Saturday, 23 January 2010

The Trouble with Blakeys

The shoes in question

Dem damn Blakeys

Just recently, along with other assorted crap I splurged my hard-earned on, was a pair of english officer's brown parade shoes I chanced upon on Ebay whilst looking for some surplus boots. They're pretty simple, a pair of decent capped Oxfords, with a leather sole. The quality is respectable, and they were a snip at 39 quid. Indeed, Silverman's army and navy suggests they're made in Northamptonshire and cost the MoD more than £200 a pair (yeah right). They're also quite hard to come by, apparently.

As you'd expect for army surplus they look pretty hardwearing, and herein lies the problem, because unbeknown to me, the toes and heels come augmented with steel tips (segs) or 'Blakeys'. I was peripherally aware of these from reading The Chap a few years back, under a section dedicated to combatting low-life, where it suggested wearing Blakeys because 'the sharp rapping sound will alert will alert would-be assailants of your impending arrival, and let them know you are a gentleman of substance, not to be trifled with' (or words to that effect). Basically, a ninja wouldn't wear them.

And bloody hell, they are loud. I just wore them down the shops to get some bacon and a copy of the Guardian, and was immediately conscious of the ringing crack of my footsteps, as it reverberated off the walls of the estate I live on. And as I tramped down Kingsland Road, I became slightly paranoid that people were noticing, because I sounded like a two legged horse.

Furthermore, I nearly came a cropper on a wet section of floor in the Kingsland shopping centre, when the leather and steel soles failed to find purchase on the smooth surface, making them seem only mildly less perilous than well-worn crepe soled Wallabees, which are a bleeding liability in the rain.

So I've taken them off. Partially because I've got wooden flooring. Mostly because I don't want to sound like a tapdancer on Mogadon. I don't know what to do with them really, as otherwise, they're nice shoes, but I can't really imagine wearing them down the pub as is, and given that they're nailed-in, removing them seems unlikely, without resoling them entirely.

Having said that, a quick glance on assorted forums would seem to suggest that they were quite the thing in the 70s with skinheads and mods, and from what I can see, people who care about their shoes seem positively pro-Blakey. Indeed, there's now a Blakey-blog (so new they're still using Lorem Ipsum in one of the posts) and you can follow them on Twitter, should you think a manufacturer of metal shoe protectors actually has anything interesting to say.

But I'm not sure it's something I think I can buy into, so sadly, might be the back of the closet for these badboys, (though in their favour, doing a running slide on concrete does apparently generate sparks – why didn't I have these things as a kid!?). What do people think?

In the meantime, here's Matchstick Men and dogs by Michael Colman & Brian Burke from 1977, a song which immortalises the Blakeys legacy with the line about the "kids on the corner of the street who wore sparking clogs". Enjoy.


  1. Sure those Blakeys are prise-off-able? They're not exactly 6" nails. I know a man equipped to do just that.

  2. It's not the toes that are so much the problem really – they'd come in quite handy in a street-fight – but the ones I didn't photograph on the heel, which are set into the leather and flush with the edge.

    Besides, prising them out would leave bloody massive oles in em.

  3. what size are the officer's shoes? did you try to resell them?

  4. I was actually considering 'segging' my new Trickers but your write-up, besides making me chuckle, reminded me of why have never used them since the last time - a good 15 years back now