With shops in London, Paris and New York Crockett and Jones are long established English shoemakers that produce high quality Goodyear welted shoes for people who care about what they wear on their feet. Competing in the highly competitive footwear market they have managed to stay ahead of the game by producing elegant and tasteful shoes that appeal to a wide audience including yours truly. The frozen northerner has been an avid fan of this talented shoemaker for over a decade, then as now the shop I usually visit is situated opposite Wilton’s restaurant on Jermyn Street, since I first ventured into this store they have for some unfathomable reason added a second shop on the same street which I find hard to comprehend. Never mind, on that first visit twelve years ago I had no idea what I was going to buy, as I was stunned by quality and choice on offer, one thing was sure, I wasn’t going to leave this place empty handed, settling on a excellent pair of “Grasmere” derbies I have to say they have proven to be a sound investment. These shoes have been worn endlessly and are still as good as new, therefore it should it should come as no surprise that over the last dozen years I have acquired numerous pairs of Crockett and Jones shoes. So what is the object of affection that I crave on this latest shopping pilgrimage, loafers, if you are an avid reader of this blog you will know that I have more than a slight fascination with loafers and in particular Bass Weejuns. For me to buy a pairs of loafers other than the famed Weejuns, is to stray from a road that has served me well for many a long summer (I do own a rather beautiful pair of Florsheim suede loafers but that a distraction that needs to discussed at a future date). However, Crockett and Jones have stolen my heart with their fabulous “Cavendish” loafer; although they stock them in various colours and materials, you have got to buy their tasselled dark brown calf skinned gems, boy are these beauties going to see some action this summer both at home and abroad. I have always believed that loafers are an American thing, best made by companies such as Bass, Alden, Rancourt and the previously mentioned Florsheim, but these C&J Northampton made loafers are as good as gets. Over the past couple of years I have probably neglected this outstanding shoemaker which is mistake that has to be rectified, so the next time you are strolling along Jermyn Street pop into both Crockett and Jones shops because at the moment they have outstanding products.
Due to pressure of work my contributions to the frozen northerner blog has been a bit scratchy of late hopefully, my future itinerary may be a little bit lighter, but who knows. So where to start, I thought a good place to start is to talk about something that I slightly obsessed with and that is shoes. In their 1992 spring edition, Arena magazine offering you the chance to win a pair of Oliver Sweeney’s storm derby shoes, these much sought after shoes were regularly featured in the magazine and were worn by such luminaries as Richard Jobson and Bruce Oldfield to name but two. It is probably fair to say that Oliver Sweeney probably made his name off the back off of these wonderful shoes, since that time the frozen northerner has purchased good few pairs of his shoes, but my relationship with this company is complicated, sometimes they have shoes that are my must have list, other times they stock shoes that I wouldn’t give a second glance. Oliver Sweeney initially made his name as head of design at MacAfee, before starting out on his own with a concession in Harrods in 1990, it took him a while to get firmly established but in 2003 opening his first flagship store on the King’s Road. Oliver Sweeney shoes which have often been described as “classic with a twist” are mostly made in the Marche region of Italy, where their main factory is based and are usually very Italian influenced. However, despite the fact they were producing great shoes the overall business was not doing so well and in 2009 the company were saved from administration by Amery Capital, who brought in Tim Cooper to oversee the company, Cooper’s influence on the company is there for everyone to see, since joining the company it has gradually expanded and now has 6 beautifully laid out stores, 4 in London as well as 1 in Manchester and 1 in Leeds,( the Leeds store is my personal favourite, situated in the Victoria Quarter, it is run by a very caring and understanding staff). Oliver Sweeney sadly is no longer involved with the company which is a crying shame however, under Cooper the company has shown steady growth, although their shoes are regarded as the mainstay of the company they have of late started to develop a nice line of menswear, which is fine but I am not sure if I approve of this change in direction, I am a firm believer in doing what you do well, which is shoes. Oliver Sweeney may not be everyone’s cup of tea and yours truly has a kind of love/hate relationship with this shoemaker, are their shoes than better than Crockett and Jones maybe not, but that doesn’t stop producing some very interesting numbers, so go check out their shops for yourself because like me they may just have pair of shoes that will you fall in love with.
Last year in June The Shoe Snob aka Justin Fitzpatrick started asking for donations to support his expanding shoe company, I saw this as a possible worrying way to try and help his business but nevertheless in time of trouble you have to do, what you have to do. Added to this Justin was not having the greatest of times on the domestic front and with all of these things going on, I seriously wondered how his company was going to continue and expand. I still continued to follow The Shoe Snob blog relentlessly but I was bit unsure where everything was going, whether he was cracking under the pressure, feeling the strain of running his business. Having bought my first pair of J Fitzpatrick shoes when he a small concession within Saville Row tailors Gieves and Hawkes I dutifully followed him to Timothy Everest in Brunton Place, Mayfair, although I have to say that the love affair that had started so brightly was starting to show signs of cracking, J Fitzpatrick shoes is now based at 16a Dufours Place in Soho, I have not visited his new shop and to be honest I was seriously questioning if I would ever purchase another pair of his shoes. However his latest collection of GMTO (group made to order shoes) is likely to bring back into the fold, his Blue Ridge button boots using a combination of leather and suede are a joy as are “Roosevelt” suede oxfords. When he makes shoes like these I genuinely believe he as good as anyone out within his price range, but beware the competition is ferocious and getting tougher, my admiration for Justin is strong and with shoes like these, he is hopefully right back at the top of his game.
Blog 37 revealed the frozen northerner’s weakness for loafers, which he wears religiously every year from spring to autumn, but what else will adorn my feet throughout the summer months as I chase that elusive perfect suntan. For me personally the warmer weather will demand that you have at your disposal at least one good pair of boat shoes, one good pair sandals and one good pair of car shoes. When I am at home in my Northumbrian coastal village I will probably take my evening stroll in a pair of boat shoes, these casual classics are best made in America by companies like Sebago, Timberland or Sperry all of whom construct an excellent product, personally for me the Sperry Top Sider in Amaretto (as shown above) is without peer and is the preferred choice of the frozen northerner. I never wear sandals at home, only abroad; sandals in my opinion are a bit more of an acquired taste and are certainly not to everyone’s taste, they are a lot more popular on the continent than they are here in the north east. Pricing for sandals vary greatly, but please avoid the dreaded crocs at all times because being caught in a pair of these monstrosities is a crime against humanity. Ridiculous amounts of money are being for sandals with companies such as Bottega Veneta, Gucci and Brioni charging as much as £500 for a pair, you would have to be out your tiny mind to pay those kind of prices, so use a little bit of restraint and purchase a pair Menorcan sandals, these gems can be obtained very reasonably in this country, but if you happen to Spain you will not believe how cheap they are, so buy at least two or three pairs. Finally, a word on car shoes, when I go to Italy in the summer the Italian male both young and old go crazy for these shoes and as always when discussing Italians in the sartorial stakes they seem to pull off this look off with consummate ease. Car shoes have now also become hugely popular in Britain, depending on where you shop prices can range up from about £80 to £300, although at Car Shoe you can pay anywhere up to a £1100 for a pair made from crocodile leather, which are very beautiful, but these would be a very extravagant purchase and at the moment are completely out of reach for the frozen northerner, who is just not in the financial situation to justify buying such an item. The problem you have with car shoes is that the sole wears out very quickly and cannot be replaced, thus leaving you with the problem of how much do want to pay out on a yearly basis, Marks and Spencer do an excellent pair for about £80 whereas J Fitzpatrick’s car shoes come in at £145 while the best two manufacturers of car shoes, Tods and Car Shoe fall into that £300 and above category, in my view Car Shoe make the best product but the price is a little rich for my blood, therefore, I have settled for the J Fitzpatrick model which my opinion is extremely good value for money. So, with summer not too far away, please get out there and have good look around as to what is out there, because there is some really good summer footwear about and that’s before I even start to talk about the Rubinacci espadrilles, which will be discussed at a later date.
J Fitzpatrick Car Shoes
Car Shoe’s Crocodile Only if you are Gianni Agnelli
When Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) decides that the only way to save Eve Kendall (Eve Marie Saint) is by climbing down Mount Rushmore in the great movie North by NorthWest I am always faced with the same dilemma, I am seriously concerned about the safety of Miss Kendall or am I more worried about the damage that Thornhill is going to do his newly purchased Bass Weejun loafers, while attempting to descend down the face of the monument. Much as I love Cary Grant, The Frozen Northerner cannot believe that Grant would be risk ruining a pair of the greatest loafers of all time just to save Miss Kendall. Bass Weejuns are a timeless classic and are only loafers that are ever worn by your truly, today all high end shoemakers make loafers and in reality you could spend a fortune on expensive loafers such the John Lobb Lopez loafer, but believe me no matter how much you spend on loafers, they are never ever going to look better than a pair of Weejuns. If you must wear something other than Weejuns then please wear Alden, Rancourt or Sebago because loafers are really an American thing (please don’t scream to me about Gucci loafers these are for sleazeballs only).The Frozen Northerner currently has eight pairs in his shoe collection and this Weejun obsession is showing no sign of abating, I have them in all of the colours and I like them with tassel end laces, tassels or tassel free, which ones do I prefer the most, that is a question that is impossible to answer because I love them all. Much has been written about these loafers and I am certainly not going to try and produce another piece of work outlining their history and popularity which might leave the impression that I am expert on Weejuns, I am not, I just love these enduring moccasins. If really want to understand just how good they really are then I suggest that purchase a copy of The Ivy Look by Graham Marsh and JP Gaul and flick to page 24, here on this one page you will find all need to know about Weejuns and why they are great. Let’s be honest you are never going to as sophisticated and stylish as Cary Grant was in a pair of Weejuns, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop trying.
The Christmas period saw the frozen northerner spend a couple of days in London, as usual when visiting the metropolis it took me on my customary pilgrimage to John Simons www.johnsimons.co.uk in Marylebone, as normal it was packed with the type of clothes and shoes I love to buy. Recently Mr Simons has produced his own brand loafers made in collaboration with the American shoemakers Rancourt and Co. these are beautiful shoes that have been meticulously made by a very good shoemaker, however they paled in comparison to the Rancourt wingtip brogues that he had on offer and which just had to be purchased despite being way over my budget. Now I know I am prone to exaggeration, but these Rancourt wingtips may just be the best shoes I have ever bought which is some statement given that English shoemakers pride themselves on making the best brogues in the world. Most blogs that I follow rarely talk about American made shoes, blogs such as The Shoe Snob, Permanent Style Parisian Gentleman etc tend to look down their nose at them which is shame. I however love them, as well as Rancourt other good makes include brands such as Allen Edmonds, Florsheim and possibly the best American shoe maker Alden. Rancourt like Alden are a family run company that have built their reputation on the quality of their product, Only a few shops in Britain stock any of these brands so major research is required if want purchase rare classics, fortunately, Alden can be found in the north-east at End Clothing www.endclothing.co.uk but only in limited stock but there no chance of finding Rancourt up here that is just not going to happen, the only place you are going to get these are online or possibly that the Simons shop. So if you are interested in buying a little piece of Americana then check out blogs such www.ivystyle.com or www.acontinuouslean.com which are dedicated to supporting original made in America brands. So during this winter period when you need a good pair of sturdy shoes think American and buy yourself a pair of shoes that will stand the test of time and will endure for many years to come.
In my last blog, I pointed out that the main reason I visit London is to go to two particular shops Oi Polloi and John Simons, whilst this is true, I also go for the shoe shops. Having visited a lot of big cities in Europe as well as couple of major North American cities I am fairly convinced that London cannot be beaten when it comes to buying shoes. Jermyn Street is as good as gets and have some outstanding brands, ranging from the top to middle range in terms of price. The men behind such blogs as Permanent Style or Parisian Gentleman will never be seen in anything but top end luxury brands and I am getting the impression that The Grey Fox may be heading in the same direction which would hugely disappoint me. So when I do shoes, I normally take the advice of The Shoe Snob aka Justin Fitzpatrick who not only makes great shoes, but gives sound advice as to what is value for money. So on my last trip I decided to bypass Jermyn Street and head for Harrods, to take a look at a pair of shoes made exclusively for Harrods by Sutor Matellassi and hopefully, if purchased grab a little bit of that Marcello Mastroianni style.
Now, as you well know I am not a fan of department stores in this country or any other country for that matter and Harrods is exactly the same. Large department stores lack that personal touch that I find in independent shops where, because they are often small establishments, people appear to have a genuine interest in what they sell. Mr Fitzpatrick in one of his blogs had pointed out that he found the Matellassi’s a little bit conservative. Maybe that was the reason I didn’t buy them, or it may have been my dislike of department stores, I really don’t know. It could also stem from the fact that they were a little bit on the pricey side and this may also have influenced me. Normally I am jumping up and down at the thought of Italian shoes, but these ones left me rather disappointed, especially as it has taken me a long time to save up for them. Therefore a word of warning when it comes to buying shoes, the Sutor Matellassi’s looked absolutely brilliant on the internet, not so much in the shop. The internet can be a highly seductive place and you may think this is the way forward, but when it comes to buying shoes I would strongly advise you to go to the shop before deciding, not your front room.