Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wearing Serious Boots

The Swiss take their footwear seriously.

While Canadians, for instance, wear their rather cavalier relationship with nature on their flannel sleeves ("sure, I had to drive through a snowstorm, but only for a few hundred kilometers!") the Swiss strap on steel-shanked mountaineering boots the moment the pavement ends.  Why?

The Swiss are famously fond of the outdoors, and have an eye-watering variety of stunning landscapes at their disposal. Still, they remain wary of nature, struggling to reconcile their Romantic spirit with their Calvinist one.  This, we have already learned, is why the Swiss will cut an acre of grass to Master's-green quality but studiously leave an uncut 'wild patch' in the middle.

So it is that the Swiss are keen to head to the hills often and energetically, while wearing boots for their Sunday walk that many seasoned alpinists would consider overkill on anything outside the Himalayas.  The Swiss draw a Romantic's sustenance from immersing themselves in the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Alps, but need to engage with them in a way that maintains a clinical distance and preserves the triumph of Swissness over the forces of entropy.  

Serious boots are therefore a perfect compromise: they allow the wearer to pass through chaotic landscapes without altogether succumbing to them; to leave a literal footprint of the protestant work ethic on the sublime hillsides of romantic Helvetica.  

The fact that such boots are expensive and require expert fitting merely sweetens the deal.

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