The deepest fear of the Davos Man

January 27, 2011


This is part of a series written by Anya Schiffrin, author of “Bad News,” and the wife of Nobel Prize Winner Joseph Stiglitz. The opinions expressed are her own.

Shoes …

The deepest fear of the Davos Man is not fear of failure or of giving a boring speech but of falling. Not falling from the heights of being at the greatest confab of businessmen the world has ever known but of slipping on the ice that forms when the winter sun meets the piles of snow that line the streets of this Alpine resort.

An undignified tumble is, of course, highly humiliating and so it’s rarely talked about. No one admits to slipping but a highly unscientific poll conducted by me shows that nearly everyone admits to seeing someone else take a tumble at one time or another.

A friend reports that last year he saw someone roll down the driveway of the renowned Steigenberger Belvedere hotel right into the traffic of the main Promenade. Broken arms and sprained ankles have also been reported but the worst story I ever heard came from a highly placed Davos Wife who told me that one of her friends, the wife of an important Dutch Rabbi, had to be medivaced out a few years back after she was injured walking down the street.

Apparently this loyal wife still comes every year but no longer leaves her hotel room. If they ever give gold watches to Davos Wives she surely deserves one.

Icecapades may sound like a trivial topic but in fact plays into some of the key Davos preoccupations: ie the fear of looking foolish and the desire for a well-situated hotel room.

The poshest hotel is probably the Steinberger Belvedere which is not only somewhat luxurious but also convenient because so many events are held there. Even better is the Congress Hotel which is right on top of the official meeting halls. We’ve tried for years to get a room there but, of course, we’ve failed. A few years ago my husband’s secretary even argued that my husband’s back surgery meant he needed to avoid falls. We were ready to produce a doctor’s note but her request never even made it that far.

Looking at footwear is one way to see who is a veteran and who is a newbie. First-time ladies come shod in heels and, if they are from India, bejewelled flip flops. Second timers bring nice shoes and change into them when they check their coats at the Congress Hall. Old lags like me gave up wearing sexy shoes years ago and clomp around in snow boots. After all, no one is looking at me.

The problem in part lies with the fact that the Davos Man has fewer options than the Davos Wife. Appropriate footwear is for the most part unattractive and carries a whiff of the earnest tree-loving environmentalist. That is not the image that the DM wants to project. It takes a certain amount of aplomb to show up in felt-lined Timberlands with velcro straps.

With the exception of Larry Summers (kudos to him, I thought at the time) who I saw a few years ago in hiking boots at the Saturday night black tie gala, the average DM strides the streets in his black Allen Edwards wingtips and hopes for the best. I know I will be falling this year, especially after a few glasses of wine at some lengthy dinner discussion on how gruesome the world economy is. I just hope I don’t break any bones.

Photos, Top: Shoes of Davos attendees at the World Economic Forum. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

One comment

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[…] way to tell, according to the inimitable Anya Schiffrin, is by the shoes one wears. Davos Man — you shall know him by his wingtips. Attendees with a […]

Posted by Davos Roundup: Parties, Shoes and Serious Stuff – | Report as abusive


Am I supposed to, like, feel sorry for you or something? Fall flat on your face and have done with it, why dont’cha? Millions of non-Davos types brave the elements every day on the way to work and actually survive, and they don’t make millions of dollars an hour.

Posted by Gotthardbahn | Report as abusive