored in the issue of ‘breaking in’. Nope, I’m not one of those horrible TWOCers you hear about. My version of ‘breaking in’ was entirely footwear related. Bearing in mind my winter overnight bag was full of knitwear and big jackets I elected to just go with the one pair of shoes. It was all or nothing with the Thorogoods.

Quickly realising that nobody at all was interested in my new boots, I set about attempting to impress people from all over the world with my magazine. Neil did most of the talking to be fair, I just kept going “Yeah, definitely”. The arresting sight of that mush from Monitaly / Yuketen was the first thing we saw on entrance. His top hat and overall tallness provided an air of unintentional panto to proceedings. He proved to be a really nice bloke but also an anomaly. Everyone else we spoke to was dead normal and in some cases very European. It was pretty smart, as were my boots.

But while my feet were smiling on the outside, inside the story was very different. If my feet could have spoken to me that first day, they’d have said “Mark, look, I’m hurting bad here. Why couldn’t you have just worn your Danners, you colossal dickhead?” or something similar.

By day two my feet were in shreds. As we took in the sights, it was like a menswear version of National Lampoons European Vacation. One where Clark Griswold (aka me) found himself hobbling down the Champs Elysee. I was grimacing so much I fitted right in with the locals. I don’t know if you’ve ever entered a pharmacy in the shadow of the Arc de Triomph but it’s a strange experience. Especially if you’re walking like the ground is on fire. Having spent the equivalent of about £20 on plasters, I went about applying them in what would best be described as a painstaking fashion. The rest of the trip was bearable, save for Neil falling off the world’s tallest bed, having a laughter induced panic attack while eating steak with lots of Swedish blokes and trying to keep up with Bolton motormouth Glenn Kitson of The Rig Out fame.

Since that fateful weekend amongst the aesthetes those Thorogoods have come right into their own. While the terraces of English football’s fifth division cannot compare with the various sights and sounds along the Seine, at least they’re not making me wince anymore. Quite the contrary in fact, they’re great.

Those boots were made for walking – eventually.

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