The world will always welcome loafers

Sally Williams joins the queue for the shoes we can't live without

Danny wanted them in black, Anna quite fancied the fluorescent pink, Stephen already had a pair in brown suede but wanted another, and Sam had seen the red satin ones in a magazine.Madonna wears them (black satin), as does Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sharon Stone and Tom Jones. Wannabe loafers are shoes in demand.

Designed by Patrick Cox, the simple square-toed shoe which costs £85- £160 and is available in a multitude of fabrics and colours, is responsible for fights breaking out, desperate callers ringing daily to check if new stock is in, feet being forced into the wrong sizes, and a bouncer called Junior.

"It is a weird job," he said, as he stood guarding the door of the Patrick Cox shop in Symons Street, near Sloane Square in London, while Danny, Anna and about 25 others waited outside in an orderly queue which snaked its way past restaurants and other shops, nearly spilling on to the King's Road. "They hate the fact that they have to line up at the door to get in, but they want the shoes, so what can they do?"

The Patrick Cox shop, the only one in this country (Cox opened a shop in Paris last year and is planning a second outlet in London this summer), opened in 1991, has dark blue walls, is furnished with 19th-century French antiques and looks more like a salon than a shoe shop. It has a maximum capacity of about 20 customers and six sales assistants, but it can still take half an hour to get served. New stock is delivered once a fortnight and it is quite common for a whole range to sell out the same day.

The black Mocroc (fake crocodile) is the most popular style, followed by the Python (real snake). Shoes cannot be reserved in advance because demand always outstrips supply and the shop operates a strict first-come first-served policy. Consequently, customers will stop at nothing to try and beat the rest. The delivery man is regularly offered money to siphon off pairs, as is the shop's repair man.

"I even had my dad calling me last Friday at 10pm saying a friend of his had a daughter who knew I worked here and who wanted to know if I could get her a pair in black," said one sales assistant. "I'm doing a degree and just work here part-time and yet the only thing people want to talk about is the shoes."

The Wannabe range first hit London in the autumn/winter 1993 collection and by spring/ summer 1994 about 70,000 pairs were sold wholesale all over the world. Last season more than 100,000 pairs were sold. The queues, mostly on Saturdays, started around Christmas time and copy-cat, cheaper versions, from Office, Jones and the like, are walking the streets - although purists can spot a wannabe Wannabe a mile off.

"The Gucci loafer suffered the same fate in the Seventies," said Colin McDowell, fashion historian and writer. "It was adapted by everyone." And the Wannabe mania is similar to the Gucci phenomenon: "They had to lock the doors of the Gucci shop in Rome because there were so many people trying to get in."

As with Gucci enthusiasts, Wannabe fans are obsessive. Stock numbers are quoted with train-spotter-like precision and people come back for more and more. Lisa, 28, a Birds of a Feather blonde, wanted to collect the whole set. "I first came a couple of years ago," she said, sitting by the display of Wannabes, eyes scanning for an assistant to help her with the mottled ones she just had to have. "I've got black and white ones, velvet ones, yellow ones, linen ones, ones with buckles, boots. I've got about 12 pairs now."

Lisa's mother had come to buy a brown pair. Lisa's sister was wearing a pair of Pythons and holding a fluorescent orange pair with buckles. "We've all got them," she said, "my uncle, brother, the whole family. At least three pairs each." Lisa's daughters, aged six and four, were also in tow, playing with a pastel-pink pair.

So why is this shoe such a success? "They're so comfortable," said Danny; "Easy to wear," said Stephen; "Great shape," said Anna; "Good value for money," said Lisa's mum. Hard to grasp at £95 a pair, but when compared with the Patrick Cox mainline collection (which costs anywhere between £120 and £400) and other designer shoe labels such as Ferragamo and Manolo Blahnik which go up to £500, Wannabes do almost look like a bargain. And because of demand, the price is actually going down.

But there has to be more to it. After all, Clarks slippers are cheap and comfortable and the likes of Junior are not seen guarding them. People buy Wannabes not only because they have attained cult status, but because they have that indefinable something which turns fads for those in the know into enduring mainstream classics. People at the forefront of fashion are notoriously fickle and normally move on to something else as soon as the rest of us catch on, but in this case they have not. Wannabes and their imitations will probably still be around in 10 years and worn by Chelsea ladies and disco babes alike.

Patrick Cox, 8 Symons Street, London SW3 (0171-730 6504). Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Wed until 7pm.

Jones Bootmaker £59.99 These are a classic shape, with a sensible low heel, but the metallic sheen adds a fashion angle. They come in a number of pastel shades: green, pink, blue and pearl. Available from Jones Bootmaker, Fouberts Place, London W1 and East Street, Brighton. Inquiries on 01323 649 408

Photographs: Bert Cross

Stylist: Charlie Harrington

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

    £24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    £45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    £45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Glou...

    Humanities and Economics Teacher - January 2015 - Malaysia

    £18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain