Selling his soles for a greener planet

For the stylish man with everything, rubber shoes guaranteed to grip the imagination. By Helen Jones
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The Independent Online
Recycling has reached the toes of an already saturated footwear market as Formula One motor-racing tyres are reincarnating as Dodge Formula One utility boots for men.

Intended for the man who has everything, you can not only specify your preference for the soles of your boots to be made from the tyres of Damon Hill or Michael Schumacher; for a mere pounds 50 extra, you can even specify the race in which a set of tyres ran. Quite costly, given the fact that the boots already cost between pounds 85 and pounds 150 a pair. Still, buyers could salve their consciences with the argument that they are contributing to a greener planet. According to their maker, Paul Dooner, "It's pretty hard to dispose of old tyres. You can't burn them. Most Formula One tyres end up in museums or go to Japan where a man turns them into very popular but spectacularly ugly coffee tables.

"They have been recycling tyres and making them into shoes in the Third World for years," says Dooner, who describes himself as "an ex- roofer, publisher and entrepreneur with a bit of a thing about recycling" , who thought he could do something different. Dooner approached Goodyear, which has the contract to supply Formula One tyres to all drivers on the Grand Prix circuit, and it agreed to let him make a prototype. "I started cutting them up in my garage in St Leonard's-on-Sea until I got it right and then got a good quality shoe-making firm involved."

He then approached Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. Both agreed to take the products, which go on sale this month, in tandem with a major advertising campaign by BST.BDDP. "A simple but brilliant idea," says Paul Bainsfair, chief executive of BST.BDDP advertising. "It will appeal to style-conscious men who want something a little different."

Others are more sceptical. "I'd never spend pounds 150 on a pair of boots," says one 32-year-old male who falls into the "style" press target readership, "though I might wear them climbing because warm rubber grips."

Dooner is convinced his racing rubber will outstrip market leaders such as Dr Martens and Timberlands. "I've made a product out of something that is difficult to dispose of. Rather than just being piled up somewhere, the tyres have a second life."