The soft shoe shuffle

James Sherwood on Anello & David, purveyor of character shoes to the masses
CULT THEATRICAL shoemakers Anello & Davide on Drury Lane have always been a not-so-well-kept secret fashion hang-out. In the Seventies, London's hippie chicks bought their character shoes - the one-bar dance Mary Jane - and satin ballerina pumps from Anello to go with their Ozzie Clarke, Mary Quant and Zandra Rhodes and fashion stylists would fight fragile prima ballerinas for the latest Anello cut. When Anello made the Beetle Boot in the Sixties, boys with pudding-bowl haircuts and Italian suits queued around the block for a pair. The boot, hand-made for the Fab Four, was only sold to groupies on a Saturday because Anello couldn't make them fast enough. Now celebrating their 75th anniversary, Anello & Davide have opened a new shop in Beauchamp Place.

Rock manager Mark St John says, "Anello is the only shoe worth putting on your f*****g foot in, isn't it? I first started shopping there in 1972 when I was managing The Pretty Things. All the rock 'n' roll guys used to go to Anello on Drury Lane and hang out at Cappucetto in Soho. I remember the girls were all sylph-like ballerina types."

Anello still make Italian Job bespoke leather boots for Michael Caine, Dudley Moore and Mick Jagger. But the shop is now dedicated to a new collection. The character shoes are still there, in the Classic collection (shame they weren't available when Miuccia Prada did the granny style last year). But if you're looking for the kitten heel, so sharp for spring, then why not go to the people who made shoes for the Queen of the kitten heel, Marilyn Monroe? Of course the old Anello girls still have that creative impulse. They are the ones you'll find downstairs in the bridal collection (from pounds 75) who are ordering the shoe dyed to match their Narciso Rodriguez eau-de-nil chiffon pencil skirts for an extra pounds 25. Not only that, says designer Michelle Emery, but "We will be launching mail order in May. That means you can chose from four toe shapes, four heel shapes and a spectrum of colour". It is a crie de coeur of shoe fetishists that they can't buy the exact shoe they want for the season. Imagine being able to pick the perfect pink suede and dictate the height of your kitten heel and the severity of your sling-back.

Anello & Davide, 47 Beauchamp Place, London SW3, 0171 225 2468