Rooting around in the back of my wardrobe recently, I came across a small deposit of ancient footwear. I immediately forgot all about Narnia (it wasn’t working anyway) and started pondering the great gutty mystery. Remember gutties? They used to form one corner of the young Irish male footwear triangle, along with “proper” shoes and 12-hole Docs. The Docs were for pretending to be hard at junior discos. The proper shoes were for mass and, if praying didn’t work, juvenile court. Gutties were for everything else, including twenty-five-a-side football, watching telly, cycling, and climbing your friends. They were battered, dirty, smelly things whose physical integrity was under constant threat. One wrong scuff and you’d find yourself in a battle to save your very sole. Not that you cared, of course. When a pair of gutties finally flew apart (just as you were taking the crucial penalty), you simply bought another pair. They cost a fiver, for Christ’s sake. They were practically disposable. Looking back, it’s hard to see exactly how and when the modest gutty of yore began its journey to the promised land of trainerdom, with its air-sacs, fashion shoots, and three-figure price tags. It was done with such stealth and skill that you really have to wonder if anything is safe. Could they do it with socks, for example? Will we be looking back in twenty years time and saying, “Remember when you could get a pair for a few Euros and they were just bits of wool that kept your feet warm?” I hope not. Because if that were to happen, the first thing to go would be the word. I can live without “gutties”. But I’m really very fond of “socks.”

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