101 Things Birmingham Gave The World. No. 45: Shit shoes



If you’ve seen any coverage of the Oscar ceremony, or any Oscar ceremony, you’ll know it’s all about the clothes. The women’s clothes. The women’s bodies, the ladies’ bras. Male attendees get to dig out evening dress and pass without comment. It’s an everyday sexist world, but let’s turn the male gaze on its head. Or feet rather.

Posh men’s shoes are always shiny, and that’s hard to keep up. Unless you have a basic military training, polishing leather is boring hard and messy. Luckily for the servants of the rich and famous, there is an alternative. An for that alternative the maids in Manhattan have to thank: Birmingham.

Back in 1793 a chap called Hand, in Birmingham of course, obtained a patent for preparing flexible leather having a glaze and polish that renders it impervious to water and need only be wiped with a sponge to restore it to its original luster. This is patent leather, and it’s been responsible for awful shiny shoes all the way from Bacons to Freeman Hardy and Willis, to Hollywood (which we invented too).

Birmingham: it scrubs up well. Or wipes up with a sponge easily. Or something.

Photo CC by: Dave Gates


Author: Jon Bounds

Jon was voted the ‘14th Most Influential Person in the West Midlands’ in 2008. Subsequently he has not been placed. He’s been a football referee, venetian blind maker, cellar man, and a losing Labour council candidate: “No, no chance. A complete no-hoper” said a spoilt ballot. Jon wrote and directed the first ever piece of drama performed on Twitter when he persuaded a cast including MPs and journalists to give over their timelines to perform Twitpanto. But all that is behind him.

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