OPINION

‘Bush shoe’ gives a Turk firm footing

Sebnem Arsu

When a pair of black leather oxfords hurled at President Bush in Baghdad produced a gasp heard around the world, a Turkish cobbler had a different reaction: They were his shoes.

“We have been producing that specific style, which I personally designed, for 10 years, so I couldn’t have missed it, no way,” said Ramazan Baydan, a shoemaker in Istanbul. “As a shoemaker, you understand.”

Although his assertion has been impossible to verify — cobblers from Lebanon, China and Iraq have also staked claims to what is quickly becoming some of the most famous footwear in the world — orders for Baydan’s shoes, formerly known as Ducati Model 271 and since renamed “The Bush Shoe,” have poured in from around the world.

A new run of 15,000 pairs, destined for Iraq, went into production on Thursday, he said. A British distributor has asked to become the Baydan Shoe Co.’s European sales representative, with a first order of 95,000 pairs, and a U.S. company has placed an order for 18,000 pairs. Four distributors are competing to represent the company in Iraq, where Baydan sold 19,000 pairs of this model for about $40 each last year.

Five thousand posters advertising the shoes, on their way to the Middle East and Turkey, proclaim “Goodbye Bush, Welcome Democracy” in Turkish, English and Arabic.

For now, Baydan’s customers will have to take his word for it. The journalist who launched the shoes at a news conference a week ago, Muntader al-Zaidi, 29, was wrestled to the ground by guards and has not been seen in public since. Explosives tests by investigators destroyed the offending footwear.

But Baydan insists he recognises his shoes.

Throwing a shoe at someone is a gross insult in Arab countries, and Bush is widely unpopular in much of the region.

Noting the spike in sales, Serkan Turk, Baydan’s general manager, said, “Bush served some good purpose to the economy before he left.” — New York Times News Service

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