An Introduction to Quality English Footwear – part 1
They say you can’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. But how can you be expected to do that when poorly constructed shoes barely last the journey.
Let’s be honest, Australia doesn’t have a long history of artisan shoemakers like our mother country. So, when it comes down to what most men put on their feet each morning, they are often the type which are poorly constructed, with cemented soles (where the sole is attached with an adhesive and no welting is used) with a soft, turned-up toe in mediocre quality leather.
Our choices are admittedly limited but many Australian men don’t seem to know where to look or what to look for.
Personally, I was exposed to quality footwear from a young age. My father, born and raised in England, owned a pair of chukkas from Loake and oxfords from Crockett and Jones. In 2014, I moved to London where I lived and worked for two and half years – this is where my real appreciation for quality English shoes started.
Located just 45 miles from London, Northampton has the greatest concentration of high-quality artisan shoemakers in the world – and they come with a long prestigious history too. The likes of Crockett and Jones, Edward Green, Trickers, John Lobb and Joseph Cheaney have all been around since the 1800’s, many of which are still manufacturing shoes from their original factories. It’s hard not to get swept up in the heritage – and for good reason too. The quality of leather and Goodyear welted construction are just some of the hallmarks of a quality English shoe.
So here is a quick rundown of some of my favourite English brands – brands that I have personally tried and can attest to their quality.
Entry Level: Loake Shoemakers
Loake is a family run business that has been making Goodyear welted shoes since 1880.
Their premium 1880 range emulates the way they first manufactured their handmade shoes more than 130 years ago. They combine traditional bench-grade shoemaking techniques with the highest quality materials and handwork. Loake also design and produce a range of shoes outside the UK, using a variety of constructions (such as Blake stitch) enabling them to offer shoes for any occasion at a more affordable price point.
Prices start at around £160 including VAT and therefore offers an affordable introduction into the world of Goodyear welted shoes. Personally, I believe they offer incredible bang for your buck. Luckily for us gentlemen in Brisbane, David Jones and Myer stock a very limited range of Loake shoes, so you can go in-store, compare the quality and detail to your current shoes and try them on (as it can be bit tricky at first to select your right size).
Mid-Range: Crockett and Jones
Founded in 1879, Crockett and Jones specialise in the manufacturer of high quality Goodyear welted shoes. To this day, the business is owned and managed by the great grandson of its co-founder, Charles Jones, who still retains the tradition of attention to detail, quality, comfort and durability that was the hallmark of their founders.
Crockett & Jones produces both men’s and women’s footwear with three collections offered for men: Hand Grade; Main (or bench grade) Collection; and Shell Cordovan Collection.
I personally own 8 (just 8!) pairs of shoes and boots from Crockett and Jones. Some may say that owning 8 pairs of shoes full stop is excessive, let alone from the same manufacturer, but every pair has a different role and suited to different environments. It is also important that you own at least two pairs of shoes so that you don’t wear the same pair every day – not only will your investment last longer but the leather your shoes are made from need time to dry and re-gain their shape.
Crockett and Jones are a brand I find myself returning to time and time again, not only for their excellent quality of leather and construction, but also for their terrific after-care experience and very competitive pricing, starting at around £340 including VAT for main collection, £520 for hand grade and £560 for shell cordovan. In my opinion, Crockett and Jones represent one of the best quality to price ratio I have come across.
Stay tune next week for Part 2 of An Introduction to Quality English Footwear. Aaron will explain why it’s important to invest in a pair, or many pairs, of quality, handmade shoes.
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