I ordered my first pair of Top Drawer boots from Edward Green back in January and they arrived in May, which is a little better than average for made-to-order shoes from the Northampton makers in my experience. I ordered Compton boots in a new brown colour, described as bronze, which is as dark as you’d probably like to get without switching to black (or indeed the new slate).
I was interested in Top Drawer because bespoke often seems a little too pricey for my budget, and as I’ve written before, I find the most pleasing aspect of bespoke to be the aesthetics rather than the fit. I have slightly awkward feet (big size difference, low arches, verging on hammer toes) but obviously not awkward enough for the fit of bespoke to be a big advantage.
The heel and waisting on the Top Drawer do not disappoint. Although the heel is perhaps not pitched at the back as much as some bespoke shoes, it curves in very nicely to the waist, which is beautifully rounded and trimmed close to the upper.
Edward Green calls it a London waist, which involves a fiddle – a strip of leather, above – being used in the waist in addition to the wooden shank. The welt is trimmed close (below) and then the waist drawn in and beveled, which is where most of the extra work and therefore price comes in. The waists are also tightly tied with fabric as they move around the workshop to ensure they retain their shape – a little like a corset. The shoes are then dried very slowly, often with damp cloths put on them to slow the drying.
The waist is not styled in a point, as with Gaziano & Girling or Alfred Sargent Handgrade, but rather a nicely rounded finish that is suitable for having initials nailed into. That nailing is done very neatly and with a certain flourish – better than I have seen other makers do.
Interestingly, the thing I noticed most about Top Drawer was the quality of the leather. Edward Green says there is nothing particularly different about it; the TD department just gets first dibs on what comes in from the tannery. But I feel it is noticeably more luscious and pliable, and certainly polishes up very well.
The only negative for me would be that the lovely black staining on the sole of the boot seemed to crack finely all over, as soon as they were worn (see second image at top). The finish may just have been too fine to deal with that use.
Of course, I should really be writing this review in five years’ time, because you would hope the individual attention received by Top Drawer will lead to greater quality in the make. Stephen Barnes, one of Edward Green’s most experienced staff (above), makes most of the Top Drawer.
Says Stephen: “I’ll work on just four top drawer shoes a week and will do nearly everything on the shoe. I’ll pick the components, ensuring we use the very best and the most suitable: a more malleable sole which can withstand the fiddling, a stiffer insole.
“It’s very rewarding because each pair I’m working on from start to finish. It’s not about being a small part in a big machine – each pair’s my own project. It’s just about making the best pair of shoes possible.”
Maybe I’ll just wait two years. See you then.
(Above, Kibworth Top Drawer)