Kinky Boots Writer Reveals The Extent Of His Shoe Obsession

Geoff Deane is the comic genius behind the 13 Tony nominated hit Broadway musical Kinky Boots. He's also obsessed with shoes. Here are the six pairs he owns that he treasures the most and the six pairs he wishes he owned.
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Geoff Deane is the comic genius behind the 13 Tony nominated hit Broadway musical Kinky Boots. He's also obsessed with shoes. Here are the six pairs he owns that he treasures the most and the six pairs he wishes he owned.

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Sexual intercourse may have begun in 1963 but it was another five years before my love affair with shoes kicked off in earnest.  I was in Blackmans on Brick Lane and the object of my affections was a pair of grained, black leather, American wing tip brogues. ‘Well tasty’ I thought to myself.  My thoughts always being in strict adherence to the vernacular of the day.  I handed over three squids and said Oxfords were mine. When I got them home I hammered in a pair of metal Blakeys to protect the heels and let the world know I was coming.

I was on my way and still not turned fifteen. We started young in those days.

The brogues weren’t my first footwear purchase, mind. That honour goes to a pair of Cherry Red boots with steel toecaps.  Not so much footwear as armoured vehicles with laces.   Just the thing for a Saturday roustabout over the Lane but sadly lacking when it came to setting off your new two tone Tonik mohair strides and monogrammed blazer while posing beneath the Plastic Palm Trees of the Tottenham Royal. So the brogues had been an essential purchase to complement my ever changing moods and matching wardrobe.

Bankrolled by a series of part time jobs in Lanes, both Brick and Petticoat, I soon stepped up my game to Ivy League havens such as the Ivy Shop, Squire Shop and Bronx Shop.  First came a pair of beautiful oxblood Royals (aka ‘Smooths’) in shell cordovan. A shoe of champions, which polished to a glass like finish.  They then made way for a much cherished, pair of black leather Gibsons. Another plain-ish lace up with a line of vertical stitching on the front of the toe.  Truth be told, I actually preferred my Royals, but the Gibsons enjoyed an elevated status due to their extreme rarity. And this mattered.  Common was a word we used a lot back then.  And for shoes, as with women, it wasn’t a compliment. Next came the march of the loafers. Loafers with tassels, loafers with tongue, loafers with tongue and tassels, plain loafers with neither tongue nor tassel but an American coin fitted in the front, in deference to the original Ivy Leaguers.

My thing with shoes was, of course symptomatic, of an overall obsession with clothes.  But shoes were always special.  Because shoes are special.  Coats, suits, trousers can all maketh the man. But the man also maketh them. They need a body inside them to be fully appreciated, to hang right.  And of course certain cuts may not work on you because of your body shape.

But shoes are independent.  They don’t need you. In fact they look at their best just sitting there.  And they look much the same on a short, stout man as they do a tall, skinny one.

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Then, of course, there’s the required maintenance. The polishing, buffing to a high shine, the slipping in of a shoetree to maintain the intended shape. Time honoured rituals, which serve to bond you closer together.  You just don’t get that same buzz dropping your suit off at the dry cleaners.

And while your favourite items of clothing tend to wear out with regular usage, a good pair of shoes will only improve with age.  I have shoes that lasted longer than my marriage.  Cost me a lot less too.

I’d like to tell you that my early forays into Ivy League styling set a style for life.  I know men such as this.  With small variations they have stuck religiously to those same basic styles they wore in those halcyon suede-head days of the late sixties/early seventies.  I respect that.  But I’m not that.

I’m far too excitable and prone to the new.  My adventures in footwear peaked and troughed in accordance with what I was into at the time.  There were the strappy girl’s sandals from Anello and Davide, as originally sported by Marc Bolan. And when I did the Strand I did it best in my lurex fronted brothel creepers, just like the ones Andy Mackay wore on the Stranded album cover.  Best by a country mile was my Bowie homage.   Imagine this if you will.  Metallic green, snakeskin, sling-back, peep-toe sandals with a four-inch wedge heel.  Keeping in mind I stand 6ft 1 in my bare feet and take a size 11.  We are talking the stuff of nightmares here.

But those sandals were as much a part of who I am (or at least was) as any shoe I’ve ever owned. And I’ve still got that side to me now.  When a few years back Prada reinvented the brogue in bright colours with a platform espadrille sole I felt that old familiar surge of excitement.  Fuck Prada, they had my name written all over them.  I got a pair in canary yellow, royal blue and brown patent leather and they cost me many arms and many legs.  But they looked amazing with rolled up jeans and no socks, and I wore them to death.  Well, for a bit anyway.

I’ve still got my overpriced Prada tricolours.  These days I’d no more wear them than the box they came in.  But that’s cool.  It’s good to have a partner for life but a bit of fun on the side never hurt anyone did it?

When ST asked me to write about my favourite shoes – those I own and those I aspired to own - the two sides of my personality were brutally exposed.  My favourite owned shoes, by and large, turned out to be pretty conservative. The kind you would never stop wearing. Those I coveted were a different story altogether.  Edgy, of the now and, inevitably, almost impossible to get hold of.   Because for the man, as for the boy, common still ain’t doing it for me.

Shoes I Own - 6 Of The Best

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I’ve had these well over 20 years.  Made from Shell Cordovan by Church’s of Northampton.  Very similar to the plain Royals I wore back in the day.  Shell Cordovan is made from horse hide and is now extremely expensive. Probably because most of it has been bought up by Tesco’s for their lasagne.

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Oliver Sweeney tan brogues bought some time in the Nineties.  I polish these with Saphir Medaille D’Or black shoe polish to give them an antique feel.

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PS Kaufman is a superb American shoemaker.  His shoes are constructed to exacting standards by hand and on ancient machinery.  The rubber soles are made from tyres sourced from landfills. These are also the most comfortable pair of shoes I have ever owned.

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Classic American Postman shoe with Vibram sole by

Redwing

. For that authentic Cliff Claven look.  My everyday shoe of choice.

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I bought these from the

Tricker's

 factory in Northampton while researching my film Kinky Boots.  Again, not a million miles from the Gibsons and Royals I wore as a young suedehead.

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Justin Deakin is an English shoemaker par excellence. His shoes and boots are beautifully made in that old fashioned way but with excellent contemporary detailing. This George brogue is cut by hand and is made from a navy French calf, hand burnished to black.  They have a commando sole (other choices available) and the perforations are picked out in gold. I went to Justin’s shop on Hanbury Street, off Brick Lane to take a picture of these for the ‘shoes I aspire to own’ section. Fifteen minutes later they had changed sections.  Bazinga.

All my shoes are maintained with Saphir Medaille D’Or creams and polishes.

Waxed coloured laces from Benjos of Minneapolis.

Shoes I Covet - 6 Of The Best

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Forrester Low Logger shoe in oiled black leather by Rolling Dub Trio of Japan.  These remind me of a pair of shoes I brought back from Rimini in the summer of 1970.  My peers thought I’d lost the plot. Six months later they stormed the UK and became known as Toppers, after the shop that first sold them.  As with all Japanese shoes these cost roughly the same as a four bedroom house in Shoreditch and are only made up to a size nine and a half.  The fact that I can never have a pair makes me want them all the more.  Obviously.

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Buzz Rickson Correspondent shoe, with wing-tip toe and combination two-tone leather. Of Japanese provenance, usual restrictions apply.

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Another shoe from American PS Kaufman.  This Derby is not for the feint hearted but hey, they can go fuck themselves.  Not yet on sale but I’d happily flog a kidney to get my hands on a pair.

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Oxford shoe from Canadian brand Viberg.  Crafted from Horween Chromexcel leather with vintage brass eyelets, contrast stitching, waxed leather laces and a Vibram sole.  A fantastic shoe but somewhat prohibitively priced at 800 squids plus.

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Another Japanese brand, White Kloud make these incredible half boots.  Again in Horweeen Chromexcel leather with Vibram sole and a false tongue. You won’t see much change from 100,000 yen. About 700 squids.

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Here’s the deal with these. You send a pair of your old brogues to the Greenwich Vintage Co and their man Zen The Freshmaker pimps them up with the coloured Vibram sole and fabric of your choosing.  With two way shipping, the cost of the original shoe and Zen’s dollar these are doomed to remain forever a pipe dream.  Nice idea though and Zen The Freshmaker is an ace name.

Geoff's film about the English footwear industry Kinky Boots has been adapted for the stage and opens on Broadway April 4. Geoff was a Leyton Buzzard, a Modern Romantic and is now a prolific comedy writer for screen, TV and the internet. He also really likes shoes.

Kinky Boots on Broadway http://www.kinkybootsthemusical.com/