A couple of weeks ago, Justin Fitzpatrick at The Shoe Snob launched his first range of shoes, which are now available at Gieves & Hawkes on Savile Row. For Justin, this is the culmination of a long period of working and dreaming.


He trained as a shoemaker with Stefano Bemer in Italy, before returning to the UK and setting up a shoeshine stand at Gieves, in order to earn cash while he worked on his own range of shoes. After two years of work and a lot of polishing, he finally has a shoe range to his name, J Fitzpatrick.


These are (for most people) mid-range shoes, priced between £300 and £350. They are Goodyear-welted, made in Spain and on bespoke lasts that Justin created himself – the most obvious return on his Bemer training and, more recently, work with Tony Gaziano. That bespoke touch gives them a little more shape through the arch and in the heel of the shoe.



Far more important, however, are the design and making aspects of Justin’s shoes. He has tried to include more complicated designs than you usually find for under £400, such as balmoral boots (pictured top), one-piece slip-ons (below) and ankle boots with detachable fringes (above). There are also more unusual touches, such as denim on the balmorals and double-sided monks.

On the construction side, the shoes have closed channels – so you can’t see the stitching on the sole of the shoe. This is one more process (it involves cutting a thin slice in the sole and then sticking it back over the stitching) and therefore adds to the cost.  


I admire anyone launching their own business, and particularly someone working so hard towards it. Justin is now in Gieves all day now, so pop in and see the shoes.



You can see the full range here.


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Anonymous

simon, i do admire the determination of JF in trying to create a business, but i cant see how these shoes are a good proposition at that price? he is trying to sell made in spain shoes from an unknown factory, with no real history behind him at the same price as the well respected high quality english shoemakers who have over a 100 years experience making shoes in their own factories in northampton! your choice is to go to somewhere like C&J,the unfairly maligned by Igent Churches, A Sargent etc and for the same price buy a shoe made on a tried and tested last as JFs shoes which have negligable provenance .. on a last designed by himself (and with all due respect he only has a few years experience working as an apprentice shoemaker and then as a specialist polisher!). At £150 id give them a go but at £300-350 it seems like poor value … you could buy from spanish makers like meermin in store on online for 250 euro! wouldnt be surprised if thats who was making for JF and he is putting a mark up of 50% for what exactly .. his name which means very little apart from perhaps in niche iGent circles?

Andy Shaw

the idler of march

Provenance is as provenance does.

When I’m selecting shoes, I tend to focus primarily on the shoes, and look at things like fit, quality, appearance, price. I find this leads to a better decision-making process. So, for example, whether the shoe fits my foot is actually a superior arbiter than the creator’s experience in last-making, or the state of his relationships with other people on the internet.

Anonymous

Sorry to correct you, Simon, but £300-350 is not a mid range shoe for “most people”. It is a well-beyond-the-top-end shoe for most people – even most readers of your blog, I would wager. And I write as someone whose last pair of shoes cost three times that.

Tom Hughes

Totally agree. £300 is certainly high end. Mid range would be Loake at around £150 or maybe Ecco, with Rockport possibly sneaking in. Low end would be Clarks or to many people supermarket cheapo shoes

Anonymous

I think you (above) have completely missed the point of Justin’s line. He has brought an MTO look to a high quality RTW line. He has not just gone to a Spanish factory and had a few shoes made; he has, from conception to manufacture, painstakingly reared each design to a shoe with character, flair, style and elegance. Compare it perhaps to an up and coming architect building a house in conjunction with a small foreign builder. The architect knows what features are required, but is not necessarily capable of carrying out the construction himself.

I don’t know for a fact, but would also imagine that each of his shoes has only been produced in a handful of pairs in each size; not many of the older English shoe companies can quote such exclusivity…

Elliot

Anonymous

I’d give the shoes a shot, particularly the balmoral boots. I’ve been reading Justin’s blog for years to know the passion behind the shoes is unrivaled. Yes, that’s all I need to know to buy on good faith.

Anonymous

I think the reason he has only produced a reasonably small batch is not because of exclusivity or the fact they are difficult to make but that he didn’t have enough funds to give a bigger order to the factory!

The design of the last is the most important aspect of the shoe and the main worry I would have is that it hasn’t been tried by enough people to know yet whether it works well or not for a majority of people .. I too have followed his blog and it seems he has mostly tried out samples of his shoes on himself and he himself admits he has narrow and a low arch so they may be great for him but not for most people who want to try them out. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a guniea pig for his new shoe company!

As for his prices they just don’t stack up .. as I said the Spanish makers command a big discount to the price of the Northampton makers at retail.. why? Partly because of the reputation of English made shoes and partly because they don’t have the expertise which the English makers do .. it’s like buying a German car vs a Eastern European made one .. in JF case he is trying to sell a skoda for the price of a Mercedes! I can understand if he charged 150-200 pounds as this would then be an option vs other entry level goodyear welted shoes from spanish makers like meermin or even grenson which mostly are made in India now but at 350 pounds he is competing with giants with real history, technical expertise and their own production facilities.

The point on production facilities is an important one .. why is a company like Weston so highly rated? One reason is they control all stages of production including he tanneries for the leather in their shoes .. it gives you the power to look after every detail so it works for your product. In JF case he is reliant on a Spanish factory so how is he going to know what on earth is going on in terms of putting his shoes together ..for all he knows they could be using cheaper internals inside the shoe so instead of using a certain leather insole they could use a nasty composite for example and nobody would be the wiser unless he does forensic testing by opening up random pairs. Not only this but his setup means he doesn’t have the vertical integration or economies of scale to offer good value .. that’s why he is charging 350 for a shoe which a Spanish maker probably sells itself for 250.

As for renovation, resoling etc how exactly is that going to work in terms of cost to send back to an outsourced manufacturer and secondly if he isn’t in business in a few years?

Andy

Anonymous

On owning tanneries in Weston’s case the argument is that they will use the best skins themselves and sell the rest onto others in the market ..therefore the leather on their shoes is exquisite .. it might be a small point but at that price point it’s the details that matter

Andy Shaw – Now, in no way am I here to argue with you, as I believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and of course, not everyone is going to like what I do. Fair enough, it doesn’t really bother me. But I do feel the need to respond on an educational level to some of your points:

1. Saying that a new brand can’t come out and charge such and such price because their factory is unknown is a bit naive. Gaziano & Girling was unknown when they came out and to me they are the best makers in the world, with only 7 years of “industry experience” as their own brand & factory, blowing out of the water, companies that have been around for +100 years.

2. As per my lasts, well, I made one of them, with the supervision of Stefano Bemer, and the other one was made by Tony Gaziano, as I have clearly stated. I then graded them to fit a more “average” foot but keeping their “bespoke” qualities and contour. This was a risk that I was willing to take, as I knew that if I created a last based on bespoke fit, for those of whom would fit my last, it would fit amazingly, and well, for those that don’t, you can’t win them all. And I was not the only one to trial test my shoes. There were several industry experts as well as normal people that did so, all giving unbiased feedback.

3. Based on your comments, I get the feeling that you have read a lot about shoes, and have a good amount of knowledge, but with the commentary on prices needing to be around £150 in order to be just or the fact that I produce from Spanish factories that don’t warrant the price, you clearly don’t understand a lot about the business of the shoe industry and how a factory like C&J can charge what they do, and how I, a designer, have to charge what I do. It’s business mathematics. They have price control, I don’t. If you read this, maybe it will shed some light for you:

http://www.theshoesnobblog.com/2012/10/comparing-shoe-brands-apples-oranges.html

4.As for comparing to JM Weston, well then again you are comparing apples and oranges. They have the power to “control” everything and the ability to great attention to detail, and that is why their shoes are +£550 and mine are not.

5. You are right with regards to resoling, but this does not make or break a brand. A good cobbler is all one needs to send his shoes back to get good job done. It’s an added plus to be able to send back to one’s factory to have their shoes resoled as it will be the best result, but that is simply a USP, not anything that determines a brands success. And therefore, I am aligning myself with a good cobbler that I trust to refer my clients to, plain and simple.

Look, first and foremost, I admire that you left your name instead of being like most people writing negative comments and leaving Anon. I also appreciate the fact that you admire my determination to my goals. But, your negative commentary simply seems to be a lack of real understanding to how the shoe industry works, which is fine as most people who aren’t involved, simply won’t know what goes on behind the scenes. And as for me going from an apprentice to shoe shiner (thus being “my resume”), well please understand that the shoe shining was just the way that I payed the bills…not an attribute to my knowledge as a “shoe expert”. I aligned myself with many people smarter than me and absorbed as much as I could from them, and theirr advice. Nevertheless, I thank you for your input and invite you to come see and try the shoes on, should you ever wish, with no pressure at all.

To everyone else, I thank you for your comments and kind words.

Simon, I thank you for your input as well as for some clarification of certain points.

Sincerely,

Justin FitzPatrick

Anonymous

Having looked at your link – you might be wary of comparing lasts to those of another manufacturer (I know this has been an issue for those making shoes previously). This may give rise to unwanted attention and cause you unwanted hassle and grief.

Anonymous

hi, simon lobb & weston sole leather are completely different in nature from one another, each has pros and cons. lobbs (assume we are talking lobb paris sole leather is relatively softer and more flexible but weston’s is tougher and more durable .. i wouldnt say one is better than the other, lobb soles may feel more pliable but there are frequent complaints about the sole leather breaking up prematurely wheras westons last for ever.

There are obviously similarities between G&G and JF .. but the major differences are that G&G’s proprietors have worked for the top UK RTW shoe makers designing and making shoes for them so have the experience and skill to compete with the top UK makers (although many in the UK shoe business seem to have total antipathy for them as they claim that the two stole various designs etc from them). The other major difference being they still make their shoes in northampton .. and they are infact handmade by specialists for the top end of the RTW market or bespoke side of things.

Andy

Anonymous

weston are (in)famous for tough sole leather .. they claim to treat the sole leather somehow at their tannery to make it harder and more durable … it certainly has a granite like feel … lobbs soles on the other hand feel like other GW shoe leather soles, the tips seem to break apart relatively easily so i would put taps on if buying these … i can only imagine you havent realised Simon as you have such a fabulous collection of shoes these days that you have no time to wear them that much?

Andy

Adam Jones

I felt the need to comment as I am someone, unlike most reading this article have actually tried on some of Justin’s shoes.

I am fairly new to quality shoes but have built a respectable collection of expensive, English made shoes. With Justin’s the quality is there. The shoes are very well made; I was very impressed because if I am honest I didn’t actually expect them to be of that standard. Please judge for yourself by actually visiting G&H.

I do have a few other points to make though.

1: we are talking about Justin’s shoes with names like G&G, Lobb, and Weston popping up. This is preposterous. I’m sorry all of these shoes cost at least twice as much as what Justin is charging; it should not even come into it. Tony and Dean are the top of their game with tons of experience at one of the best companies in the land but they charge the bloody earth for it. Especially if you want something a bit “designed” Even with this I bet there was still those that negative things when they started out.

2: The point about the J. Fitzpatrick line is that Justin is not a shoe maker. He is a shoe designer. These are designed shoes, the sort of designs that are normally our of people budget. Look at Jeffery West for example. Now these shoes may not be to everyone’s taste however they have achieved enormous success without ever making their own shoes. They have simply does exactly what Justin is doing. In their words “if you want a shoe made by trickers or C&J go there?” they are doing something different. Yes, they are made in England by Cheaney and very slightly lower price. However the quality of the shoe is far far less than Justin’s. (I know, I own a pair of J.West)

3: One anon made a comment about the fit. Yes just admits he has narrow feet. I don’t, however I actually find the JKF last quite wide, and the last designed by T Gaziano is excellent.

4: These shoes are not just a pair of (something like) Meermins with a different box. If Justin’s shoes were simply a collection of rebranded toe caps and brogues I could see your point. There seems a bit of negativity about the made in Spain. Whilst I do believe we make far better shoes, what English made shoes are you going to buy at this price point that are better quality. The only really comparable brand is C&J benchgrade.

Cheaney, Barker, Loake, Grenson, Church (at this price level) are nowhere near in quality.

The C&J is the only comparable, and once you have a few pairs of benchgrade covering the main bases where do you go. Another pair the same or something a bit different.

If you can afford more buy something else. I own EG’s C&J handgrade and yes they are of course better shoes. However I have a collection of all of the shoes I “need” now. If I want something a bit interesting and a bit different I cannot afford a £1000 MTO pair. Lucky for those that can. May I also add that looking at the options of my next pair recently JFP was the only one where there was actually a choice of burgundy and blue shoes..

These shoes are for the man who wants something a bit different, and have something that normally has been out of reach due to cost. If you want a black cap shoes… it’s simple you can go anywhere.

Will I buy a pair of Justin’s Shoes…? Yes. Will they be my next pair? Who knows? But I would not regret it if I did.

You always have the option of not buying them.

Anonymous

To Justin,

For those who think the range is overcharging hasn’t seen the real deal. The design is certainly very unique across the same brand in same price point. The shoe feels light but sturdy. Leather quality is very good per-se, more I would have expected in £300 shoes.

And please, no one needs the cynic comment. Well designed and reasonable priced shoe should be encourage.

John

Hi Simon,
Thank you for having written a review on J.F’s first collection.
I would dare say two things:
1.Justin has done his best to launch it.
2. He definitely deserves his place among those who really care about what kind of shoes style conscious guys are to wear today.
Therefore, I wish him all the best!
John