Inform. Inspire. Empower

My Everyday Hero: A day in the life of a Cobbler

Shoes are a staple of any closet. Preserving their style, flare and class is therefore suitable.

It’s really awful when your shoes start looking dull or that heel on your favourite pair breaks. These unceremonious incidences put a damper on your collection.

As is in most of the times, fixing the problem is inevitable and necessary. Depending on the damage, you will have to decide whether to go to the cobbler or fix the problem yourself.

Originally, working as a cobbler entailed making custom shoes. Today, many cobblers spend their days repairing and restoring shoes. For many professionals in the fields, the trade is a family craft passed through generations.

Legend

For Kariuki, he found the trade through apprenticeships at Thika some time back, way back. The Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute, that’s where it all happened.

Mr Kariuki smiles as he interacts with friends

There are some issues that polish and buffing can’t fix. In the unfortunate case of worn out soles of your shoes, you can expect the problem of sore feet. Luckily cobblers are able to repair failed waterproofing, fill holes and replace damaged soles.

It’s getting harder these days to step into a cobbler’s shoes. Shoes make the man is not just a saying in Kariuki’s case. He has been repairing shoes for over 25 years. Shoes gave his family a middle-class life, but the craft, like so many others, has been declining for decades.

These broken heels just don’t tell Kariuki about the man, but about society. A challenged middle class, Nanyuki’s evolution and a throwaway culture fed by friends from friends.

All this runs through as we pass by with a good friend. He is busy on my right-hand side adjusting his camera to capture a memory of his trip to Nanyuki.

Influx of Mitumba

Shoes have changed too. They used to be all leathers but now there’s lots of plastic and rexin. Kariuki has to figure out how each pair is constructed; some can’t be repaired.

Maybe the time for cobblers is passing, but we really need room in the economy for other people. People who aren’t going to work at the SGR or our defence forces, whatever that works might look like today.

Not everyone wants to work from computers, at least not Kariuki. What makes Kariuki feel complete is his ability to use his talent. To make a living that’s personally uplifting and that which contributes to the community.

Most people need the service that whenever I have passed by, a huge mound of shoes lies on his floor. All of which waits to be sorted and repaired. I will be bringing my pair along for repair. I would love to have it fixed by this amazing ‘shoe doctor’ who sits well composed opposite the Nanyuki mall. That reminds me; I had a bag on my shoulder whose strap needed repair. I was so excited about this talk that I remembered on my way home. I will be bringing it with me as well.

Would you trust me and carry your broken pair as well for an amazing fix? Let’s meet there.

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