Good English shoes are pretty much always worth the money you pay for them. Three things reminded me of this in recent weeks.

One was a friend’s wedding. After years of buying in the low end of the market, he bought a pair from Crockett & Jones to get married in. I was staggered how good they looked on him. Dark brown Oxfords with a toe cap but no broguing, they were a shining example of how poor the average quality is of men’s shoes. Crockett & Jones are not very expensive, certainly by the standards of some of the brands on this blog, but they looked a million dollars.

Second, a colleague was bemoaning the state of his work shoes and how he needed a new pair. They were cheap, pointy, glued ones from Jones or some such. Because they are made with a corrected grain, the scuffs took away any pretense at leather on the surface. Because they had no internal structure, they curled up at the ends. He’d had them a year.

The third thing was the string of comments on recent posts about bespoke and made-to-order shoes from Gaziano & Girling and Cleverley. I realise that for many men these are not viable options at £1000 to £2000. But I hope they illustrate the beauty of English shoes, and provide inspiration for buying good, ready-to-made models. I will make a conscious effort to reiterate this in future posts.

Crockett & Jones shoes cost £300-and-something. A glued pair from Jones costs around £100. The former will last five years easily, with a resoling or two, while the latter looked terrible after a few months and trash-worthy after a year. Which do you think are better value?

I have my favourite English brands. Edward Green and Alfred Sargent are among them, plus the bespoke makers already mentioned. But as I’ve said before, with English shoemakers you generally get what you pay for (I can’t speak for those whose prices are decided by an Italian fashion label).

It has been suggested that I don’t like Barker (standard range) shoes. This is not true. They make great shoes. I would always prefer someone buy Barker than an imported, glued pair, and they will last much better. But more expensive English shoes will be better quality, and if you’re going to spend £1000 on a suit I think you should spend up to half of that on your shoes. The shoes will be more versatile as well.

Buy good shoes, don’t wear them every day, put shoe trees in them and brush them down after use – you will actually save time in less-frequent polishing. As far as retail outlets go, John Rushton just off Oxford Street is always worth a shout.

In Northampton we have the greatest hub of quality shoemaking in the world. It’s time more people took advantage of it.


Images: Edward Green
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Anonymous

I know it’s probably rude to ask, Simon, but frankly the curiosity is beginning to cause actual pain. Having looked at your online profiles, I can’t see much possibility of gigantic bonuses or the like. So… where does all this money come from? Are you lucky enough to be independently wealthy?

Of course I fully understand if you abstain from answering. I suppose the main reason I ask is because I earn what to the average person would be an enviable amount of money, yet I have no hope of achieving a couple of dozen bespoke suits in my lifetime. So I just want to check I’m not doing something wrong!

Anonymous

Definitely wholeheartedly agree with this post. I bought C&J’s, I sense the exact same your friend wore at his wedding, from John Rushton last summer and they have been an absolute pleasure. Any suggestions on what type to get next?

Anonymous

I agree C&Js especially the hand grade collection are some of the best shoes i have tried , the best value for money and the quality is excellent they have been making shoes long enough to know what they are doing and all made in northampton in one factory .The fact that they dont sell online proves that they do not produce masses of pairs a week , perfection takes time.

William

I am considering a pair of G&G decos and the first time I saw them, it was like I was looking at an Aston or Ferrari! I’m glad you wrote this post because I was considering a pair of Grenson brogues. What is your opinion of this brand with the Goodyear welt and all.

Trapo

I do agree with the fact that investing in a good pair of shoes is one of the best things to do. And I also agree with the fact that English shoes are excellent. I personally own two pairs of C&J cordovan shoes and I really love them.

But I think that there are a lot of good shoe makers outside England. Of course, English shoes are much better than Italian (brand) shoes. But you forget other very goog shoemakers. I am from Spain and, in my opinion, we have one of the best shoemakers (with a great relationship cost/quality): Carmina. I have several of these shoes and I could not tell which ones I prefer, C&J or Carmina.

Have you been able to take a close look to Carmina shoes, Simon?

PS. Congratulation for the blog.

Gavin

Simon,

Thank you for this post. Who makes the pair of shoes in the top photograph? They are beautiful.

Gavin

Alex Yew

After years of wearing Loake 1880s, I decided to stretch my budget for a pair of C&J Edgwares. The difference in quality and fit is staggering as the C&Js are beyond compare. Worth every extra penny.

Anonymous

Hi Simon, I am delighted that your today post is dedicated to British shoes. I can’t thank you enough for having drawn our attention to the importance and value of good shoes. Now it happens that I have received a pair of Black semi-brogues as gift made in Northampton by a very good and well known shoemaker. Yet its type of polish is in my view quintessentially British. Indeed,it is hardly to be found elsewhere, for instance in Italy or in France. Its polish stands between normal black calf and patent. While browsing recently, I have discovered that it is called “Book binder leather”, even though in my case the shoemaker names it “Black polished”. Please, could you tell me which kinds of proprieties in Britain are attached to the wearing of this kind of shoes? Are there any rules to follow or … breakable? Are they as good as the others? Do their care requires a specific treatment? Personally, I find them lovely! I mostly wear them at night for diners and parties. Many thanks in advance for your reply.

JoJo

Austro-Hungarians? In the 21st century?

I like English shoes. But I’m not convinced by the value argument. It depends on what you use your shoes for. If you’re mostly sedentary then sure, they will last for ever and be a good buy. If, like I used to, you commute to work on foot, 2 miles each way, you will need them resoled at least once a year (and that’s only wearing each pair once or twice a week). I’ve only had experience of Churchs but I know they will normally only resole shoes twice. Which means that taking into account the cost of resoling, you’re spending upwards of £500 in total for a pair of shoes that will last maybe 3 years. I’m not convinced that that is better value than paying £175 every year for a new pair of lesser (but still pretty good) shoes.

Cereal

HI JoJo

If you walk four miles a day every day you should look into shoes with double leather soles, Danite soles or tougher (Commando soles, etc.) . Crockett & Jones among other make very good shoes with such tougher soles in styles perfectly appropriate for formal work etc. You will also feel better walking in good shoes. And I don’t think C&J (or trickers, or Green, or the other good makers) will stop resoling shoes, in fact I believe they will continue to resole and service/repair them as long as you want.

On the other hand, may I suggest getting a nice comfortable, simple and basic (cheap) Dutch bicycle? it makes a 2 mile commute into a pleasure, saves you time, and saves you shoe leather. (In sensible Dutch style you just wear your suit and nice shoes on the bike – no idiotic spandex, clip shoes, or what have you).

Sir Fopling Flutter

Excellent advice all round, although you probably underestimate the longevity of good shoes. If you have 3 or 4 pairs that you can rotate during the week, and you look after them well, you should get much better than 5 years of wear from them – hopefully more like 10 years or more. It makes the value proposition for good shoes even stronger.

James Marwood

I know they’ve taken a bit of a knocking in the style blogs recently, but I really do like my Church’s. I’ve a pair of black oxfords and some dark brown monks that I adore.

For those on a slightly reduced budget I can also heavily recommend Herring Shoes. For less than £200 they offer superb value I think. I have a pair of burgundy brogues from them that I am always pleased to wear.

Derek

Hi Simon,

I saw another reader comment about Loake shoes compared to C&J. What are your thoughts about Loake? The timing of your post was excellent for me as I’m in the market for some new wingtips and was about move forward with Loake. I’d love to get your opinion. Thanks!

Derek

Anonymous

Hi Simon
I have read about Maftei shoes http://claymoor.blogspot.com/2012/01/in-vizita-la-maftei.html. Are they all right?
Dan

Anonymous

well said simon. church’s are totally overpriced. does anyone have any experience with the American brand Alled-Edmonds?

Unknown

I know I am a little late to the party on this, but I own 6 pair of Allen Edmonds, and I they are absolutely fantastic. They do bespoke if you have an non-standard foot size (athletes are a big clientele for them) and most American presidents wear them (I don’t think Obama wears AEs but that would explain a lot) and I believe they offer extraordinary value. A pair of shell cordovan oxfords retail for between 300 and 600 USD which may seem high to many Americans, but for cordovan which will last a lifetime, it really is not. They are made in my home state of Wisconsin (one of only 2 American-made shoemakers) and are made using the goodyear welt process so they are recraftable for around 100 USD. So for American shoes, you definitely cannot go wrong with AE.

Tim Hardy

Great article. The economics usually stack up well and in my case, two pairs of Church, one of Cheaney and some other assorted good quality pairs have done over ten years each with some professional tlc occassionally.

Ian from Downunder

Hello Simon,

I wholeheartedly agree with your opinions. Unfortunately, I am not able to afford shoes from Lobbs or Cleverley and even Church shoes are a wee bit beyond my wallet’s ability, however, most of my shoes are Loakes with a few Alden cordovans for good measure. My Loakes range from 14 to 21 yrs old. They have been re-soled countless times. I believe their longevity is due to being polished after each outing and I only wear them once a week. All my shoes look like patent leather due to the many years of care and attention. I also have cedar shoe trees for them.
I have a pair of Oxford toecaps from David Scott (not sure if that shoe maker still exists) which I bought on my first trip to the UK in 1979 – 33 years ago!! Again, they are in mint condition.
My point is this – look after your shoes and they should last for a long time.
Regards,
Ian from way way down there (Melbourne).

Charan

Very helpful! Hope my 4 pairs of Loakes last as long as yours did !

Anonymous

Great article and I totally agree.

I started my shoe collection with a pair of Loakes for my first job, I soon realised I needed a second pair to rotate and allow each shoe time to dry out after a days wear. I decided to move up the scale and invest in a pair of Cheaney’s, I immediately noticed the quality difference and the interest in shoes began. Since then I have tried to buy the best I can afford, adding Church’s and John Lobb’s to my collection. With every move up the shoes are noticeably better quality, age more gracefully and bring more joy.

Good English shoes are always worth the money you pay for them!

Matt

Here’s another reason for buying top quality shoes – from an interview with Edward Fox (of ‘Day of the Jackal’ acting fame):

“these shoes are more than 100 years old, they were made in the reign of George V for my grandfather. These are so comfortable and good looking, and to think of these uppers still holding out, it’s incredible.”

That’s a tad longer than 5, or even 10 years.

Source – http://www.mrporter.com/journal/journal_issue22/3

Anonymous

Hi Simon,

I bought a first pair of Alfred Sargent years ago when still living in Belgium, and only now am I starting to see the wear and tear (coming up to 10 years). Who would you recommend for resoling? I take my C&J directly back to the manufacturer, but not sure what to do with my Alfred Sargent.

Oliver Kenny

Grenson brogues are an absolute steal. At around £200 a pair they are exceptionally well made, and make Russell And Bromley, Loake and other brands look cheap and nasty (which sell their shoes at similar prices)
And if you want to delve into the pricier realm of Alfred Sargent and Joseph Cheaney these are two brands which can be picked up on ebay for a steal.
For example I own a pair of Cheaney Brogues and Chelsea boots which I picked up for £35 a pair and they are great. And when you consider a pair of converse are £50 you cant go wrong!

Oliver Gibson

Dear Simon,

I am a huge fan of your blog and read it every day without fail for knowledge and inspiration.

Since following your work I have invested in a number of good quality English made shoes starting with Cheaney and moving slowly up to Lobb’s and Edward Green. When I first started my investment I was unsure on my fit and didn’t quite understand how much the shoes would stretch over time (6 years in some cases). I wanted to know if upon getting a pair of shoes resoled such as Church’s or Cheaney’s, could the shoe be reshaped on a thinner last ( an E instead of an F for example) and stitched on to the relevant sole?

I appreciate your intelligence on this and wish you all the success with your future endeavours.

Kind regards,

Oliver

Vincent Chow

Oliver – yes, I understand that for Edward Green, you can ask them to resolve to a smaller fitting. Why don’t you email them to confirm?

Oliver

The shoes in question are a pair of Cheaney and Church’s . I heard back from Cheaney straight away and when refurbishing a pair they can actually replace them with a sole half a size smaller and if the model has a narrower last, they can also shape it to this and stitch to the relevant sole. I will let you know what Church’s say but if Cheaney can do it I am sure others can as well!

Oliver

I have heard back from Church’s and they can also reduce the last size when refurbishing the shoe.

Jack Jones

Hi,

Thanks for this – really good blog! I recently tried to find some good shoes, but have (apparently) abnormally wide toes – other than a church’s h fitting, nothing seemed to work. Do you per chance know of a maker which has a broad range of fits/wider lasts?

Bob

Some of the grenson range are made in the India factory.

Andy Liu

Dear Mr.Crompton:
I have followed your blog for over a year and been a big fan of Crockett & Jones for years as well.
I have tried EG recently and i didnt find anything superior than CJ. Also, none of my CJ collection is from Hand grade range, do you find any difference between EG and CJ?
What do you think of CJ? are they too commercial in terms of quality?

PS: I just get my first bespoke jacket done by Graham Browne (just next to my company), they are all lovely guys there, thanks for your recommendation.

Regards

Andy Liu

Andy Liu

Thanks Simon, what about CJ hand made? I think it will be my next move. Or should i get EG straight away?

Thanks vm

Andy

Anonymous

Hi, I also need a wider fitting (F or G) than most manufacturers provide. I went to a CJ shop not long ago and all they had was E fittings. It seems I’m stuck with Barker, Church or bespoke. Can you recommend anything for someone on a tighter budget?
Something else: I know suede relaxes after a few wears. So how tight should I buy suede shoes? What should I pay attention to?
Thanks

Lloyd

Sir,
Would you please discuss comfort. Which brand and why? What are the features that make a high end shoe comfortable?
Lloyd

Ed

An interesting post. Prompted me to go into most shoe shops on Jermyn St yesterday and just see what was good as I don’t know much about shoes. Crockett & Jones beat everyone hands down Customer service, getting the right shoe and the comfort etc. They were really good. My feet felt like they were flying and they look amazing. Especially hand grade range. John Lobb and Weston had good customer service but shoes were not quite right. Although you could tell the way the Lobb soles were sprung that they had great craftsmanship they were just too tight for my feet. Tricker’s customer service good but shoes not comfortable for a long narrow foot. Barker and Loake customer service tragic. Felt like I was bothering them. Barkers were reluctant to give me the 2nd shoe (my feet are slightly different lengths)! Missed Edward Green and John Rushton will have a look next time.

David Douglas

I really like your info – really useful!

Can you tell me anything about the CEZANE brand? I have a pair of mens loafers (used) – that seem excellent quality – but cant find any info? would be great help? Thank you. David

David Douglas

APOLOGIES – THE SPELLING IS “CEZAN”

David

Ross

Hi Simon,

looking to buy better quality suits and shoes. You mentioned Northampton is great for shoes, where about would you recommend? as its only 30 mins from me?

Thanks

Ross

Balfour

Simon,

How do you feel about these shoes?

I call them “Pope Shoes”!

Of course, completely heretical in terms of conservative business dress in the UK (as would be any slip-on), but smarter than a penny loafer and very versatile.

Do shout me down if you think an abomination!

http://foster.co.uk/our-products/ready-to-wear/casual-shoes/aston-3/ (in black calf)

-Balfour

Shriraj

hey, I just bought a pair of R&B oxfords for 200. But after reading the reviews im a bit shaken frankly. my budget can go upto 250 maximum. Simon, which shoes do you suggest? R&B or Loake. I am buying them for occasional wear and want them to last for a good number of years.

Shriraj

or Grenson?

Wool Sweater

Hi Simon, I Enjoy reading your blog, and for me I have always been a little cautious of spending too much money on shoes, but decided to invest in some real good shoes last month which were Loake with the Dunlop welt. Also buying a pair of Grenson Slip ons the same time to compare both. Well at my age of 60 years now I feel I have missed out a lot on comfortable footwear as they are both so good and wonderfully comfortable as I am a odd size in requiring a half size. I wished I could of been able to afford these type of shoes years ago.

For me now its got to be a good quality shoe, and I guess its like the old saying; “You get what you pay for”.

facebook_anthony.doyle.1428

Hi Simon, excellent blog. Can you advise on these;
http://pages.ebay.com/link/?nav=item.view&alt=web&id=161492737555
It’s a wholecut by Arthur Knights. But I can’t find much info on them, worryingly!
Please advise. Thanks

Agnes the faye

I want nice shoes am going for a wending

Peter

Simon

My Loakes need re-soling.

Do you have any experience/view of the service offered by Bradshaw and Lloyd? £50 for a leather half sole and heel.

Regards

Peter

EB

I’ve avoided it for many years but the time has come to purchase a pair of black cap-toes. I don’t use black shoes very often and normally get by with various shades of dark brown. Would you still argue the value of “investing” or simply going for a more simple alternative, e.g. Loake 1880, given the likely infrequent use?

Many thanks in advance for your views.

EB

Paulo

Hi simon, Quick question, do you know of any places in London such as Poland, Hungary etc places where the currency conversion is in our favor where you could go and buy quality handmade products and come back to the UK and it would be cheaper than buying from UK brands?

Paulo

sorry I meant “do you know any places in Europe”

Stephen

Hi Simon,
Great blog!
Can you recommend a whole cut Oxford that I can wear with both formal evening wear and day wear?

Martin

Hi Simon, I was on Google looking for reviews on good quality mens shoes and I have come across this thread. I am a guy who has never really paid more than say 65 to 70 pounds for a shoe and if I have paid more I can’t remember, anyway, I am looking to buy what will be my very first expensive shoe that will hopefully last me a lifetime and more based on the prices I see ha, I have been trying on various shoes the more expensive ones being loake, barker & church shoes, this is just through walking around my shops in Edinburgh trying to find the correct shoe, to me this will be a very large some of money to pay for a shoe some in the family call me crazy ha but they will last, so what do you recommend as a brand, church are more expensive but are they better than say grenson or barker shoes, I could do with a little advice, thanks.

David

I would also consider looking at Herrings shoes here in Devon. Their website distinguishes between English made and those abroad ( you can tell by the price). I have been wearing them for over 20 years and have no complaints. They also are able to supply other makes than their own brand

AJ

I wore C&J wholecuts for my wedding and they looked fantastic. My first decent pair of English shoes were Grenson plain cap toe oxfords which I was fortunatee to buy in the boxing day sales for £240 (30% off & had to wait in the queue). Completely agree with Simon’s point on value. A good pair of welted English shoes can last a lifetime if looked after and rotated. I have some friends who regularly spend absurd sums of money on drinks and dinner but would be horrified to learn that a good pair of shoes would cost upwards of £200 atleast (checkout the outlets in Northampton). Also, I think this is mindful consumption – you buy less in the long run.

Ralph

Thank you, Simon, for your insightful blog. I have found your first-hand experience and opinions really helpful. And the comments have also been really instructive.

Inspired by your blog advice, I visited Jermyn Street today. My first stop was Crockett & Jones. I concur with others that service is excellent and the young salesperson who served me was passionate about style. I was looking for a burgundy Oxford without too much punched work and I tried shoes from the main collection and Hand Grade. Without question, the Hand Grade felt significantly better and more comfortable. The word snug comes to mind. However, I have high insteps so the vee under the laces looked rather wide so I decided to keep looking.

My next stop was Edward Green and I didn’t find them snobbish (apart from the salesperson assuming I was there for a sale bargain!). I tried their ‘Chelsea’ style in the closest they had to burgundy and I could see the quality of the workmanship and the lacing looked much better.

Based on online research and testimonials I also looked in on Joseph Cheaney. Again I tried their main collection and Imperial Oxfords in my colour choice and again I felt the more expensive shoe justified the additional cost. An 8 was just too snug; I tried their 9 and it fitted better than 99 per cent of the shoes I have ever owned, however, I had reservations that it was too loose, confirmed by trying an 8.5 of the same style in brown. Regrettably, they didn’t have an 8.5 in burgundy which made my decision easier.

David McLoghlin

Simon, thanks so much for your great advice. I live in the USA, and am considering a pair of Allen Edmonds or Alden dress shoes, probably black toe-cap oxfords (Edward Greens are out of my price range currently). Conveniently enough, A. Edmonds has a shop round the corner from my office. Which of the two American brands would you consider to be better / more of an investment? Alden tends to be more expensive – last question: is this justified by higher quality? Thanks, David.

Kevin

Greetings Mr. Crompton,

I finally bought my first pair of bespoke shoes from Alexandru Maftei (around 1500€).

It is a huge upgrade from my RTW John Lobbs (William II), especially the fit.

Now I am determined to stick with bespoke shoes.

But I am torn between staying with Alexandru Maftei or to continue the upgrade.

My question is, what are the improvments and differences that make the top tier bepoke brands so much more expensive compared to Maftei?

Thank You!

Best.

Jim Moreno

I’m trying to decide whether to purchase Crockett and Jones “Grantham II” or John Lobb “Lopez”. Both are beautiful shoes with Lobb retailing for twice as much. Would appreciate any advice if there is an advantage to Lobb over C&J. Is Lobb a better made shoe or am I paying for the name.

DKP

If Loake and Crockett & Jones are both too narrow for someone, who else might you suggest in a similar price range? I’ve a fairly wide foot and narrow heel which has proven a challenge.

Bernie

Hi Simon,

Like many, I am quite taken with Yohei Fukuda’s shoes. However, the most attractive aspect of his shoes is that his toe boxes are wider instead of super pointy and narrow. I have wide feet and wear a 6.5E in the Allen Edmond’s Park/Fifth avenue list, and even that is a bit too snug. Do you have any recommendations for people with wider feet like me?

Bernie

Hi Simon,

Thanks for the advice. CJ and other brands do not carry size 5.5UK so I definitely would have to go the MTO route. Just figured out that what prefer is called a soft square last!

Henry

Simon, where would you list Tricker’s comparing other English shoemakers? Are they more closer to C&J or Barker in your opinion?

Chancellor

I’m curious about the emphasis on “English” shoes here.

Are there elements of construction or materials in English shoes that are superior to Italian, French, American etc.? If so, what are those benefits? And do those differences hold in bespoke (e.g. between English bespoke v. Italian bespoke)?

Or is the issue that there’s more variability in quality of shoes from other countries, but English shoes of a certain prices are consistently good?

Patrick Bateman

Hi Simon,
I’ve got a pair of suede derby boots by Cheaney that are practically new. I don’t wear them very often as I don’t like the colour.
Do you have any experience of dying suede shoes a different colour, if so can you recommend anyone?

Juan Huertas

Si Simon, curious to know – are these the tobacco Bemer oxfords that you once said they were your best bespoke fit so far? If so, would you mind sharing why did you decide to have them dyed? It seems such a lovely colour, and I am actually on the verge of ordering a pair in a similar suede, so your insights would be much appreciated. Thanks.

Stephan

Dear Simon,

A question (after a lot of context) about the leather on a pair of shoes similar to the one in your top photo.
After reading this article back in 2015, while I was in London, I stumbled upon a near identical model in terms of shape and leather type. Made by Cheaney, great deal at Austin Reed, beautiful style, love at first sight, and my most worn business shoe to this day holding up wonderfully. But the leather irks me. I never gave it much thought until a cobbler said they are ‘corrected’ grain and cannot be polished properly. They do shine very much, but I never realised it was artificial. I would brush them and add a bit of cream and polish but didn’t really realise they were not really ‘eating it up’. The leather is certainly nice and creases as any good shoe would, but scuffs and worn-off polish are tough to fix/replace. Is it possible to remove this protective layer? It almost seems to have worn off on the sides and above the toes and the shoe flexes and has fine, grainy creases. But heel and toe do have that artificial shine still. Any help how to resolve this and keep my shoes without having them be ‘tacky’ would be appreciated. I do use them with black tie, where no one could object at them I guess. Thanks!

Stephan

Thanks for the clarification, Simon! Indeed I like them, and they don’t appear obviously ‘corrected’ nor do they do so in a bad way. As mentioned, I haven’t really noticed it myself for a while, I just thought they were overly polished to begin with. Plus they have molded to my foot perfectly and look very good with dark suits.

Anonymous

Simon
Who would you go to for what I call ‘shoe adjustments’

I have a pair of black EG oxfords. Perfect for formal days, weddings , black tie etc.

The fit isn’t stellar in that I have a very thin heel and wide foot. I need to put a lining or something in the heel cup and widen by a mm or two the foot.

Where on earth do I go for someone to do this well with a discerning eye (not just a high street cobbler who will muck about with it , charge £40 and not care about the fit)

Carrie Johnson

As a repeat Cleverley bespoke customer, I would never buy anything from them again. Styles are good, construction workmanship is good, but the fitting is terrible. They do a bad job and make you take the financial risk.NO MORE.