meaning and origin of ‘another pair of shoes’


another pair of shoes - advertisement from The Bystander - 14 October 1936

Another Pair Of Shoes
Shoes are the most important of all accessories, and will make or mar a smart outfit. The group pictured above have crossed the Atlantic, and may be seen at Dolcis, 350, Oxford Street. Starting from the left is a light calf monk shoe with slit punching, a square toe, and moderate heel. Next to it is a court shoe available in calf or suède, and fitted inside with special rubber supports. Beyond is the “Hiker” three-strap shoe, in tan calf, elaborately punched. The low heel and round toe make it delightfully comfortable for walking, while the price is 49s. 6d. Finally, there is the simple tie shoe for town wear on the right, with crocodile tip and counter. It is made in calf, glacé or suède.

advertisement from The Bystander (London) of 14th October 1936



The phrase another pair of shoes means quite a different matter or state of things.

The earliest instance that I have found is from the column The Turf, in The Era (London) of 3rd September 1843:

We trust that our suggestions as to “The Cup” will, at any rate, receive a reflection from the gentlemen constituting the committee. A four-mile race is seldom a good one; half the distance, with 100 sovs [= sovereigns] added as the minimum, would make “toute autre chose*,” translated years since, as quite another pair of shoes!

(* The French expression tout autre chose means a different, or another, matter altogether. Here, tout does not agree with the feminine noun chose (meaning thing), that is to say, it is invariable because it is an adverb (meaning altogether), which modifies the adjective autre (meaning other) beginning with a vowel.)

The French equivalent of another pair of shoes is une autre paire de manches, literally another pair of sleeves. It was recorded in the first (1694) edition of the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française:

On dit proverbialement & fig. C’est une autre paire de manches, pour dire, C’est une autre affaire, ce n’est pas la mesme chose. (It is said proverbially and figuratively It is another pair of sleeves, to say, It is another matter, it is not the same thing.)

This French phrase is based on the fact that sleeves used to be separate articles of dress, which could be worn at will with any garment.

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