Of Boots and Buses
The Lake District is a special place. It has been so for many centuries with its mountains, lakes and dreadful weather dominating all that man can to do it. More recently that “specialness” has taken a slightly new turn as the boomer generation has moved into retirement. For this group the Lakes constitute a favoured destination, and never more than in these “stacation” days (holidaying in the UK).
Another holiday term being thrown about these days is “nostalgia nano” which is not meant to refer to the new nano iPod preloaded with early 20th century music but rather to short breaks taken for nostalgic reasons. It is not just the childhood memories and life without TV and mobile phones but old fashioned shops and most of all buses. Just observe how the 60s, bus passes in hand, are leaving the cars in the hotels and guest houses and using the truly excellent bus service to get to and from their planned walks in the hills. Here in Borrowdale where we are staying in Rosthwaite at the little Royal Oak Hotel there are piles of leaflets giving timetables and walking suggestions for all the routes. And the buses are all busy.
What is more what comes with buses and walkers is a very high proportion of all leather hiking boots. I suppose a mix of the aforesaid nostalgia and an older, more traditional group of walkers makes this inevitable. But a chat with the salesman in the Cotswold store in Keswick indicated that for durability and effectiveness in the hills the leather boot is still preferred against fabric which may shave a few grams off the weight but gives little other back in benefit. The arrival of fabric combined with various membranes does give a light weight waterproof which is fine for a number of conditions and does seem to be the predominant type you see when walking in the US or tramping in New Zealand.
But there is no doubt that if you want durability and protection, if you are a true value for money consumer, then leather is the correct way to go. But tanners still do need to work on weight and softness as boots in leather must offer comfort straight out of the box for modern consumers, old and young, who expect instant gratification and are nervous when told they need to “break in” their new footwear. There is no need for a walking boot leather to be heavy; we have enough technology to make light weight strong leather for such purposes, and indeed it is about time the industry refocused on technical leathers once again in a proper way.
Accepting these points a new pair of leather boots is certainly one of those items that fit in our frugal world. They are an investment rather than expenditure, something that will remind you of a good decision every time you put them on. In the Lakes the purchase experience is also a good one as all the shop staff are well trained. Take the George Fisher store with its interesting little Abraham’s Tea-room. Their boot fitting service is excellent and as with most stores out comes the Brannock Device for shoe fitting from the start. Since 1927 this has been the preferred device for shoe fitting and the only change we are seeing is the additional use of footbeds for checking from time to time. It is interesting to watch the comfort the Brannock gives to the customer.
PS By the way for those of you who are fascinated to know if the CEO of Zappos really reads all those Tweets from more than 400,000 who he follows here is his answer: “I read all the tweets but there is another account, @zappos_service, that responds to some of them” Zappos.com CEO -Tony / zappos I take this to mean that he has a few staff to help him.