28 May 2020

Secretly Judging You By Your Shoelaces

Day 75 of quarantine.  Most of us have been on lockdown since π Day, the 74th day of this year.  This means we have been on lock down for more than half of the days in the year.  This also reason (or excuse) I have not put on real pants or real shoes since 14 March 2020.

Speaking of shoes, there is a detail on shoes that I have noticed since I watched an episode of Columbo.  The episode named "An Exercise in Fatality" (Season 4, Episode 1), staring Robert Conrad as the protagonist opposite Peter Falk.  Spoiler Alert!  The case is solved by Columbo when he notices the shoelaces on the victim's shoes.

So, for decades, I have been obsessing over not just shoes, but laces.  How the shoes are laced, and how they are tied.  I have always wanted to write up this tutorial-like post...so excited.  Here is a sample of my laces:

Proper lacing and tying of shoelaces...according to me

Keep this first image in mind, I will get to the details later.  There are many ways to lace up shoes.  Many of them are more for artistic and aesthetic reasons with funky patterns, twisting the laces, using different laces.  Most of these methods are not functional, meaning they do not secure the shoe as well, at least not efficiently.  We are going to look at three basic, and very similar ways to lace up.  The difference is in the details that nerds like me (probably only me) will notice and secretly judge you by.

First, we will take a look at the most common way shoes are laced up.

Common lace up
Go get a pair of trainers and look at the laces.  They are most likely going to be laced like the image above.  This is the common way to lace shoes when they leave the factory.  Sometimes only the first few eyelets are laced, but they usually start out the same.

In, out, out, out...
This technique starts with the aglet going into the first eyelets, then it goes out the remaining holes as we go up the eyestay.  The question is, why this pattern?

I have not figured out  the reason why the manufactures want an 'overhand' approach on the first set of holes, then use and 'underhand' approach for the remaining holes.  It just does not seem efficient to change 'attack angles'.  Why not pick one direction and and go with that?

Chevrons pointing up towards leg, huge pentagon gap

Keep in mind, that I am obsessively concerned about this stuff...in an unhealthy way.

This way of lacing creates an eyesore in negative space.   In the image above, note the chevrons (negative space between laces) are pointing upward.  The main eyesore is the pentagon or inverted home plate shape at the bottom that is created using this default lacing pattern.  Depending on the distance between the eyelets and thickness of laces, this gap can be really stick out.

It just seems like such a huge gap between the row one and two, and row two and three.  While the other rows are relatively even spaced and aesthetically pleasing, that bottom negative space is triggering all sorts of OCD alarms.

Here is one solution:

Alternate lacing method

We start off by going under, lacing from the inside-out, and continue until the end.  Simple.

Lacing from the inside-out, underhand method

Using this method, all the laces are going in the same way and you have nice, uniformed spacing between the laces.  I first noticed this method in dress shoes...you know, because of details.

Chevrons pointing up
Pro tip:  I used to work at a skating rink and we periodically had to lace up new skates or re-lace rental skates.  The underhand method is faster and more efficient.  Also, if you just want to lace up fast and do not care about pattern, you start off normally, then you lace up two holes at ones.  Two on the right, laces parallel, two on the left, two right, two left...etc.  While it is not the best way to lace skates, it is the fastest.  Take it from me, I was one of the fastest skate-lacers in the county.

Instead of going from the inside-out, I use the overhand method to lace up.  The first thing I do when I get the shoes home it to undo and re-lace both shoes.  I always start with the left shoe.  Why?  Because I am crazy, you should know that by now.

When I started playing hockey and needed my skates to fit snug and stay on.  So, I adopted the 'outside-in' approach of lacing. This method does a better job of 'locking' the laces, ensuring a tighter fitting skate.  I just transferred this technique over to my daily footwear.

Outside-in method

Keep it consistent, with even spacing of the chevrons, as shown in this and the previous approach to lacing.

Chevrons pointing down towards toes

Because we are coming in from the outside, instead of going out from the inside, the chevrons are reversed.  They point down...they also point forward to the 'normal' direction of travel.

In addition, I have the laces overlap on in alternating pattern to create a uniform look

For example, on the right shoe (pictured), the right side of the lacing overlaps the left.  Of course, this is reversed on the left show. Remember that first photo?

Of course, I take it one step further.  Noticed how the laces are tied.

Hold on.  Go get a pair of shoes and tie both laces like you normally do.  They probably look like this:

"Right-handed bow"
..or this:

"Left-handed bow"

Now compare your bows to mine.  Yes, my method of tying might be a little different than yours. Some people use the 'butterfly', some use the 'bunny ears', some use the 'wrap around'.  There are other process you can use to tie your bow, it will usually slant to one side.  Your pair of bows are most likely both rest leaning to the same side, either right or left, like (traditional) windshield wipers.

Leaning to the left, Left-handed bow

If you tie a 'right-handed bow', it will always rest leaning to the right.  No matter how you twist the bow, it will rest leaning to the right...and vice versa. A left leaning bow can only be accomplished by tying a 'left-handed bow'.  I doubt these are officially called "right-handed" or "left-handed" bows/knots, but you get the idea.

Right-handed bow leans to the right

Spoiler Alert!  In that Columbo episode, the 'handedness' of the bow on the victim's shoe was what solved the case for Columbo.

Note that the angle of my bow follows angle and direction of the laces, and they are mirrored to each other.  I always lace and tie my shoelaces so they have a forward momentum look, and so they have the same 'flow'.  This can only happen if the bows are tied in reverse of each other.  The "left-handed" bow is tied on the left shoe, while the "right-handed bow" is on the right shoe.

Mirrored look
Yes, I taught myself to tie ambidextrous bows, just so I can achieve 'mirrored' bows.  No one ever notices this, but now that you know this phenomenon exists, you cannot unsee it.

Does it make me run or skate faster? No. Does it mean I am crazy?  Very likely!  But, if I get murdered by Robert Conrad and he puts shoes on me afterwards and ties some random bows, Columbo will notice that the bows do not match my other shoes, and the case will be solved.

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