I’ve taken possession, finally, of a pair of Edward Green punched-cap oxfords that I had ordered a few months back. I have an unnatural and almost pathological aversion to black shoes, but a friend of mine is getting married, and I figured that if I’m obligated to wear black shoes I might as well do it right.
I won’t go quite as far as Beau Brummell, the 19th-century dandy who polished his boots with champagne. There are, however, those who would. The Swann Club (named after the Proust character) is an exclusive gathering of particularly rabid devotees of Berluti, the fabled Parisian shoemaker. Now, if anyone knows about polishing shoes, it’s Berluti. In my opinion Berluti’s designs can be pretty grotesque, but the quality and character of the polishing is undeniably stunning, regardless of what you might think of their shoes, and if I’m walking down Boulevard Saint-Germain or Madison Avenue I’m always compelled to stop for a look in the window. Anyway, the Swann Club, whose members meet “to take care of their shoes, talk about novelties or just have a pleasant moment with people sharing a very strong passion, the love of their shoes,” is notorious for its shoe-polishing sessions in which its members' shoes are lovingly treated with Venetian linens, the finest wax polish and... drops of Dom Pérignon.
Obviously the reason the Swann Club uses champagne is to project an air of decadence, dandification and extravagance, and it’s clearly foolish to overthink the matter. But if you’re a shoe dork like me, it does make you wonder. Could it be that the slight amount of alcohol contributes a character to the polish? Alcohol is sometimes used to strip away old polish, but perhaps a small amount could alter the composition for the better in some way? Do the bubbles in champagne make a difference? Why Dom Pé and not Montrachet, for example? And what about the dosage? I don’t much relish the idea of 10 grams per liter of sugar being plastered onto fine calf leather—perhaps a non-dosé champagne would be a better choice?
Anyway, I’m a bit too protective of my footwear to actively pursue such speculations. For now at least, my champagne will stay in the glass, and it’ll be Saphir Medaille d’Or for my new Edward Greens.