Following a conversation earlier in the year with Chay Cooper, I commissioned the Alfred Sargent Handgrade shoes above. One of the reasons Handgrade has developed such a word-of-mouth following is the personalisation it offers, both as regards the design of the shoe and the reports on the process. So I reproduce some of the pictures Chay sent me of the shoes being bedlasted below. Personally, I love getting photos like these as well as those of the finished product. They make the waiting a little bit easier and make you feel connected to the shoes before they arrive. The only equivalent I know in suits is Pal Zileri, which has a computerised system linked to every tailor’s table in the Vicenza factory – they can tell you what stage the suit is at at any given moment.

Handgrade is entirely made to order, apart from a small stock at Leffot in New York. It offers three lasts: 53 (square), 48 (soft square) and 19 (almond shaped) in E, F and G fittings. There are five broad styles: Blake, Bristol, Browning, Carrol and Keats. However, given the level of personalisation available (everything from broguing to medallions to toe cap shape) these are really just jumping-off points. My pair below are the Blake style in a mid-brown suede on 19 last – my only point of personalisation was the leather counter instead of suede. I’d never seen this done before but I thought it a subtle little design detail, given that the heel is so often hidden by the trouser.

To see the kind of designs other Handgrade customers have requested, check out the Alfred Sargent blog. Don’t stop scrolling until you get to the burgundy slip-ons.

The Handgrade construction is good, as you’d expect for shoes costing over £600. A gorgeous fiddle-back waist very redolent of Gaziano & Girling, three rows of brads in the toe, initials in brads done very cleanly (other makers do this but sometimes sloppily) and a delicate transition from sole welt to heel.

The packaging is also lovely, not that that should matter really. Special wide, drawer box, including Saphir polish, shoe horn and cloth; solid wood shoe trees with ring pulls.

Personally I think the Blake design is a little busy for leather shoes, but works well in suede. But then, if you thought the same you could always request the toe cap to be replaced with a simple medallion.

For any questions contact Chay through the blog.

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Beautiful Simon, though I just know that if I owned them I’d almost never wear them, for fear of getting caught in the rain.

In fact, is anybody else like me? Do you find yourself leaving your best clothes and shoes in the wardrobe in the wardrobe, because no occasion is quite worthy enough, and you simply can’t bear to see them sullied? Stupid I know, and something I really should try to overcome.


Perish the thought! By the way, I’ve just given a rather battered pair of light tan brogues to the oft-recommended Mayfair cobblers to see what they can do with them. Unfortunately I didn’t take a ‘before’ picture, but I shall report back nonetheless.


Just wear them and enjoy it…life’s way too short as it is. Certainly, I have a relegation cycle where my once best bespoke suits are now all-weather work wear. It gives one the justification to order new garments and shoes and etc.

Richard Welbirg

The only equivalent I know in suits is Pal Zileri, which has a computerised system linked to every tailor’s table in the Vicenza factory – they can tell you what stage the suit is at at any given moment.

This is a wonderful concept, and I’m rather surprised it isn’t more widespread, particularly given the amount of overseas customers buying from Savile Row.

Pal Zileri Suits

Really nice shoe. Want a pair myself.


Your blog has been offering some really helpful and comprehensive information on shoes lately. Keep it up, there definitely is interest.


I’m curious – does the inclusion of your initials hammered into the soles make resoling the shoes any more difficult in the future? Would you have them resoled only by the original manufacturer?


I’m sorry I am the opposite of the earlier posters. When I buy something I really have to love it. When I love it I want to wear it all the time. Thus a pair of beautiful shoes such as these would quickly become my almost everyday shoes. Enjoying them ever more. Also by some circumstance I have to buy something that I don’t love I usually end up giving it away…

Kenneth F Powers

You, sir, are indeed a gay lord.


gaylord is right, deont buy anything you are not in love with

Aleksandar Cvetkovic

Dear Simon,

These look very handsome indeed! I’ve been investigating the ‘made to measure’ shoe market as it were, because I have difficult feet and I’m desperate for a pair of Balmoral boots.

I was wondering whether you might know (or be able to guess) at the price of some Alfred Sargent handmade grade Balmoral boots for me? Or alternatively if you know of any ready-to-wear options available?

Thank you for your advice,


Aleksandar Cvetkovic

Thank you Simon, that is very helpful indeed – I’m going to get saving and do some investigating come the summer.

Best wishes,



Simon, old thread I know but I recently bought 3 pairs of AS, Moore, Cambridge and Herrick suede. For something different I’m now back looking at C&J and wanted to ask if you have any experience with them. I like the slim waists on the AS shoes I have and wondered how they compare as there’s nowhere in striking distance I can try them for fit.


Thanks Simon, that was my concern, if they are fitted I’ll give them a try.


What is the fitting here, E, F or G?


Hi Simon,
Sorry for commenting on such an old post,
I learnt that Alfred Sargent has recently discontinued their exclusive and country lines (and probably the handgrade?) and focus on private labels. That’s a shame! As I prefer the lasts of AS to Crockett and Jones? Do you know what private labels (except J Crew) are those ‘private labels’?