It is an unexpected fact that the average British man is now reported to own nine pairs of shoes.
This is at least seven, possibly eight, more than I would have imagined, but the figures are irrefutable. In the past five years, sales of men’s shoes have gone up by nearly 10 per cent. British men spend £1.46 billion a year on shoes. It is true that they’ve got a way to go before they outspend women, seeing as British women spend £2.39 billion on their shoes, but still.
The first thing to observe is that, in my experience, there is no such thing as the average British man. If there is, I don’t want him. I want the excellent ones, the ones who are aiming for greatness, with 35 pairs of shoes, all of them different, or at least polished, and worn with immaculately-cut suits.
Sadly, I’m prepared to bet that Mr Average’s nine pairs are all trainers. What is it with men, wearing drab uniforms as a mark of brilliance? Steve Jobs in his black poloneck, Simon Cowell in his V-neck T-shirt, Mark Zuckerberg, who this week proudly posted a picture of the identical grey T-shirts and hoodies lined up in his wardrobe. Guys, get over yourselves. You’re selling us stuff, not curing cancer. You’ve got time to go shopping.
My second enormous generalisation is that men, unlike women, don’t have shoes for every terrain and occasion, and tend to buy them with their head, not their heart. Go to the Mr Porter website for proof. The first type of shoe listed is trainers, followed by four types of sneakers (who knew?), sports shoes, loafers, boat shoes, sandals and espadrilles. Over on Netaporter, first up is a pair of £410 scarlet suede stilettos with tassels wrapping up your legs and 90mm heels, and second is a £530 pair of white strappy spikes with multicoloured pom-poms.
Finally, how many pairs of shoes is the right number? Is nine too few? Too many? Are monk shoes ever OK? Who invented tasselled loafers and why? So many questions. So few answers. Men of Britain: over to you.