The Market Cap shoe in whiskey leather, made by Samuel Hubbard, is the dream shoe for columnist Herb Benham.

Courtesy of Samuel Hubbard

Recently, I bought a new pair of shoes. New shoes are one of life's greatest pleasures. The promise is that nothing ever could ever go wrong in your life again.

The shoes were called Market Caps. They sounded like the name of a fund. Something Fidelity might have on its roll sheet that had been enjoying double-digit gains.

The Market Caps came in whiskey leather. I like most things about whiskey: the way it tastes, the way it makes me feel and the way it looked on my new pair of shoes.

The shoes were made by Samuel Hubbard. The soft leather uppers were produced in Portugal. Portugal sounded like the kind of place that could make soft leather uppers. 

Two years ago, I had bought a pair of black shoes from Samuel Hubbard called Founder. They were so comfortable I gave away my other shoes. With a pair of black shoes, and now the whiskey leathers, I was set. I could get married or buried.

The shoes arrived in their own handsome box, a box so handsome, I thought about keeping it. The pair came with thick, soft brown laces, Laces that always stay tied even with one knot.

I was in love. I'd never gotten so many compliments and not just from friends. I was walking under the Chester Avenue bridge and a homeless man said, and he was 10 feet away, “I love your shoes, man.”

I was so moved that I felt like stopping, taking off the shoes and giving them to him. I didn't because I can think one charitable thing, give myself credit for the thought and move on as if I were a better man.

A week ago, when I put them on I noticed three black spots on the top of the right shoe. Mud, maybe, I can brush mud off.

The mud didn’t budge. Not with spit. Not with a dry, worried finger.

I hadn't cooked bacon in them. Coffee? Red wine? Motor oil?

Spots lurk everywhere. As you get older, it's like being in a snowstorm but it's a spotstorm. Spots pounce when your guard is down, when you’re tired, when you’re having a good time or when you've taken credit for a charitable deed without actually having done it.

Thank goodness for the Internet. The Internet suggested sprinkling cornstarch or baby powder on the shoe and letting it sit overnight. The starch or powder would draw the grease or unidentified foreign spot material from the leather and the next day all you had to was brush the shoe off and voila.

I sprinkled cornstarch on the shoe and let it sit overnight. The next morning I brushed off the shoe and for a minute, one glorious minute, I thought the black spots were gone. They weren't, the spots were hiding behind a cornstarch dust storm. If anything, the black spots looked bigger and darker, like a solar eclipse in triplicate.

This was like drying out a phone you've dropped in the bath by putting it in a bag of rice. That one never worked for me either and I've used half of Vietnam's rice supply trying to raise a signal.

I emailed Samuel Hubbard. Asked Daniella, my customer service representative, if they had any leftover whiskey leather color. I didn’t need much. Just a squinch.

I also told her that I loved the shoes. I mentioned the compliment that I had received from the homeless man. I wasn't trying to play the homeless card but if I had been, I wanted her to know that I don't take their problems lightly and once gave a coat away to a guy on the corner, although I didn't mention that.

Daniella was sympathetic. A few days ago, she sent this email:

“Hello Herb,

I hope you are having a great day! I know that you said you really love the Market Caps in the Whiskey color! So, I went ahead and sent you a replacement pair!

Send the ones you have back to us. That's it!

I also provided a link with information about caring for your leather shoes! What to do before wearing them and as you go:)”

Life can break your heart or surprise you when you least expect it to. I know one thing. When the time comes to pass on the shoes, I know somebody who would really appreciate them.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at or 661-395-7279.

(1) comment


The real question Herb is whether you can rock the Samuel Hubbard Uptown Mavericks. Cool shoe but take a certain degree of style...

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