There are many laughable items in the Wardrobe that Time Forgot; so many in fact that it would be exhausting to list them here. Contraptions of fashion become amusing when they cease to be practical. However, there are inventions which are unfairly maligned and undeservedly forgotten. Galoshes are such an invention. Though invented in an era when soles were porous, galoshes are as useful today as they ever have been. Whoever gets caught in freak downpours, has to shortcut across wet grass or encounters litter-strewn, filthy streets has no doubt experienced more than a little exasperation when shiny new shoes have to bear the brunt of such things.
Rubber soles may be the norm in low to mid-range shoes but high-end shoes, the kind that are truly worth protecting, have leather soles and if worn in very inclement weather can often sustain irreparable damage. I cannot count the number of times I have worn well-polished shoes in the rain and have needed to perform emergency ‘shoe-maintenance’ – stuffing with newspaper, coating with olive oil, shock-and-awe polishing. Despite all this, the shoes are unfortunately never the same; water stains are not characterful, they are simply irritating. A pair of galoshes, however bizarre they seem, will keep the very best shoes dry and protected. If they had a choice, I imagine that elegant shoes would prefer to remain indoors; the rigours of the outside world are no place for fine Russia calf.
Though the idea of a rubber overshoe may sound inelegant and cumbersome, galoshes made to protect shoes from the wet in a metropolitan environment can actually be very discreet. Though most pairs one can find look like Crocs, one manufacturer has managed to produce a slim design that does not distort shoes of a classic last. John Lobb of Paris retail the Balmoral, made by the Norwegian manufacturers Swims, which boasts an elegant heel. The classic designs by Swims themselves, while certainly as practical, are flat bottomed and do not create the same deception as those made for Lobb. Though designed to fit the Lobb lasts, these galoshes do also fit other shoes of similar design.
Of course many will maintain that however elegant a galosh, it ruins the line of a fine bench-made shoe. True. An ideal world would have no need of galoshes – unless they were necessary to wade through champagne. Unfortunately, we live in no such utopia; the streets are as filthy as the fields and the rain will always fall. Fine shoes are prized possessions and should be treated as such.