In my last blog, I pointed out that the main reason I visit London is to go to two particular shops Oi Polloi and John Simons, whilst this is true, I also go for the shoe shops. Having visited a lot of big cities in Europe as well as couple of major North American cities I am fairly convinced that London cannot be beaten when it comes to buying shoes. Jermyn Street is as good as gets and have some outstanding brands, ranging from the top to middle range in terms of price. The men behind such blogs as Permanent Style or Parisian Gentleman will never be seen in anything but top end luxury brands and I am getting the impression that The Grey Fox may be heading in the same direction which would hugely disappoint me. So when I do shoes, I normally take the advice of The Shoe Snob aka Justin Fitzpatrick who not only makes great shoes, but gives sound advice as to what is value for money. So on my last trip I decided to bypass Jermyn Street and head for Harrods, to take a look at a pair of shoes made exclusively for Harrods by Sutor Matellassi and hopefully, if purchased grab a little bit of that Marcello Mastroianni style.
Now, as you well know I am not a fan of department stores in this country or any other country for that matter and Harrods is exactly the same. Large department stores lack that personal touch that I find in independent shops where, because they are often small establishments, people appear to have a genuine interest in what they sell. Mr Fitzpatrick in one of his blogs had pointed out that he found the Matellassi’s a little bit conservative. Maybe that was the reason I didn’t buy them, or it may have been my dislike of department stores, I really don’t know. It could also stem from the fact that they were a little bit on the pricey side and this may also have influenced me. Normally I am jumping up and down at the thought of Italian shoes, but these ones left me rather disappointed, especially as it has taken me a long time to save up for them. Therefore a word of warning when it comes to buying shoes, the Sutor Matellassi’s looked absolutely brilliant on the internet, not so much in the shop. The internet can be a highly seductive place and you may think this is the way forward, but when it comes to buying shoes I would strongly advise you to go to the shop before deciding, not your front room.
The frozen northerner would like to spend all his hard earned cash on clothes and shoes in his hometown of Newcastle, but this is no longer possible. The retail experience in Newcastle for the fashion conscious older male is difficult and if like me you are 60 or around that mark it is practically impossible. The age thing has made buying decent clobber a bit tricky now, not just because most of the clothing market is geared towards selling to the younger element but because most of the young hipsters selling the stuff tend to look down their noses at you, as if to say “what on earth are you doing in here” this is a mistake, as my generation are now, most certainly among the most affluent in the area, with more disposable income than the majority of their younger counterparts. I try to spend as much as I can in local shops because I believe you must support shops in your own backyard. But nearly every half term I now find myself on a train to the Metropolis to see if I am missing out on anything. Nowhere in the world can beat London when it comes to shoes, but that is something I will discuss my next blog. You can keep your big stores on Oxford Street and Regent Street, they are not the reason I am in the capital, I am here for two shops and two shops only, Oi Polloi in Soho and John Simons in Marylebone. These shops are nirvana for me, and are well worth a visit. Both are packed with clothes and shoes that I love and it requires a great amount of self-control as it is entirely possible that I could blow a huge amount of money upon entering either shop. Oi Polloi have just started stocking the Bass Weejun tie shoe, which is the laced variety of their timeless loafer, I am not quite sure how these are going to sit with the Weejun purists, but the Frozen Northerner purchased a pair of these burgundy beauties immediately, with the likelihood that the black version will also be purchased in the very near future.
Oi Polloi is great shop and is a place where I am always comfortable in, but John Simons is something else I never visit it without buying something and if truth be told I would probably buy everything in the shop. It has a great selection of clothes and shoes that always appeal to me, the staff really know their stuff and I am not just talking about the proprietor. This trip saw me buy a nice couple of caps (Stetson and John Simons own brand) as well as great piece of Alan Paine knitwear, but the best item in the shop was a sample pair of John Simons/Rancourt brown brogues, which the owner is trying to promote. Let’s hope the brilliant Mr Simons is successful, as I can hardly wait to buy a pair. So if you are like me aged 60 and still crazy about clothes and shoes and cannot feed your habit in your hometown, then a trip to these two shops in the capital may be the fix that you need.
I have decided to cancel my Sky subscription paying £75 is just not worth it and I am surprised that it has took me so long to realise it. Nobody in their right mind can surely be satisfied by what they are getting from Mr Murdoch. I mean come on, this commercial venture of his has gone on long enough and somebody has to tell it the way it is. The package I currently have involves none of the movie channels and is mainly based on the sports package, which has been severely undermined by the loss of the champions league to BT. So which channels will I really miss, well apart from Sky Sports, pretty much none, what you are currently getting is countless rerun after rerun of series that I can quote chapter and verse at any given moment. How many times can you watch Friends, Frasier, MasterChef, Blue Bloods, Only Fools and Horses, I mean the list is endless and getting longer, added to this any commercial break is now taking anywhere up to five minutes by which time I given up caring. Don’t get me wrong, there has been some truly memorable programmes such as True Detective, Boardwalk Empire to name two but even these shows have been shown to saturation point. As for Sky Sports this has now become a complete joke I don’t want Nick Collins telling me what Wayne Rooney had for breakfast at St Georges’ Park 3 days before another meaningless friendly against some nation who we will struggle to beat. Even if I miss the breakfast special there is always lunch and dinner to catch up on, when there is actually nothing going on at all. Sky Sports is not about the match or event any more, it is about analysis and more analysis, for God’s sake shut up and lets us watch the spectacle. Am I turning into Victor Meldrew hopefully not, but let’s be frank here, Sky TV is the biggest rip off of all time and in most cases people are quite happy to let them do it.
Champions’ league is once again upon us and it is fascinating to watch the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid. It has always been said that FC Barcelona’s hatred of Real Madrid stems from the Spanish civil war or Di Stefano being hoodwinked into signing for Madrid instead of the Catalans, the list is endless for the men from the Nou Camp. Deep down I suspect their real loathing of all thing Madrid comes from one thing and one thing only and that is the European cup.
In the early 1950’s Real Madrid did not pose any sort of challenge to Barcelona, indeed, at the time the main rival to Barcelona was probably Atletico Madrid. Real were floundering in mid-table whist Barcelona were winning nearly everything in sight and were led a player who at the time was arguably the best player in the world, Ladislav Kubala. They did not see the European Cup as any threat to their status within Spai,n but when Madrid became the first club to win the European Cup the animosity really kicked in. With only the league champions from each country plus the previous year’s winners allowed into the competition, Barcelona’s fate was sealed and by the time Real Madrid had won the cup for the third time the Catalans were in a state of paranoia. Only by winning the league could Barcelona halt the flow of European success and so with Madrid having 3 European cups in the bag by 1958 they gambled everything and appointed Helenio Herrera. HH produced the magic and Barcelona carried all before them domestically and in Europe in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup (now the Europa League). It did not matter because Real Madrid now had complete stranglehold over the competition that really mattered, the European cup and won it again in 1959. Now in the competition they thought they should have been at start, the 59-60 season gave Barcelona the chance to finally nail their rival, having won La Liga for the second year, it didn’t matter. The semi-final against their bitterest enemy was all that mattered and like any great piece of theatre it ended tragically for Barcelona losing 6-2 on aggregate. Madrid went on to greater glory and won the cup for the fifth time in Glasgow defeating Eintract Frankfurt 7-3 producing football that is often regarded as the greatest ever seem. Barcelona responded by sacking Herrera, a decision that they lived to regret badly. True, Barcelona did beat Madrid along the way to the following year’s final where they lost to Benfica, but the sacking of Herrera tore the club apart and over the 25 years they would only win the league twice, before the arrival of Cruyff in 88 who as manager transformed the club. Madrid meanwhile added a sixth trophy in 1966 and pretty much dominated Spanish football throughout the 60’s and 70’s. So when Barcelona talk about how much they really hate Real Madrid think about those 5 consecutive trophies which Barcelona believed stopped their team being recognised as being as good as Real Madrid, they were great they just don’t have those cups to prove it.
Whenever I question myself as a coach, as to whether I am doing things right or wrong I always return to this very small book featuring 10 essays by the former United States Senator Bill Bradley on why we love sport and what is required to take us to the top in any given sport. This brilliant book outlines Bradley’s route from being a bright eyed school boy to becoming a top college basketball player, before moving on to becoming a star in the NBA with the New York Knicks. Any father who has a son or daughter with aspirations of becoming a top class sportsperson should buy their child this book and make sure that they read it time and time again. The simple values that Bradley holds so dear is a revelation and demonstrates just how hard he worked to achieve the success that he so richly deserved. Bradley bases the book on the virtues that he believes are essential if you are to succeed, all the articles are first rate, but for me the one that stood out the most was “Responsibility”. Maybe it is just me becoming old and cynical, but I see too many young people not prepared to go that extra yard and put a little more effort in, too many times I see young athletes looking for the quick fix or the short cut to success, if you read this book it should make you realise that there is no such thing as a short cut, it does not exist. This book may have been written about a time when life may been much simpler, but that is the beauty of the book, the values and principles that Bradley stood up for, still hold true today. So please make an effort to buy this book, I don’t care if you have to beg borrow or steal to get it, once purchased it will change your outlook on sport forever.
I am a big fan of trainers, sports shoes, sneakers (the current in word) etc. there is a huge range to pick from, trainers that are used for sport or the ones that are probably used as fashion items. Early days saw the market dominated by Adidas, but since then, all major sport manufactures have some type of trainers that bear their name, Nike, Asics, Puma, Diadora, New Balance. The list is endless with some very good products. However it does not stop there. Fashion houses such Armani, Valentino, Dolce and Gabbana and Berluti have always wanted to have a piece of the action and are producing a wide range of what they class as trainers, for the general public. As I pointed out in my very first blog what I buy is dictated by how much money I have at that particular time. However it is now time to speak up because things are now out of control. While looking through the excellent Mr Porter website www.mrporter.com I gazed upon what Berluti describe as “playtime burnished leather high top sneaker” which are retailing at £1100.
This is not a sports shoe in any shape or form and quite frankly I am at a loss to try and understand what the makers are trying to achieve. This is about as far away from a trainer as you are possibly going to get and is a gross exploitation of people with more money than sense. Anybody with a small amount of intelligence will tell you that there are only three types of trainers worth having throughout your lifetime they are: Adidas samba super (why they had tag on super I have no idea ) Adidas Sam Smith and Adidas Gazelle. These three shoes have stood the test of time and look great whether you are playing sport or just strolling down to the pub. Accept no alternatives, and don’t get distracted by some fancy advertising campaign and avoid anything that reeks of “designer”. So the next time you are out there stay calm and stay focused and buy one of the classics and not some piece of so called trendy footwear.