Make no mistake, if, like the Manolo, you are the reasonably intelligent person who likes the clothes, and the shoes, and thinking about why people wear what they wear, you will adore this book.
Here is the brief selection…
In the summer of 1971, I had perfect shoes. They were pink suede wedges with suede ties that did up round my ankles like Grecian sandals. They were the most beautiful shoes I have ever owned, and I was twenty and had no idea that in all the years to come I would forever be trying to find their replacement, as if they were a love tragically lost, or the Platonic ideal of shoes, or the shoes God had made especially for me. Whatever I was wearing, I only had to look down at my feet to know that they were encased in pink suede.
I wore the shoes every single day, until they fell apart and I dropped them in the kitchen bin in an act of affirmative confidence in the future: that I was only twenty and that for the rest of my long life there would be other shoes — but there was no next pair of shoes, none as good as these. Never again would I have a pair as beautiful and wearable. It must have been in part their pinkness, but also the wedge and the thongs they were tied with which all combined to make them stand outside time, outside the era they came from. The point about those shoes is that I coudl wear them right now, today. So the past goes on tormenting you, the memory of brief intense friendship with shoes — yes, exactly like a lost love.
Ayyyy! A la recherche du chaussures perdu!
Of course, it is only natural that this passage would appeal to the Manolo, for as the Manolo has long noted in his own writings, the quest for the perfect item of clothing, the perfect pair of shoes, is exactly congruent with the search for the divine. They are one and the same, expressing as they both do the innate human desire for the transcendent.
But more than that, such quests are also the reaffirmation of life.
This is something Linda Grant expresses wonderfully in her book, that far from being the frivolous frivolity, the shopping for and wearing of clothing brings pleasure, brings joy, brings wholly human satisfaction, which moreover has the power to repair and restore one’s soul.
Out of suffering comes the demand for pleasure. When we have suffered we do not care less about clothes, but more. To love clothes is to embrace life in all its joyous variety, even if all you ever do is turn the pages of a magazine and long for a fairyland, crave couture ballgowns you will never own. We all need daydreams.
So you must read this book — part autobiography, part biography, part history, part manifesto, the curious combination to be sure, but completely brilliant and utterly insightful. It will convince, as few other works can, that thinking about clothes is the ancient and worthwhile, indeed noble, human activity.0