Every dog will have his day

The practical, sloppy shoes that always remind you of grandad are making a comeback in bold, new hues

Comfy shoes are making a comeback. If they ever really went away, that is. Our Right Honourable Members of Parliament have been taking the flak for wearing them in the Commons for years now. Have you guessed? Yes, its face is the stoic basset hound. And it is the Americans who are responsible for bucking the trend to bring about the shoe's renaissance.

It all started back in 1994 when the American menswear designer John Bartlett based his spring '95 collection on the Forrest Gump look. He then dyed the classic lace-up "Duke" Puppies in candy colours to match his collection. In the final scene of Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks is seen wearing the shoes, and indeed when he was nominated for his Oscar for his role in the film, Wolverine, the US company that created Hush Puppies in 1958, offered Hanks pounds 250,000 to wear them to the ceremony.

They didn't need to. Hanks along with an awe-inspiring array of super celebrities, including David Bowie and Iman, Sharon Stone, David Duchovny, (Mulder from The X-Files), Daryl Hannah, Lenny Kravitz, Patricia Arquette and Christian Slater already wear them. And it is Noel and Liam Gallagher who are following in their crepe-soled footsteps.

Shortly after Bartlett's reworking of the Hush Puppy, the LA-based retailer Joel Fitzpatrick began to stock the shoe in his store, Pleasure Swell. Demand grew so fast that he expanded his shop to include an exclusive Hush Puppies section next door and soon demand outstripped supply. Within six months, his store had sold in excess of 6,000 pairs to the aforementioned stars and young trendies. Soon there was a waiting list.

"I could have sold three times as many," Fitzpatrick says, "but I just can't get them. I have back orders for 11,000 pairs. I get a shipment in and they're gone. It's crazy."

Last November, Anna Sui used slip-on "Earl" Puppies in her spring/summer show, again in a range of bright hues, and in February, to top everything, Hush Puppies received the Accessory Award at the fashion "Oscars" in New York.

It is amazing that a shoe so renowned for its nerdy, geeky and anti-fashion sensibilities has suddenly taken its place in the fashion limelight. Some style insiders put it down to the resurgence of casual, preppy dressing as the "norm".

The latest advertising campaign in the United States is testimony to that. It features bright young things in their Puppies with the copy-line: "We invented casual." It couldn't be more Nineties, a far cry from Eighties power-dressing, when even an attempt at dressing down was contrived. Today, "casual" can be smart and it is. It is a shift in values towards a look that is easier, more relaxed and more real. We no longer have as much to prove as we did in the Eighties.

As John Bartlett puts it: "I don't like designer shoes. Shoes are supposed to be grounding people. Hush Puppies ground the clothes."

It makes sense. There is nothing more grounding than a pair of shoes so comfortable that they feel like slippers and so simple that they look good with everything from Chino's to little A-line skirts, and even Comme des Garcons suits.

Twentysomethings who are too young to have bad memories of Hush Puppies, except as something their grandads wore, have bought half a million pairs of the newly revamped "Classic" Pups in America, and now it is the turn of the Brits. Dolcis has just brought over a limited edition selection of the lace-up "Dukes" (known in England as "Waynes") and slip on "Earls" in mouth-watering colours such as bright orange, lime green, chocolate brown, white, taupe, purple and black. They are currently available for a very limited time in these US colours.

But fear not, the British Shoe Corporation, licensees of the Hush Puppy name in the UK, also has a colour run. Its slip-ons come in black, taupe, white, brown lemon and violet and the lace-ups in lime, lemon, violet, taupe, dark red, grey, brown and black.

At pounds 39.99, they are the cheapest way we've ever had to dress like the stars.

Dolcis inquiries: 0171-493 9626.

Hush Puppy hotline: 0116-280 1436.

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