In the following sentence:

Unless your work is pro-bono, you should make sure that your customers keep you in shoe leather.

What does "keeping someone in shoe leather" means?

  • 2
    "keep shoes on your feet", i.e. provide you with income to meet your needs. "Keep you in shoe leather" is not an idiom. Mar 3 '14 at 10:32
  • 1
    Yes, it's surprisingly hard to find references on the internet (though Dickens used the idiom). 'Keep the wolf from the door' and 'put the bread on the table' are perhaps more widely used expressions. The latter is very transparent; the other two are unpredictable if not very opaque. Mar 3 '14 at 10:36
  • Presumably you would use shoe-leather if the job you have entails a lot of walking.
    – Oldcat
    Mar 3 '14 at 17:51

StoneyB over at ELL answered your question rather well:

The phrase at hand, keep you in shoe leather, means, literally, to provide you enough revenue to pay for maintaining your shoes—more generally, to cover the costs of keeping your business open and maintaining the value of your capital investment.

More interesting information about the phrase can be found at the full answer.

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