Funny how memories are triggered. There are maybe six of having a friendly natter over a few drinks when, out of the blue, a lady in the company says: ‘Segs. Anyone remember segs?” “Do you mean cigs?” someone enquires. “Of course I don‘t mean cigs”, she shot back, insulted almost that someone might think that she couldn’t differentiate between cigs and segs. “Cogs and studs and segs”, she said, throwing us a bit of clue. And then it clicked. Then it all came flooding back to me.
“My father always had a supply of them in his tool box” (i.e. a battered USA biscuit-tin) says I. “He had them on a piece of cardboard the size maybe of a standard postcard, small kidney-shape, grey metal studs, he used them on the soles of shoes”, I replied, proud as punch and half expecting a little star for my answer.
“And what did he nail them to the shoes on?”, she asked, like the good teacher coaxing an answer from a pupil (a slow one in my case) “Can I phone a friend?”, I jokingly asked but the words were scarcely out of my mouth when it came to me. “A last”, says I. “A last, a last, a last”. “At last what?” asks someone. “Ah you’re too young to remember”, says the segs woman.
The majority of us, however, when prompted, did remember segs and cogs and studs and lasts. And soon we were reminiscing about awls and hemp and wax and emery paper and all the paraphernalia that went with the home-repair of shoes. A last, we had to explain to the ‘Celtic Cub’ in our company was quite a heavy, three pronged piece of metal for placing shoes on for the purpose of repairing or resoling them. Now maybe our definition left a lot to be desired (and it did) but I still don’t think he knows what a last is.
“Did your father have a last?” the segs’s woman’s husband (and try saying that with your mouth full of sago, quite popular around the time of segs?) asked me. “He did. Did yours?”. “He did and he got very upset about it”. “How so?”, I wondered. “Well, not everyone had a last and sometimes ours was borrowed and failed to return which upset my father who was an easy-going, and gentle sort of man”. The last thing you want”, says I proud of my pun. But I don’t think he heard, he was still thinking about his father.
All of which got me thinking about MY father and his last and where it had gone. For sure I don’t have it – so, siblings of mine, which of ye has our father’s last? And what the hell are ye doing with it? Using it as a door-stopper? And if ye are putting it to its proper use I have a shoe, or two, that could do with a few cogs and studs and segs. By the way – if you see me at the Car Boot Sale in the coming weeks – you’ll know what I’m looking for. A last. The last of the lasts maybe.
In Europe there was no distinction men’s and women‘s shoes until the eighteenth century.
And there was no distinction between left-footed and right-footed shoes until the nineteenth century when they were first made in Philadelphia.
Six-inch, high-heel shoes were worn by the upper classes (males & females) in seventeenth century Europe. Two servants, one on either side, were needed to hold up the person wearing the high heels (we could do with some of those servants on our streets in the early hours of Saturday morning)
Stilettos, the modern equivalent of the above, take their name from the Italian meaning ‘little dagger’.
Sneakers were first made in America in 1916 and were originally called keds.
The first lady’s boot was designed for Queen Victoria in 1840.
In the Middle Ages a father passed his authority over his daughter to her husband in a shoe ceremony. At the wedding, the groom handed the bride a shoe, which she put on to show she was then his subject.
Today, shoes are sometimes tied to the bumper of the bridal couple’s car - a reminder of the days when a father gave the groom one of his daughter’s shoes as a symbol of a changing caretaker.
Winklepickers, shoes with long, pointed toes, fashionable in the 1950s and 60s, got their name from the pin needed to extract winkles from their shells.
And now – time for me to leg it!