It struck me, as I bent to do up my shoelaces for the fifteenth time yesterday, that it is rather odd, in the 21st century, that we continue to insist on strapping our shoes onto our feet with lengths of string. Of course, the problem I have at the moment is that the string my new laces are made of is quite unsuitable - not fit for purpose, as they say these days in nauseating circles. It is slippery where it should be incapable of sliding even the tiniest bit.
These are new laces. The old ones snapped, and then I tried to make do with their short remains, and then they snapped too, and so I had to buy new ones. Unfortunately, I assumed that lengths of string sold as shoe laces would not be made of material that undoes itself every few steps.
Not that I am advocating the other extreme, as embodied by the suede laces with which one rather beautiful pair of shoes in my cupboard arrived. Those laces are so non-slip that they will barely budge enough to let me slip my foot into the shoes to which they have been attached. Once I have at last coaxed them to loosen themselves to the bare minimum possible to allow ingress of my toes - plus the feet that come with them - these laces are equally difficult to tighten enough to give said toes and feet a sense of being safely encased.
The funny thing is that we don't actually need laces at all anymore. We could be using velcro or that amazing technology that is all the go on the ski slopes, where boots are moulded exactly to your foot. What sentimental attachment is it that keeps us sticking with string fastenings? Is it just that, having mastered the task as small children of tying our own shoelaces, we can't bear letting all that infant effort go to waste?
Or is it the fact that laces provide such a useful sociological tool when visiting unfamiliar places? There are certainly people I know of - well actually one person - who use a shoelace related measure when travelling - vis. an undone shoelace - to work out what kind of a society they find themselves in.
The idea is to see what distance you can walk down a street in any locality before it is pointed out to you that you ought to do up your shoelace. Research to date suggests that it is in Vienna that the shortest distance can be covered before some concerned - or bossy, depending on your perspective - passerby draws your attention to the inadequate performance of one or other of your laces, which they report severely is slithering about at ground level, neglecting its central duty, which is to tie your footwear firmly to your feet.