Politiken (Denmark) Interview

Politiken (icon)

Mar-2005: After being asked about the declining quality of shoelaces, my reply triggered an experiment in which Danish readers were requested to compare their shoelace knots to my Ian Knot.

Interview Details

  • Politiken (logo) Interviewed for: Politiken, Denmark's second largest morning newspaper
  • Interviewed by: Bjarne Schilling
  • Interviewed via: E-mail
  • Interviewed on: 09-Mar-2005

Interview Transcript (excerpts)

BJARNE: ... We then approached the shoe industry asking them if consumers could expect shoelace quality to improve, but the manager of the Danish Shoe Retailers' Organization found that the consumers themselves are to blame. His theory was that due to the rise in average body weight in the Danish population pressure within people's shoes has been rising and that is the reason for so many shoelaces breaking.

IAN: I hadn't thought about that, but I guess it's possible. It's also possible that shoelaces have ALWAYS broken that easily, but that people complain more nowadays because they expect everything to last longer.

However, my belief is that a large percentage of the population is tying slip-knots, and the constant re-tying of laces wears them out. In my own case, since I changed from a “Slip” knot to a “Reef” knot, my shoelaces broke much less often. When I subsequently developed and began using my “Ian Knot”, I found even fewer breakages because the knot is faster so I use the laces even less. Nowadays, my shoes generally wear out before the laces; I hardly ever break a lace.

BJARNE: Your theory about shoelaces being worn out because most of us are tying slip-knots (and indeed teaching our children to do the same) is most interesting.

I am therefore planning to conduct a test in the paper in which we shall have to ask our readers to participate. If we could get 50 of them to take part in the test, we could have 25 of them tying usual knots as always and 25 tying Ian Knots. We shall then of course have to monitor both groups closely – and readers in both categories must promise to report broken laces or other observations to our monitoring body immediately. In that way we should be able to gather important knowledge to the benefit of man. (And it will give me plenty to write about).

Ideally one would have to conduct a test in the same way as medical companies do, I suppose, with “Placebo” knots, but I have great difficulties in seeing how it is possible in this case.

IAN: One suggestion I could make about having Ian Knots compared with control knots is the fact that (almost) everyone has two feet. Have them tie their left shoe with the Ian Knot and their right shoe with their usual knot. This is what I did, and it was most effective; my own experiment ended when my normal knotted lace eventually wore out and broke!

Published Articles

Article #1: “Fat snørebåndene”

By Bjarne Schilling, Politiken, 05-Apr-2005


Article #2: “Ræk videnskaben en hjælpende fod”

By Linn Boesgaard and Bjarne Schilling, Politiken, 09-Apr-2005


Article Transcripts (English)

Article #1: “Grab your shoelaces”

A large scale Danish-Australian research project is now being launched in order to solve the riddle that all shoe owners know all too well: Why do shoelaces break so easily? Can we be more gentle to our shoelaces by tying them differently?

As the readers may remember, the back page has formed The Danish Association of Shoelace Users in order to put pressure on politicians as well as decision makers within the shoe industry. While we wait for the companies to improve shoelace quality, a nationwide research project now aims at gaining knowledge about the impact of tying techniques on overall shoelace durability, and the readers are of course asked to participate.

International coordinator on the project is Australian Ian Fieggen who most definitely is a capacity in this field. When it comes to tying techniques and footwear technology his abilities are second to none, and on the internet he has created a most instructive site about this particular topic. Lacing methods are also mentioned on the page. For instance Ian Fieggen has found out that if you own a shoe with six pairs of eyelets, you have 1,961,990,553,600 ways of feeding a shoelace though the 12 eyelets!

Ian Fieggen has most kindly offered his help as the project moves along and has agreed to comment on the scientific material being generated by the readers – in particular their experiences with the socalled “Ian Knot” which is described in detail at the top of this page.

“It is a great honour for be to be part of the project and I look forward to seing the test results as they emerge. There is no doubt in my mind that science will benefit from the project.”, Ian Fieggen says.

The Danish Association of Shoelace Users is acting under the patronage of actor Nis Bank-Mikkelsen, who also looks very much forward to the scientific outcome of the initiative:

“It will be incredibly exciting. You must never be afraid the try something new. And I can think of a number of reasons to take a critical look on the way we tie our shoes – and the way we teach our children to tie theirs. Furthermore I have always found it strange that we tie our shoes in the same way – regardless if it's on the left or the right foot.”, Nis Bank-Mikkelsen points out.

Nis Bank-Mikkelsen has openly descibed how his difficulties in getting durable shoelaces have forced him to live to a life in slip-on shoes.

“But occasionally I have to wear shoes with the laces – and then I am once again confronted with the problem.”, Nis Bank-Mikkelsen says.

In a few days our readers will be asked to participate in the research – the general idea being that they tie one of their shoes in the traditional manner and the other with Ian Fieggen's special knot. Our readers will be requested to note all their findings in special personal log, but all that will be explained in detail shortly.

Meanwhile, please practice the “Ian Knot”.

Oh, it's going to be exciting!

– Bjarne Schilling

Article #2: “Lend science a helping foot”


Finally we are ready to start the great Danish-Australian research project that is to show whether a new tying technique can prevent all shoe owners' worst nightmare: broken shoelaces.

The Association of Danish Shoelace Users under the patronage of actor Nis Bank-Mikkelsen has made an alliance with the Australian shoelace-icon Ian Fieggen – inventor of the “Ian Knot” or in plain Danish: Ian-knuden. The knot is a very special one as it greatly reduces shoelace tear. It has lowered the shoelace comsumption of its inventor to a minimum:

“My shoes wear out before the laces.”, the legendary tying expert says.

The research project is depending on the collection of a vast amount of data – and that is precisely where the readers are kindly requested to join in! The general idea is that readers should tie one of their shoes with the conventional lace-breaking knot and the other one with the “Ian Knot”, which is supposed to be much more gentle to the laces.

In order to collect data in a proper way the Association of Danish Shoelace Users has designed a special test log which is easily downloaded from the internet. Thereby one can make notes and collect important information in a very convenient way as the project moves along. Obviously, it should also be written in the log if shoelaces show signs of wear – or indeed if they break!

Our patron, Nis Bank-Mikkelsen, officially started the research project yesterday as he bent down to tie his own shoes with the two different knots.

He apologized for fumbling: “I'm not used to tying shoelaces”, he admitted. As the readers may remember, poor shoelace quality has forced Nis Bank-Mikkelsen to live a life in slip-on shoes.

The large scale test on Danish soil is being supervised by Ian Fieggen personally and he thinks that if our readers take part in the project in large numbers as the Association presumes, it will be a manifestation of an impressing will to learn new skills:

“It may seem like a bit of fun mixed with science, but in fact I believe there is more to it than just shoelace tying. What a society learns and subsequently passes on to its children becomes a part of culture that has an effect on their lives and the way they think about themselves. For Denmark to consider that even shoelace tying is an important skill for their citizens to learn correctly is just one example of the strength of Danish culture.”, Ian Fieggen says.

Nis Bank-Mikkelsen is a modest man, so he doesn't say directly, but tomorrow is his 60th birthday. We wonder whether the best present will not be massive support for the great project?

– Linn Boesgaard and Bjarne Schilling

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