The good life: Me in my Guccis

Originally published July 22, 1979

All my adult life, I have attempted to rise above my humble beginnings. Take shoes, for example. Now that I have steady work and live in the city, I like to wear nice shoes.

In the boondocks, we didn't wear shoes unless it was an absolute necessity. Like your feet would freeze if you didn't, or there was a funeral.

My boyhood friend and idol, Weyman C. Wannamaker Jr., a great American, didn't wear shoes even on those occasions, but he did wash his feet twice a week whether they needed it or not.

The first time I saw Weyman in a pair of shoes, they were forced upon him.

We were in the sixth grade, and the teacher organized a field trip to Atlanta to hear a performance by the symphony orchestra. As the bus pulled away from the school, she noticed Weyman was barefooted.

Horrified, she ordered the bus driver to stop at the nearest shoe store, where she bought Weyman a pair of shoes. He protested, but the teacher hit him in the mouth, and Weyman didn't mention the shoes again.

During the performance of the symphony orchestra, however, Weyman's feet began hurting him, so he took off his shoes and hung his bare feet over the railing of the balcony. Unfortunately, he was between washes.

The entire percussion section and two flute players stopped in the middle of Chopin's Movement No. 5 to search for what had obviously passed away days earlier.

I always think of Weyman when I pull on a new pair of shoes. Lately, some of the fellows down at the lodge have been giving me the business because I now own a pair of stylish loafers by Gucci, the famous Italian leatherperson.

I prefer to think their boorish, catty remarks stem from ignorance, sprinkled with at least a tad of jealousy.

"I knew him, " said one of the buzzbrains, wearing a pair of hideous lace-ups named for something you eat with fried catfish, "when he wore high-top tennis shoes and ran rabbits."

How utterly crude. And untrue. I wore low-cuts.

My new Guccis were a gift from a lady friend who brought them back from Palm Beach, where they have a Gucci store. They don't have Gucci stores except in spiffy places like Palm Beach. It's easier to move an NFL expansion franchise team into town.

My lady friend is always bringing me nice gifts when she goes on trips. Once she went to the drugstore and brought me a giant bottle of mouthwash and some extra-strength Tegrin shampoo.

I must do something nice for her. Maybe I'll take her bowling.

What makes a pair of stylish Italian loafers by Gucci so appealing is their softness, their master workmanship, and their price.

I've bought cars for less. Walk into a Gucci store, and they ask for your shoe size second. First, they want a quick glance at your Dun and Bradstreet.

Not just anybody can wear a pair of Gucci shoes, of course. Those crass dolts down at the lodge, for instance.

"You get a purse, too?" cracked one of the sorry lot, a hint of white swocklet peering outside the top of his brogans.


My new Guccis are an unpretentious oxblood, accented perfectly with buckles and slightly raised heels.

The cushioned inner soles wear the proud Gucci crest with the subtle, but effective announcement, "Made in Italy, " as if there was any doubt.

When I am in the company of individuals with the proper breeding to appreciate such hallmarks of style, I am not hesitant to remove one of my new shoes to prove I am wearing the Real McCoy.

"Have you noticed I am wearing Guccis?" I asked the hostess at a dinner party.

"Frankly, I haven't, " she said.

I took off one of the shoes and showed her the proud Gucci crest on the cushioned inner soles. I didn't want to stay at her stupid dinner party anyway.

I also called Weyman C. Wannamaker Jr. back home and told him I am now wearing Guccis. I knew he would be proud.

"You wearing them shoes, " he said, "is like putting perfume on a hog."