Good classic gentlemen’s shoes are not only an important feature of a formal outfit for the man with a good taste. They can also play an important role in making your first impression on other people – in business or privately. Also, many females with good taste claim to judge men by their shoes – “That is the first thing I look at”. Simply speaking, good shoes are an excellent investment.
Shoes for formal occasions should normally be black. However, the old saying “no browns after six” has lost a lot of its relevance in recent years with dressing down and a general relaxation of rules, but this still applies to formal evening invitations. The fashion of wearing brown shoes has come from Italy, where light brown shoes are perfectly alright for a dark suit and this has now spread to the rest of the world. However, there are some people who have eccentric habits such as, for example, London star chef Marco Pierre White, who always wears his suede shoes without any socks no matter what the weather is. Formula 1 mogul Bernie Ecclestone prefers to wear his monk shoes with the flap half-open, like a pair of wings.
Good classic leather shoes should never be worn two days running so that they can dry and air sufficiently. The leather sole has the advantage of absorbing moisture during the day. For rainy days, one or two pairs of shoes with a thin rubber sole glued to the leather sole will safeguard the shoe and your feet. A proper thick rubber sole will also be good enough for a day in the country.
Apart from some American and continental European shoe brands, it is clearly the English shoe manufacturers, most of them based in Northampton (about one and a half hours north-west of London), who lead the global up-market shoe industry. Northampton has a history of shoe-making going back to Cromwellian times (17th century) and the British Civil War. It was with the help of industrialisation that England became the leading country in the world for classic men’s shoes. The below features on the various best international classic shoe manufacturers are in alphabetical order:
The Alden Shoe Company is a family owned business with a history that now spans four generations of shoe makers. Charles H. Alden founded the Alden Shoe Company in 1884 in Middleborough, Massachusetts. In 1931 when Mr. Alden retired, the remaining shares of the Alden Shoe Company were acquired by the Tarlow family and the factory was moved to Brockton, Massachusetts, and continued production there until 1970, when it was enlarged. Along with producing Goodyear welted men's traditional shoes of extraordinary quality, the research and development of orthopaedic products has contributed greatly to the comfort and fit of Alden's traditional dress footwear. Alden’s innovations have been removable golf spikes and the original pattern for the now world-famous 1948 tassel moccasin design.
In 1922, Elbert W. Allen founds the company with the vision to produce shoes that last. William Edmonds joins the company in the 1930s and is responsible for marketing. World War II provides a big boost for Allen-Edmonds as the Army is a big customer and the soldiers become very satisfied customers, many of them for the rest of their lives. In the 1980s, the old factory is destroyed and former head of international sales, John Stollenwerk, takes over from the family as owner and president. This function he still holds today. Allen-Edmonds has always been the ultimate customer experience offering not only the best shoes, but also the best service such as re-crafting of worn-out shoes. Allen-Edmonds considers shoe-making an art: “Every pair is crafted by hand, in a process that includes 212 different production steps, because that's what it takes to make the most comfortable, longest lasting shoes you'll ever wear.”
Berluti was founded in 1895 by Alessandro Berluti, who had come to France to establish himself as a craftsman shoemaker. Berluti grew and flourished under the successive guidance of Torello Berluti, Talbinio Berluti and, to the present day, Olga Berluti. Olga Berluti is the creator of the men's shoes which bear her name. In 1993, LVMH acquired the brand with the objective, shared with the creator of Berluti shoes, of assuring global expansion while preserving the soul of the business. In 1996, there was an expansion and renovation of the historical shop in the rue Marbeuf (8th arrondissement) in Paris and the creation by Olga Berluti of five new lines (Tatoués, Guerrier, Dandy, Esprit de la Couture, Lasso) and an infinite variety of colours. In the same year, Berluti's ready-to-wear workshop at Ferrara, Italy, was acquired, in order to assure development coupled with quality control. Berluti’s ambition is to become the international benchmark for truly elegant footwear for men.
Church's Shoes was founded in 1873 by three brothers who brought together under one roof the cottage industry skills involved in shoe-making at the time. The company's headquarters are still based in Northampton in England. Church's used the same combination of quality craftsmanship and the world's finest leathers to produce the Church English Shoe Collection. The collection of ‘Handmade Custom Grade’ shoes offers premier shoes to experience the finest in comfort, quality and style. In a changing world, these classic English styles form a lasting impression. The 250 operations and eight weeks of craftsmanship using the very finest leathers to produce every single pair of shoes for today's well-dressed gentleman is legendary. Church & Co. still manufacture Church branded footwear at their St James factory in Northampton, which is possibly the largest single unit in Europe manufacturing high quality Goodyear welted shoes. Church also has the ability to satisfy the individual needs of customers who want to make use of "made-to-order" services as well as a first class repair service.
Crockett & Jones:
Crockett & Jones was founded in 1879 in Northampton by Charles Jones and his brother-in-law, James Crockett. Now in its fourth generation, Crockett & Jones remains committed to maintaining the highest standards of traditional craftsmanship, quality and service, which have been appreciated by its customers for more than 100 years. Hand-crafted by the traditional Goodyear-welted manufacturing method using only the finest leathers available, Crockett & Jones shoes have an exceptional combination of comfort, elegance and durability in wear. Each pair takes up to eight weeks to be manufactured, in a highly skilled process involving over 200 separate operations. Crockett & Jones are today renowned throughout the world as being one of Britain’s finest shoemakers - well known for their refined style and elegance.
Founded in 1849, Lobb is one of England's oldest makers of bench-made shoes, worn by clients such as King Edward VII (1901-1911, who was Edward, Prince of Wales from 1863-1901), famous 20th century opera tenor Enrico Caruso or actor Daniel Day Lewis. Hermes acquired John Lobb in 1976 and took over everything except the original John Lobb bespoke shoe shop on London's St. James's Street. Whilst the original, family-owned Lobb in St. James's Street still makes shoes one pair at a time, Hermes has broadened the reach of the Lobb brand name through its ready-made shoes. Of all Lobb shoe models the double monk strap William model pictured on the opposite side is the most popular and famous model of all. At Lobb, special care is taken to select the fine leather skins (with crocodile skin shoes for about USD 1500 at the top of the range) and many of the shoes feature topstitching on the vamp and sole. The traditional British stitching on the bottom of the sole is done entirely by hand. The production of each pair of John Lobb shoes is so time-consuming that only about 100 pair of shoes are finished per day.
New & Lingwood:
In 1865, New and Lingwood was founded in Eton by Ms. New and Mr. Lingwood, who married later, but the name still stands for excellent service and quality products. This enabled New & Lingwood to gain official status as outfitters to Eton College and has served many generations of Etonians, many of whom come from old aristocratic or just very wealthy families. Since 1922, when New & Lingwood opened a shop in 53 Jermyn Street, old Etonians and other customers alike can enjoy the personal service in London, such as having bespoke shoes made. The range of classic shoes offered by New & Lingwood was significantly extended in 1972, when the old and famous shoes and boot making company Poulsen Skone was acquired. This meant maintaining, if not increasing, the high standards inherited of making superb classic shoes.
Ludwig Reiter was established in 1885 in imperial Vienna by the Bohemian born shoemaker Ludwig Reiter who opened his own workshop. He soon becomes famous for his fine welted boots, which he even delivered to the imperial guards. In 1919, Ludwig Reiter II expanded his father’s business with the experience he gained during many years at shoe factories in Europe and in America. In 1934, Ludwig Reiter becomes a factory, producing elegant welted men's and ladies' shoes under the brands "Fox" and "Piccadilly". In the 1980s and the 1990s Ludwig Reiter went through a renaissance, which saw a big expansion of the business. Now there are not only the traditional classic gentleman shoes but also elegant lady shoes under the label of ‘Anna Reiter’.
In 1829, Joseph Barltrop and his wife Claire Louise Tricker founded one of the oldest English shoe manufacturers called Tricker Ltd. Five generations later, his family continue to apply the same traditional crafts and skills in the production of the world renowned Tricker’s shoes. Tricker shoes has a the Royal warrant from His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales. But not only Prince Charles but also his sons Prince William and Prince Harry are customers. The manufacturing home of Tricker’s is Northampton, using the best available materials, including calf upper leather and oak bark tanned soles. Tricker’s craftsmen apply their legendary skills to produce both hand-made and bench-made shoes. Offering a comprehensive selection of classic styles for immediate wear, there is also a handmade bespoke service. This also applies to the best velvet slippers available in England as they are the only ones with leather lining. Visit the Bradshaw and Lloyd website to view a comprehensive selection of Trickers shoes.