Friday, 7 November 2008


No child, nose pressed to the glass of the sweetshop has ever gazed as hungrily as me on one of my regular expeditions to the window of Christian Louboutin's Mount Street store. Today it's different. This time it's no simple pilgrimage, but a desperate cri de coeur. I seek the sole's salvation and heels that heal. It's for exactly this kind of emotional crisis that I've been saving the funds that were otherwise earmarked for the psycho-usurer: seventy pounds a week not spent on solipsistic wailing soon mounts up.

But as I push through the door of retail A & E and into the sumptuous scarlet interior, it's a little like walking through the gates of heaven. Shoe upon shoe -each more exquisite than the last-is displayed in its own spot lit case. In precious metals and skins (alligator, python, sting ray and lizard, lovingly immolated on the altar of mammon) in glassy patent, sequinned, pastel satins, with and without the legendary concealed platform, sling backed, or buckled, in 120cm heels or just 100: every one infinitely desirable, utterly alluring and perfect. I'm hard pushed to remember when I've ever experienced such a rush of desire. Somewhere on these shelves is the reward I've earned for my forbearance over the travails of the last year.

My hand reaches out to caress a few and a flurry of sales girls apparate from nowhere. I sink onto something plushly velvet and boxes of gleamingly extravagant shoes start mounting at my side. I think to myself, "Let the cure begin."

But as I slide my stockinged feet into another pair, and stand to admire the height they give to my instep, the lean tautness lent to my calf and the length to my leg, I have an unexpected pauline moment (though you'd be hard pushed to walk far down the road to Damascus in shoes like these). The scales - possibly from an endangered reptile- fall from my eyes. The thought of new Louboutins has long been an amulet protecting me from the bruise on my soul yet I discover I may no longer need their therapeutic powers. I mentally blink in disbelief. Now I'm finally here, will it really help my psyche to spank 400-odd quid on a pair of shoes?

Is Mr Louboutin's carefully crafted product mere snake-oil? Quite possibly. They won't cure me of what ails me. But finding the strength to extricate myself from their lure just might.

So, the charm of the glossy Louboutin's I've been yearning for suddenly palls. How would it feel if I found a way to repair the Louboutins I already own? Could they, once renewed, offer the consolation I crave? Would re-heeling offer the well-heeled some much needed healing (tee hee)?

I take the opportunity to have a super-clever conversation with myself about object reification. New 'stuff' doesn't actually make you feel better. Ok, so that last bit wasn't very intellectualised, but it's no less true for all that. It seems to me that this 'credit crunch' (god I hate that expression: makes me think of rubbish french apples and their annoyingly insistent seventies ad campaign), anyway, that the economic downturn or whatever we're calling it may well make us reappraise our relationships with what we own, and get us to think about why we all seem to be on a desperate hunt for the new, the latest, the expensive. Self-possession in better than possessions. Not that I love my vast collection of beautiful things any the less, but it does occur to me that I might not actually need to add to it. And not just from the point of view of thrift, either.

So I'm resolved to stop all the mordant longing for things that I don't have, and start appreciating that which is already mine. I'll get the existing Louboutins mended.

But to whom can I entrust this great and significant act of renovation? One of the glossy sales girls gives me a card for the Mayfair Cobbler. I'm not absolutely content with this endorsement, but a corroborating second opinion from the wisely wonderful Frances Wasem at Harper's Bazaar has me at White Horse Street a week later bidding the super-sexy, super-luxe black patent sling backs a teary and fond adieu, with exhortations to the cobbler to treat them with kindness. Spookily he was really unfazed by such madness: perhaps all women with a taste for posh shoes are also quite bonkers?

A week or so later, after a Wolseley breakfast, I make it to the Mayfair Cobbler to pick up my shoes. They're near perfect. Even the worn soles have been slicked scarlet once again. I'm not without some regret for the pair I determined to do without, but I do have a conviction that this was the Right Thing to Do.

And as I write this, and reflect on the inner melancholy that new shoes were supposed to heal, I realise I am neither shoeless, nor melancholic, nor any longer The Unconsoled.

Mayfair Cobbler, 4 White Horse Street London W1J 7LB. 0207 491 3426