by Mathijs van Dijk

This story comes courtesy of my mother. She sometimes brings up the most diverse of observations and this time her attention was drawn to the footwear of Dutch men. To be precise, she was struck by today’s uniform dress co
de of managerial types: big clunky Dutch feet in pointy, shiny Italian leather shoes and long legs in too tight suit pants. And you see, she wasn’t exploring Amsterdam’s financial district or a board meeting of some large listed company, she was standing next to the VIP stands in Heeze (not far from Eindhoven) to watch a parade during a cultural festival in Brabant. These were local ‘bobos’, a catch-­all name for the new and tight­ knit political class of elected officials, administrators, businessmen and managers in semi-­public sectors, cluster directors, communication advisors and the consultants swarming around them.

They even have their own language called bobotaal. And this, the pointy Italian-style men’s shoe made of leather in various bright colours, included a cognac brown with bright blue laces, has become one of their tribe’s distinguishing markers. From what one can see in many different settings still, the Dutchman’s preference has always tended towards functional over fashionable. Until the 90’s, someone trying to make a career in the growing pool of (semi­)public office environments would have been comfortable in his choice of ill ­fitting pants and vest, and shoes with those durable yellowish rubber soles – I know I had those kinds of shoes when I was a teenager, I was that cool.

True, we cannot argue about taste, but we can note the desire of a new class in society to define their membership through shiny footwear. The saying goes that shoes make the man, so probably we can say that and Italian-style shoes a bobo makes…

About the Author

Mathijs van Dijk lives as a Dutchman in Brussels where he currently writes and teaches Dutch. From this Belgian home with his Italian girlfriend and two cats, he keeps tabs on Dutch goings-on and continues to learn every day about Italy.