Think Again (Czechia) Interview

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Apr-2008: Interview that delved into whether the type of shoelace and/or the way the shoes are laced may reveal something about the wearer.

Interview Details

  • Think Again (Czechia) logo Interviewed for: Think Again (Czechia), Prague's premier city magazine
  • Interviewed by: Katka Qurienzova
  • Interviewed via: E-mail
  • Interviewed on: 21-Apr-2008

Interview Transcript

KATKA: When did you get the first idea to observe shoelaces and collect various methods?

IAN: I first really started paying attention to other people's shoelaces about five years ago (2003) when I began adding a few lacing methods to my web site. (Up until then, the site had only really covered shoelace knots).

KATKA: What do people say when they spot you staring at them as they tie their shoes?

IAN: I try not to let them spot me!

KATKA: What does a lacing method say about someone?

IAN: Besides those methods that are chosen for a specific purpose (such as “Footbag Lacing”), a lacing method can give us a hint about someone's personality. For example, most of my shoes are laced with “Over Under Lacing” because it's very efficient, but I also use decorative methods on some of my shoes because I like to show my creativity. Fancy methods are very popular, even though they can be more difficult to use, which shows that people will go to great trouble for the sake of fashion.

Interestingly, the English term “Straight Laced” once referred to someone who was “not very interesting”. Now, because most shoes come with “Criss Cross Lacing”, people who want to be interesting use “Straight Lacing” because it's different!

KATKA: Are there specific gender-related differences? Race-related? Anything else?

IAN: Although there are no methods specifically for any gender or race, people do tend to use their own judgment about what they consider “masculine” and “feminine”. Men seem to prefer straight lines, like “Straight Bar Lacing” or “Straight European Lacing”, plus methods with military uses, like “Ladder Lacing” and “Spider Web Lacing”. Women seem more willing to adopt methods with two colors, like “Bi Colour Lacing” and “Double Lacing”, although “Checkerboard Lacing” seems to be very popular with men as well, especially in black and white.

KATKA: Are there still any new methods left to invent? If so, who's likely to do so and why?

IAN: There are countless methods still to be invented. Some people come up with them just from experimenting. Other people come up with methods to fix a particular problem. I'm often asked to create a method for a specific application. For example, I created “Hexagram Lacing” when someone asked me how to lace a six pointed star.

KATKA: Which shoelace is the best? Round, flat, leather etc?

IAN: Flat shoelaces usually stay tied the best, followed by oval, then round. Cotton shoelaces stay tied better than synthetic shoelaces, but synthetics last longer. The square leather shoelaces in boat shoes are notorious for coming undone.

KATKA: How do you tie your shoes?

IAN: I almost always use my “Ian Knot”, the world's fastest shoelace knot. On some shoes I use my “Ian's Secure Shoelace Knot”, either because it looks nicer or because the shoes have elastic shoelaces (which stay tied permanently).

KATKA: Have you noticed a difference between successful people and unsuccessful people?

IAN: I guess the main difference would be due to their choice of shoes. Many successful people wear sensible dress shoes, which are usually laced with a straight lacing method. Those who wear casual shoes or sneakers are generally more willing to try different lacing methods. Of course, many successful people wear sneakers too!

KATKA: How many possible ways of lacing exist?

IAN: If you take an average shoe with six pairs of eyelets and run a shoelace through each eyelet, there are almost two trillion ways of lacing! There are even more methods if you allow the shoelace to be woven, if you skip eyelets, or if you allow the shoelace to pass more than once through any eyelet. However, most of these methods are just hopeless tangles that would not be suitable for lacing.

A Melbourne mathematician, Burkard Polster, calculated that there are 43,200 different ways of lacing within certain sensible guidelines. Even then, many of these are not particularly useful, decorative or interesting. I'd say that there are probably only a few hundred worthwhile methods.

KATKA: Is shoelacing connected to ritual or superstition?

IAN: Most shoelace superstitions are to do with them coming undone, and usually indicate love of some sort, whereas a broken shoelace usually indicates bad luck. Some athletes have personal superstitions, such as that their shoelaces should be tied in a certain sequence.

KATKA: What is the optimal shoelace length and why?

IAN: The optimal length for a shoelace depends on the shoe and the lacing method used. Ideally, when pulled tight, the protruding shoelace ends should be about 250mm long (10 inches). This allows easy manipulation and results in a neat, medium sized bow when the shoelaces are tied.

If your shoelaces are a little bit too long or short, this can often be adjusted by using a different lacing method that uses more or less shoelace. You can cut down long shoelaces, but you will then need to replace the tips (which are called “aglets”). For big changes, it's often easiest to replace your shoelaces.

KATKA: Any shoelacing tips for our readers?

IAN: There are so many tips! The most important is to make sure that you are not tying a “Granny Knot”, which comes undone. If your knot sits crooked, such that the bow points from heel to toe instead of lying across the shoe, then you are probably tying your shoelaces incorrectly. The simple solution is to reverse the first stage of your knot (the “Starting Knot”). That is, if you tie your starting knot by putting the left end over the right end, you should instead put the right end over the left end. This will re-balance the knot, and it will both sit straight and stay secure.

KATKA: Any shoelacing superstars out there we should know about?

IAN: The only one I can think of is Jay Noblezada, a magician who developed the “Self Tying Shoelace” trick.

KATKA: Will Velcro or some other material ever make shoelaces obsolete? What would you do then?

IAN: In theory, Velcro allows you to open or close the shoe in one stroke. In practice, shoelaces have one big advantage over Velcro: A single knot at the top pulls the whole shoe tight. To close the whole shoe with Velcro would need several strips, or one huge wide strip.

At the moment, there are almost no dress shoes and almost no sports shoes with Velcro, so I think shoelaces will be around for many years yet.

Published Article

“The Art of Shoe Lacing”

By Katka Qurienzova, Think Again (Czechia), Issue 46, 01-Jun-2008

Article Transcript (Excerpt)

The Art of Shoe Lacing

You probably realize your shoes say something about who you are, but you probably thought this only referred to the type, condition, and expense of said pair of shoes.

You're about to discover another way your shoes dish the dirt. Ian Fieggen, otherwise known as professor shoelace, is an aussie with a passion for the awesome variety of lacing possibilities that exist when you combine shoelace and shoe (43,200 legitimate combinations at last count). His website is the place to go for the most complete look at what your shoelaces are saying and how to have more control over that message. Mr. Fieggen is also the author of the world's first authoritative book on lacing, appropriately entitled laces. We got his thoughts on the state of lacing today.

– The article then continued with the remainder of the original interview (as above).

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