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Weekly Forum: January 20 2015 — 8 Comments

  1. I’ll start off with an easy one: when asked by Holmes in CHAS if Watson has a pair of silent shoes, Watson replies, “I have rubber-soled tennis shoes.” Does that mean Watson played tennis or that being John “Three Continents” Watson, infamous Lothario, he needed silent shoes for his clandestine assignations? While today it’s common to own sneakers, was it common in Victorian England?

  2. This is an interesting question, because there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information. Dr Watson has quite a bit to say about other people’s shoes from time to time, he’s pretty quiet on the subject of Holmes’s shoes. As for his own footwear, I can recall leather boots and patent leather slippers mentioned in the course of Holmes making deductions about Watson [SCAN and STOC, respectively] and the very interesting mention of that he owns rubber-soled tennis shoes [CHAS].

    I must confess I don’t know all that much about Victorian men’s footwear, so I’m happy to defer to someone with knowledge on the topic.

    • Good point about Watson’s slippers. We are not surprised that Watson would have such homey footwear, but so does Holmes in BLUE and ABBE when sitting in front of a “cheerful fire”.

  3. There are boots in SIGN, page 117 while he obtains the creosote . . . In TWIS p. 240, he again is “pulling on his boots.” Boots are left on Mrs Warren’s landing in REDC, p 906. And ” . . .a boot striking upon a stone” heralds Holmes’ arrival in HOUN, p.739.

    All of these have Holmes dressed in boots. SPEC, p 271 mentions shoes, apparently both Watson and Holmes. A pair of “. . . silent shoes . . .” is mentioned by Holmes in CHAS, p. 577.

    The evidence points to Holmes generally wearing boots and Watson perhaps wearing both boots and shoes. A Victorian haberdasher would, perhaps, be able to tell us more of the choices in footwear by London gentlemen.

  4. I love the stupid tennis shoes in CHAS. Several illustrations of that scene have them in dinner jackets (?) and shiny dress shoes (???) and it’s just such a shame we can’t see Watson’s sneaky sneakers.

  5. Huh, I had never noticed the incongruence. Watson says “(we) put on our dress-clothes, so that we might appear to be two theatre-goers homeward bound.” [CHAS, 577] But surely there was a risk that someone would notice the strange sight of two gentlemen wearing tennis shoes with their evening outfits? The cab-driver, or even a casual passer-by. Not the best way to go unnoticed, especially considering that they had black masks and burglary tools in their pockets. Had they been stopped by a policeman, it was a safe bet that they would’ve been charged of “loitering with intent”.
    Perhaps Holmes put in the leather case the tennis shoes and they changed into them at the same time they put on the masks. But the matter should be investigated…

  6. It is most interesting: if you examine the illustrations by Paget, most of the footwear worn by Holmes appears to be boots. While a bit unclear from illustration to illustration, one does not see much in the way of evidence of oxfords, derbys, bluchers, brogues, cap toes, or other styles of male footwear. Holmes generally appears to be wearing high-top, pull-on boots with a smooth leather instep and arch (without laces or zippers). This would appear to support the textual usage of “boots” more frequently than other footwear mentions. Paget was known to have read the stories carefully before drawing in order to be accurate.Perhaps others will look at the illustrations and offer their opinions.

  7. We know that Watson laces his boots in a different manner than does the Turkish bath boot boy. Was that in LADY? I don’t have it in front of me.

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