Everything I Know About Shoes, I Learned From My Father

Guest Post by Don Macgregor*

Two Sundays ago, on the occasion of Father’s day, I had an opportunity to reflect on my own father and a rather unique subject about which he offered some sage advice (and hence this blog post here): shoes. Not just any shoes, but bike shoes.

As some background, I will offer that I am a competitive cyclist, as was my father before me. My dad provided me with a great breadth of knowledge regarding the sport of cycling, some of the best of which related to shoes.

When I started in the sport, bike shoes were plain, black, and utilitarian. They had simple black uppers, occasionally adorned with a small logo or perforated to allow air flow, and plain leather soles with a small heel. The cleats (small metal mechanical devices designed to keep the shoe on the bicycle pedal) were still, in some instances, actually nailed to the soles using cobbler’s nails and a metal shoe last (sort of like a shoe anvil). While these aren’t my shoes, I had a pair exactly like these.

My dad taught me about how the shoe should fit snugly yet allow for freedom of movement, the importance of sizing to insure pain free riding, and the proper socks to wear while riding. As with other aspects of life, my dad always placed high importance on appearance. Looks always counted and clothing and equipment were no exception. Unfortunately, you can’t do too much with plain black shoes that haven’t changed significantly in design or style in nearly half a century

The man-shoe fetish would remain dormant, at least for his generation.
Now, flash-forward 30 years to the present and you find yourself in today’s high-tech world of carbon fiber, plastics and composites (and infinite color combinations and patterns). The variety and selection is mind-numbing. Unlike my dad’s generation, I have almost limitless choices when it comes to satisfying my inherited need to look good on the bike.
My current shoes are a reflection of this. As with the old shoes they are Italian but with a decidedly 21st century flair. Beyond that, there’s no comparison. I’d tell you they’re sexy, but I already mentioned they’re Italian so that would be redundant. They’re also anything but black and dreary.

They’re also not cheap: at US$500, they’d give a pair of Louboutins a run for their money, except these are destined for a life of sweat, grime, scuffing and grinding (and the soles don’t even come in ANY shade of red). I’ll get maybe two seasons of racing out of them, but I won’t complain because then I get to buy a new pair. They aren’t even real leather anymore: the soles are carbon fiber and the uppers are made of a material called “Vernice” (Italian for “real expensive pleather”).

What they are, though, is the essence of speed: they look fast standing still. They demand a pair of smooth, tanned and oiled legs and an immaculate, snow-white pair of socks. They give the wearer the authority to address any situation with a dismissive yet effortless and authoritative “ciao”. They say “Yes, I could ride cheaper shoes, but how do you place a value on looking good and looking fast?”

From plain black and dreary to high-tech, colorful and incredibly sexy, bike shoes have come a long way. Unlike so many other things in our society, time, technology and progress got this one right.

Dad would be pleased.

*About Don Macgregor:  Product of Scotland circa 1964 but has lived, worked and cycled mostly in Southern California since not long after. Don can be found occasionally on Twitter when he is not on his bike or elsewhere.