THE throwaway society did not always exist. The old school attitude was to buy it, look after it, repair it, use it, repair it, use it until it was beyond repair, then buy a new one.
When the longevity of shoes was considered, the cobblers or shoe repair shops came to mind: a replacement sole or heel meant a stretched life expectancy for your footwear. The heels and soles of shoes were notoriously known to wear away rather swiftly. How could you reinforce your shoes at a reasonable price? Enter Blakey’s.
Now, the first thing to be clear about is that Blakey’s have no relationship whatsoever with Blakey from On the Buses. Blakey’s for shoes are a small kidney-shaped piece of metal with three nails attached – they would be hammered into the corner of your shoe heel (or the front of the sole) to prevent wear. Did Blakey’s do its job? Too bloody right it did, but there was one desirable, or undesirable characteristic about them…
As a general rule, if you wanted to keep a low profile and walk around in silence, avoid Blakey’s like the plague. The sound that Blakey’s make on the pavements was unmistakable and not far off sounding like horseshoes. You knew by that clack clack clack clack sound that someone had Blakey’s installed in their shoes.
The other side of the coin is this: some people loved the clacking sound Blakey’s made when their shoes landed on the pavement. Some people even felt it was cool to have Blakey’s put in to gain attention… a rather noisy fashion statement.
Even though we are now more of a throw away society, Blakey’s are still going – you can still buy them online. To be honest, I haven’t heard the clacking of Blakey’s since 1984, so I wonder who is actually buying them. The Blakey’s website boasts that it sells in excess of 230 tonnes of shoe protectors each year!
Based on this huge figure (230 tonnes), I’ve given myself a task: over the next few months I’ll be keeping my listening ears on high alert. Whilst out and about, the focus of my attention will be solely (sorry) on peoples footwear, and if I hear a clack, I’ll be on it straight away. People of the United Kingdom, some prior warning: if I politely ask you to take off your shoes in any public setting, it’s because I heard a clack or two, and I’m checking for Blakey’s.
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