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They operate in tiny premises. Fine men in brown coats who help you to walk down the street. Men behind beat-up counters, surrounded by shelves stacked with heels and soles and strips of rubber and pieces of leather.

And their number is shrinking. There are, I’m told by one of them, only 30 or 40 of them left in Glasgow and they can’t, these days, even find the tools of their trade in this country: if a machine or a tool gets broken or worn out, the replacement comes from somewhere in England. Or from somewhere on eBay.

Anyway, the thing is, sometimes you buy a pair of shoes or boots and you love them and you wear them out and about until they are worn out and about then you find that the shop you bought them from no longer has those shoes. End of the line, you see. But not necessarily. A cobbler can fix this with arcane tools and some deceptively simple-looking dexterity. He’ll make your shoes as good as new and charge you only a few quid and you are back in business, strolling and striding as if you’d never been away.

There is an atmosphere in a shoe repair shop: a scent even, evocative and reassuring. And while the man and his craft may seem like a throwback, the fact is that such skills as his are not only as timeless as thrift, but contemporary too like your colour-coded recycle bins. In some unassuming way, the man that repairs your shoes also restores some faith in the notion that life and it’s things need not be disposable and that we need not have our heads turned by fads and fashion and their concomitant cynicism.

In short, the cobbler keeps your feet on the ground.


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