Desert boots (and knitwear, and bespoke) at Anglo-Italian 

Friday, June 4th 2021
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Somehow, Jake and Anglo-Italian manage to keep relatively under the radar here in the UK, despite being one of the few classic-menswear shops keeping that spirit relevant. 

Perhaps it’s because they don’t actively seek out mainstream coverage, or because so much of the business is overseas - the shop has almost become a showroom for an online store, such are the international sales.

Whatever the reason, I think it means Jake’s consistent innovation often goes unheralded. 

Anglo-Italian is one of the few shops in London selling good flannels, good oxford shirts and good brogues. But there’s always an original point, an angle, that shows each piece is being considered fresh each time. Whether it’s travel flannel that wrinkles less, or vintage stubby lasts on the shoes, there’s always a viewpoint - albeit a very subtle one.

Some of these tweaks are my style, some are not.  

For example, in the current collection I love the Ice Cotton crewnecks (above). ‘Ice Cotton’ is not an Anglo term - it refers to a particular yarn - but Jake’s version is a touch shorter, with a smaller collar, such that it works on most people without a shirt underneath. (Or it does on me, which does happen that often.) 

On the flip side, I see what Jake is doing with the Sport Sweatshirt, which is made with cotton on the inside but merino on the outside. The idea is to replicate the feel of a cotton sweatshirt, but with a smarter outward appearance - one more in keeping with the Anglo look. 

He succeeds, but it’s not something I personally want. I prefer to have one or the other. With merino on the outside, there’s only part of the sweatshirt feeling, and I like full merino knits on their own too. For a different approach to sweatshirts, I probably prefer the Armoury’s Indoorsman Sweatshirt, with its waffle knit. 

But this is a personal preference; I know others would disagree. And far more important is that Jake is constantly doing these things, all the time. So there are always new things I love. 

One of those is the Anglo Desert Boot, which I picked up a couple of weeks ago. 

Most of the desert boots I’ve had in the past have been of lesser quality - the likes of Clarks and similar - or have been styled more like a regular dress shoe, with a more structured toe and so a smarter look. 

Jake’s thing with shoes generally is to give them a low profile. Which means a toe that slopes downwards when seen from the side, and less of a spring (so the toe is flatter to the ground). 

With the loafers that also means a lower vamp, further down the foot, and that’s replicated subtly by lower lacing on the desert boots. They also have a lower height at the back, which makes them look even more laidback, and stops them getting caught on a tailored trouser leg. 

It’s striking how different these things make the boot compared to my Shanklins from Edward Green, for example. I love them, but everything from the height to the toe to the thin welt to the makes them look like a smarter, luxury style. 

Jake designed the boot as something to wear with tailoring as well as T-shirts and chinos. 

I would wear it with tailoring, but only the most relaxed kind. Certainly, with flannel trousers and a crewneck. Not with something like my Sexton flannel suit. And only possibly with my Panico flannel suit

Just as interesting for me, though, is that the relaxed shape means they work with even more casual things than Anglo-Italian sells, such as the hoodie and workwear chinos shown on me above. 

Colour-wise, a tan boot might be a touch nicer with this outfit, but the softness and low profile of the desert boot work really well. 

And I think this is something men could get a lot of use out of. Because often the temptation with a casual outfit like this is to wear trainers, or perhaps chunky boots. There are few options in between. And if you’re an older guy who doesn’t want to wear trainers, or its too warm for big boots, these are a really nice alternative. 

The quality is good too. It’s a simple make, as with most desert boots - stitchdown construction, no lining. But the suede is thick and supple, and the crepe sole seems to wear well. 

Crepe soles can be pretty cheap, and when they are the edges quickly fray - that’s what happened with cheaper ones I had in the past. The bits can be cut off, but you don’t want to be doing it all the time.

The Anglo ones use a denser, harder crepe that suffers less from this problem. They’re also single, dark colours: almost as bad as the fraying on crepe is the natural-coloured soles that have the edges painted black. Given the texture of crepe, that always looks messy. 

I was a little concerned when trying on the Anglo boots, that the place where the two pieces of leather overlap on the inside of the shoe, seemed to move around and rub. But that settled down quickly, and now they’re very comfortable. 

I sized up slightly, taking a 9 when I’m normally an 8.5. 

Jake says he knew the best way to get a more refined version of the desert boot was to have them made in Italy, and that’s probably a good way to think about it. They’re an Italian version of a Clarks boot (and indeed the maker is an old Clarks supplier). 

Among other boots I have or have tried, the Edward Greens are beautiful but seem to have more in common with an English dress boot. Alden is similarly low in profile, but leather soled and rougher. Carmina is more similar to Edward Green, but not at the same quality. 

Lastly, Anglo just recently started offering an MTO service on the boots. For £300 (up from £245) you can pick your suede, size and sole - light crepe, dark crepe or Vibram (which I like less). 

Actually, one more thing. As readers have noticed and inquired about, Anglo-Italian are in the process of setting up their own bespoke tailoring

This will be housed in a new space around the corner from the current shop, and managed by a young cutter and coatmaker hired last year. In the intervening months Jake and the team have had great fun pulling apart all his old bespoke suits and learning little making details. 

The service will offer the Anglo-Italian style, with its soft shoulders and roomy fit, in a full bespoke service - full hand work, full fittings process etc. 

Prices will be good for anything using Anglo-Italian cloth. Jackets start at £2700 including VAT, suits at £3350. Anything using another bunch will be more expensive, with suits around £3500 for example. 

More on that service soon. 

Clothes on me: Real McCoy’s sweatshirt in ‘Milk’; old Army Chinos from The Armoury; black bandana from Clutch Cafe. 

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

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Carl

I know that desert boots usually have a crepe sole. But is there anything else that really is different from a pair of chukka boots?

Matthew V

Always something lovely or interesting to see and try. Not everything suits me but a lot of it does.
And after the protracted lockdown it is so nice to look feel and try on clothes in person again.
Plus I enjoy putting the world to rights when I am there with Jake and Martin!

Paul

Hi,I understand your point about more dressy desert boots offered by EG and also of course C&J.However,both companies offer a more rugged boot namely the Banbury and Chiltern that may favour a more relaxed,casual look.

Carl

Interesting. I have pair of quite heavy chukkas with dainite soles and norveguese construction. I think they are too warm for summer. Maybe I should invest in a pair of unlined desert boots for summer.

Carl

Great. I will visit the city centre today and look at a pair of EG Shanklins that are sold in a store. Do you think they are too formal for dark denim and Saman Amel chinos?

RT

Hi Simon,

How would you compare these Anglo Italian boots to the traditional Clark’s in style? I’m thinking particularly of the breadth of the toe.
I’ve been in something of a quest for many years, to find the right desert boots for me. Having relatively small feet (UK 7 1/2), I find that many of the boots, Clark’s certainly, have too broad a toe that makes my smaller feet look almost square, as broad as they’re long. I have a pair of Crockett & Jones which, coincidentally, I’m wearing today. They are nice, but have too narrow a toe for the casual styling and would be more appropriate with a smarter leather or rubber sole.
Would you say that the toe width of the Anglo Italians is similar to those of Clark’s or narrower?

RT

Great, thanks, Simon. Made my first purchase (online) from AI last week – the ice cotton crew neck, which is lovely. I’ll definitely check out the desert boots.

Andrew Hughes

Hi Simon,

The desert boots look good. Next time I’m in London will visit Anglo-Italian.
In the 80’s & 90’s I used to wear Clarks desert boots. I have a pair of Church’s desert boots that I’ve had for 12 years, and resoled twice.
Best,
Andrew

Andrew Hughes

Yes, they are very comfortable.

Desert Boot.JPG
Felix Sylvester Eggert

This post lets me think that Desert Boots can be generally resoled, which I was a bit unsure about.
Or is this depent on certain construction-details?

Simon, do you know wether the AI ones can be resoled?

Diego

Hi Simon – thanks for the post. I think there is a bit of a desert boot trend but in spite of this, it is difficult to find the perfect one. I like Heschung’s but it is a bit more of a chukka. Alden’s sole give them a different style. Drake’s are overpriced (I think that they are made by Astorflex) and Astorflex own model is a bit chunky. I have been curious about Anglo ones but particularly about Crown Northampton’s kudu suede ones. Have you tried Crown’s shoes? They have some interesting casual options but I have not managed to see them in person

Diego

Thanks for the prompt response, really useful.

Josh

There also seems to be a clearer service offering structure now, on the website, in terms of what MTO, MTM and Bespoke mean and cost for each product type (where available): https://angloitalian.com/pages/service-page
To me this is super helpful and reasserts some of the vision alluded to in your early coverage: namely that even much of their RTW lines can be tweaked to some extent for each customer’s needs.
And I will certainly be attempting to redress the apparent lack of local interest in their shop as soon as my clothing budget cycle refreshes!

John

Great to hear that A&I are continuing to innovate. They are the only menswear store where i feel that i would happily wear anything they make, due to their subtle and understated style. I sincerely hope they continue to do well, and am genuinely interested and surprised to hear that so much of their business is from overseas. I wonder if the same applies for similar high-end menswear stores (Drake’s, Trunk, The Armoury etc.) or is specific to them?
Simon, how do you think these crepe soles would fair on wet sources, and for longer walks? I like desert boots for their simplicity, but such shoes fall into the ‘casual and versatile’ bucket for me – compared to a dress shoe – for which i want something that can cope in any conditions bar a thunder storm/snow i.e. not something to be nursed but can be worn without concern.
Fingers crossed for a review from you on their bespoke service! I know you are not keen on their house style, but i guess you could commission some odd trousers or an overcoat? Not that you need more, i’m sure!

Alex

I’m guessing Trunk benefits from the fact that Chiltern Street has become a bit of a shopping destination in the last couple of years, as well as having the hype magnet that is Chiltern Firehouse over the road. Despite their off-the-high-street location, the Anglo-Italian shop really doesn’t call itself out in any way and it seems footfall for anywhere not directly on Marylebone High Street drops off pretty sharply.

Alex

I had completely forgotten about the Monocle ties. Yes, Marylebone does make an interesting contrast to other wealthy neighbourhoods around London – it has managed to retain a local vibe, where others have become ghost towns.

Chris K

Very timely post Simon, having just returned a pair of Clark’s, knowing I must be able to find an alternative, had you not published this article, I’d be none the wiser! It is particularly tricky to find a warmer weather suited, more relaxed desert boot like this.
They certainly tick all the boxes in terms of what I’m looking for. In fact, I was on the edge of going for a pair of Alden unlined chukka’s instead, however I will be in New York (hopefully) soonish, so thought I’d rather wait and try a couple of different widths in Alden Madison/Leffot.
Can I ask, you say you went up half a size. Is this half a size up from your regular shoe size (think I read somewhere you were a UK 9) or half size up from your clarks/boot size? (which I’m assuming you may sometimes take a half size down).

Thanks and my best,
Ck

Chris K

Most definitely!
Thanks very much, think I’ll bump up to a 10.5 in that case I think.
Lastly, the Real McCoy’s hoodie is great, do you mind If I ask what size you took?
Thanks,
Ck

Jon Diblasi

How are the desert boots compared to the Drake’s version. They look similar.

Jackson

How come you don’t like the vibrm soles? I think they look pretty cool! Make them look more substantial and wearable year round.

also how would you say these compare to the desert boots at drakes? Both crepe or rubber soled.

Peter Hall

Excellent boots , especially, noting , they are only double the price of Clark’s latest version.
My original MOD issued desert boots(early 80s- before the vibram sole introduction ) are very soft and low. I think the toe box is a relatively recent arrival. Personally, I much prefer the lower profile.

JH

What is it about Alden’s chukka boots that makes them rougher? Is it the make? If you had to choose one pair between Alden’s and Anglo’s, which would it be and why? Thanks!

John

Any insights on why Alex Pironuis left?

Matty

I’m a big fan of desert/chukka boots and they form a major part of my wardrobe but I’ve found crepe soles can struggle in the wet and humidity. The are also pretty horrible in the wet as the simple construction mean your feet get wet very quickly.
I wore Clark’s when I was younger but have upgraded to Northampton made since and recently discovered Tricker’s Polo chukka boots. An unlined chukka (or a desert boot with a dainite sole) similarly low on the ankle, Goodyear welted, unstructured and rather slim – possibly the perfect desert boot for me.
Cheers

Matty

Yes, agreed. I just thought I would mention the difference between those with simple construction and Goodyear welted versions which keep your feet pretty dry even in heavy downpours. I should also mention I live in Hong Kong where warm weather and heavy rain tend to coincide.

Yun

Dear Simon,
Thanks for this helpful article! What do you think of Anglo-Italian outerwear of this season? (e.g. Barchetta Jacket, Wind Breaker, Field Jacket, etc.) They look great, so I would love to try them on myself, but unfortunately, I can’t.

Yun

Thank you for your comment! it’s very helpful.

Wouter

I bought a navy barchetta jacket and I’m very happy with my purchase. It is essentially a chore jacket, made of sturdy, muted cotton and of extremely understated design, which I like. The fit is A-line, similar to a Barbour waxcoat (but the look and feel are of course entirely different). I buy my knitwear at AI in size L and a size 50 jacket is a correct fit for me, taking into account that the jacket is meant to have a generous fit (judging from the photos on the website).

Craig

Anglo-Italian has become one of my favorite stores to peruse. Everything they sell seems cohesive and harmonious with each other. Their Tessuti fabrics walk the line between interesting and wearable perfectly. That’s probably true of everything they sell. I really would like to go there in person one day.

David

Anglo-Italian are without doubt one of the best indies around. They have a real coherent perspective. Not everything is for me but a lot of it is. There ‘Tennis Blazer’ is an absolute killer.
One thing they should do is to put more complete product descriptions online. Is their windbreaker water proof ? As one example.

shem

Hi simon nice to see anglo italian featured here again. I haven’t bought anything from them in a while but have been meaning to get a double breasted sport coat from them down this year. I have to say their online service quality/responses through email (particularly with Jake) is good and warm. Perhaps the reason behind their good service internationally.

Nick

Anglo Italian also have a great eye for accessories!
Can I ask which size you went for the Real McCoys hoodie Simon?
thanks in advance!

Henki82

Would it be “acceptable” to wear these with a flanell suit or are they too casual? Drakes often pair flannell suiting and suede chukka/desert boots in their “lookbooks” but it probably depends on the formally of the cut of the suit and the shape of the shoes? How would these boots e.g. pair with your Panico flannell suit?

Carlo Tosi

Hi Simon, what’s the exact colour of your pair of desert boots? Chocolate o dark brown? Many thanks

Anonymous

Just wondering – were yours made to order? I checked the AI site and see dark brown with vibram soles or chocolate in dark crepe soles but do not see dark brown in crepe soles.
Also, what do you think about their chocolate color?
The difference in look between these and the Carmina is interesting. The Carmina’s are definitely “prettier” and these are more sporty or casual looking.

Michael

What happened to Alex P, the other founding partner?

R Abbott

Could you elaborate more on the quality of the A-I boots and on the differences between these ones and the Carmina ones? In your review of the Carmina boots, the overall message was that the Carmina unlined chukkas (which are more expensive than the A-I boots covered here) are decent but that you get what you pay for. In contrast, the tone of this article is far more complimentary. Thanks!

Gary

I do wear desert boots a lot and have worn Clarks for years, I keep two wardrobes, one in UK and one here in Africa where I live. I also have a few other brands that all wear well but my current boots are John Lofgren desert boots, a pr in blue and a pr in sand. Not exactly cheap but very cheerful and heavier than the norm, worth a try for anyone wanting authentic desert boots but slightly heavier/stronger.

Jay

Hi Simon,
Any thoughts on the prominent curve on the start of the lapel for their double breasted jackets (where the functioning button is buttoned)? It is captured in the photograph of the 2 jackets on the mannequins and seems to be a deliberate stylistic choice of AI double breasted jackets. Perhaps it is to exaggerate the belly of the lapel? Whatever the reason behind it is, I can’t wrap my head around the design and it really stands out to me in an unpleasant way.
Have you seen this design feature in other jackets? Would you keep it that way if you were to make a DB jacket with AI?

R Abbott

Agree, it’s odd the way the curve on the lapel almost covers the button.

Paul

Even though your Shanklins boots are smart I still think that they compliment your blue jeans and most likely the ecru ones as well.

HH

In a previous post about the weekend capsule wardrobe, you mentioned that a good rotation of footwear would be a pair of brown suede chukka boots, a pair of white Common Projects, and a pair of more sportier trainers. Assuming the sportier trainers remain as you mentioned they’ve got a particular use case, do you think that a pair of these desert boots in the brown suede in the pictures above could stand in place of the brown suede chukka boots? So the rotation would become a pair of brown suede desert boots, a pair of white Common Projects, and a sportier pair of trainers. What’s your take on that? Do you think it would be a good rotation for the weekend or is it a straight no go? Why or why not?

HH

In yet another post, you mentioned that you wore Neapolitan sport coats with jeans, implying that they were the most “casual” option for a smart jacket. Do you think with the use of these desert boots, a Neapolitan sport coat would work with jeans (or perhaps even chinos) in between or do you think these desert boots aren’t smart enough for that type of a look? Is there anything I should keep in mind when putting these items together in an outfit?

R Abbott

These “desert boots” look interesting but I’m not sure I understand the use case for them. As best I understand them, they’re really a summer boot – hence the crepe soles, the low cut, and the absence of a lining. But if it’s hot outside, wouldn’t it make more sense to wear loafers, which can also go equally well with jeans and with tailoring? And it it’s not too hot, why not wear a fuller, more elegant pair of boots like the Shanklins? You mentioned the Shanklins are much dressier, but they look great wi try your Lot 1 jeans, so it looks like they’re still pretty versatile.

That said, the leather looks nice and the low cut is appealing. The one thing that I don’t like about wearing boots is dealing with the cuff getting stuck on the boot whenever I stand up. If I’m with friends or in a business setting casual enough to wear boots, I don’t like to be seen stopping down to adjust my cuffs every time I stand up. This factor alone may be enough for me to pull the trigger and buy a pair. But it probably wouldn’t be for the summer.

Shoddy

Glad to see a piece on desert boots. Simon. As I think I posted a little while ago, I think a good pair is probably the most versatile shoe you can have. I’ve never reall seen them as a warm weather item, whatever the etymology and history. I think they have a certain nonchalance and straightforwardness (I can’t get Ken Clarke out of my mind), which contrast favourably with the slight preciousness of loafers.
Sadly I’ve just replaced my falling apart astorflexes with another pair, otherwise I might have tried the Anglo Italians. They aren’t exactly great, but they’re good enough. Come to think of it, that might make them perfect.

MBB355

What do you think of the cotton/cashmere strombolis? Seem kind of like a spring version of Drakes’ “integral collar jumper,” on which I believe you wrote. I like it since it can be worn without a shirt underneath, but retains neck coverage that flatters the wearer. My only concern is the cashmere content might make it too warm for summer, unlike the pure ice cotton knits.
Separately, what do you make of the unusual “marble” color? I’m not sure what to think of it.

tim j

thanks for the article simon. i have bought a few things from anglo-italian since they opened and love their range. like a number of those who have commented, i think their pieces read well as a collection. i was fortunate enough to visit when in london in 2019 and have to say that both jake and martin were most helpful. if only i could make it back from the island continent that feels more like an island than ever before. thanks also for the sizing info. like you, i’m typically an 8.5 / 42.5 and must admit i was thinking about these boots when they first popped up on the site. seems like something i’d get a lot of wear out of. any thoughts on the durability & comfort when walking a lot or is it a little too early in their life to tell?

TIM J

Cheers Simon. Much appreciated.

BC

Hi Simon,
Any comments on the Anglo-Italian boot in forest or black (the chocolate is great, but I don’t particularly have a need for it in that color)? I’m particularly interested in versatility for wearing casually (denim? maybe tailored cords or heavy drill chinos?) and with a fairly wide palette. Thanks in advance.

Ale

Who makes the desert shoes for them in Italy?

Marc

Simon, how do you feel about wearing desert boots with shorts and a t-shirt?
It seemed out of place to me, wearing ankle-high shoes with shorts but I’ve tried it out a few times and it did not look completely wrong to me. What do you think about that combination?

Marc

I was too thinking of the military heritage of the boots and of hiking. Interesting point with the socks sticking out, I will certainly try that out. That said, I have been wearing mine with invisible socks. There, I think, it helps if the boots are of lighter color, tobacco brown maybe or even sand, to avoid having too much contrast against my fair skin. For people with dark skin, It would be the other way around and with socks, it might be a whole different game.

Chris

Great review Simon. Can you give any further insights on the type and quality of the crepe sole? How have they stood up as you’ve worn them more since the time of writing? I tend to wear this style of shoe religiously, so I’m looking for something that’s robust (unlike the cheaper alternatives you mentioned).

John

Hi Simon, I was wondering if you are planning a review of something from their bespoke line?

I am not keen on the cut of their jackets, but I do like their RTW trousers, though I do not want pleats. I was therefore thinking to try them for a bespoke pair. I find trousers very hard to get right when buying RTW, and am looking for a company I can develop a good pattern with over a few commissions and then order from without concerns. Basically the same arrangement that you seem to have developed with W&S.

John

Thanks Simon, that’s a good point! If they can do them without the pleats then it would work a treat. I shall email Jake now.

Thanks!

John

Just a quick follow-up to this, in case it’s useful for others.

Anglo can do trousers without pleats under their MTM service. I was abit surprised as this seems like a substantial change to their house block. Very good news for me as their RTW trousers fit me well. Hopefully this can be a reliable and trouble free source of trousers for me.

Michael

Hi Simon,
May I ask why did you size up on the desert boots ? Your regular size was to tight? Because I am planning to get a MTO pair and would like to have some feedback. Maybe other readers who bought can comment.
Thank you!

Rob

Simon – I just wondered what your thoughts are in regards to the boat shoe they launched at the same time? I know you have said previously that boat shoes don’t really do it for you. I personally have always got a lot of use out of my Quoddys.