CBC Radio (Canada) Interview

CBC Radio (Canada) logo

Jan-2004: A short, tongue-in-cheek debate in which I defend the practice of teaching the skill of shoelace tying in an era of more efficient alternatives like Velcro or zippers.

Interview Details

  • CBC Radio (Canada) logoInterviewed for: CBC Radio, Canada's public broadcaster
  • Interviewed by: Patchen Barss
  • Interviewed via: E-mail
  • Interviewed on: 06-Jan-2004

Interview Transcript

PATCHEN: Let me start off by saying, I have no problem with you devoting a Web site to shoelaces and shoelace tying. In fact, I think the Web lends itself particularly well to preserving such old-time traditions. If I wanted to learn to churn butter, use an abacus, communicate in Morse code, or any other such obsolete skill, I would naturally begin my search for information online, in hopes of finding parallel sites to your own.

The thing that concerns me, though, is that you seem to treat the tying of shoelaces as a modern, 21st-century skill. You're not alone - parents still seem hell-bent on teaching their kids this arcane practice – but doesn't it feel a little like you're clinging to a technology whose time has long passed?

Consider this: Over the past few weeks, I've read many step-by-step instructions on how to tie one's shoes. They've ranged from nine to 28 steps. Compare that with the directions for using a zipper: “Step one: Pull zipper.” That's it. Is that not more efficient? The same goes for Velcro. And don't even get me started on loafers. Furthermore, you're in Australia, land of the Blundstone. Surely you're familiar enough with modern elastic technology that you must concede that shoelaces no longer have a place in modern society.

IAN: I believe you may have totally missed the point of my web site. True, I'm using the not-quite-outdated technology of the Internet to teach the old-world skill of shoelace tying, albeit with a few modern innovations. However, I've long ago abandoned the idea that my site would appeal to the ultra-modern kids of today that rely on high-speed / no-brain shoelace alternatives like Velcro or zippers. To do so would probably require me to translate the pages into “efficient” vowel-starved SMS shorthand like: “Hld th lft lc btwn th thmb & frfngr”. No thanks!

Instead, my target audience is all those who, like myself, believe that old-world attributes like grooming, individual expression and personal excellence are sadly lacking in our modern society. We meet in cyberspace and share our knowledge and experience with like-minded people in the hope of keeping our culture rich and nudging people into bettering themselves.

That said, your contention that zippers are more efficient again misses the point. I dread a future where efficiency is placed above other considerations such as aesthetics. Indeed, were people to abandon those “unnecessary bits” like neckties, jewellery and shoelaces, would we not be taking a step back into an even more distant past? This may appeal to the Amish, but not to me.

I also believe that zippers have their shortcomings. They only do one thing, one way, same time every time. Shoelaces on the other hand can be laced dozens of different ways to suit an individual's taste: Straight lacing for formal occasions, criss-cross lacing for a traditional look, bow-tie lacing for those wanting to display more character. One can even choose to replace their laces with ones of different colours, materials or textures. As for the knots, these are also subject to individual choice: A standard knot for the traditionalists, my own “Ian Knot” for speed rivalling that of a zipper, or a secure knot for those who need extra binding strength. Even here in Australia, we have yet to develop a decent sports shoe that doesn't depend on good-old-fashioned shoelaces.

At 40-something, I guess I'm the Internet equivalent of an old fogey dispensing “In My Day” advice, but if any of this filters through, perhaps the outlook for society is not quite so bleak.

Published Article

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