Also 100% made in our very own factory in Northampton, England, by the same 300+ craftsmen and women who produce our Men’s Main Collection, the Hand Grade Collection represents Crockett & Jones’ top level of shoemaking. A ready-to-wear collection that was highly specified from the outset.
This collection famously airs on the side of the traditional. A slice of where Crockett & Jones has come from, as we work hard to keep tradition alive! Ignoring trends, it operates on a slightly higher level of sophistication to the more affordable Main Collection. A precipice of quality with proprietors in no need or introduction as to the superior wear the collection offers. By utilising top grade European calf and calf suede, these antique calf leathers offer the finest of break. With a full leather lining and full in-sock, the shoes are comfortable from day one with almost no break-in period, aging beautifully if cared for well.
40 SKUs across 23 styles, made using 3 different types of materials, in 6 colourways… made on 6 expertly crafted lasts, featuring 2 different soles… stats that showcase the curated exclusivity of our top grade offering. As described in our annual retail catalogue:
This unique collection of mainly formal shoes from Crockett & Jones represents the art of shoemaking at its highest level.
An asymmetric last, shaped to the natural contours of the foot, gives exceptional fitting qualities. Uppers cut from the finest calf skins with a supple tannage, provide glove-like comfort. Fine aniline dyes in the leathers, and extensive hand polishing of the finished shoes, create a rich depth of colour which will be enhanced with age if regularly polished and cared for. Soles that have been slowly tanned with natural barks, in the most traditional way, have superior strength and flexibility.
The hand of our skilled craftsmen and women can be appreciated in the fine stitch detailing of the uppers and the expert way the soles are trimmed and stitched before the final wax polishing – a process which lasts up to 10 weeks.
But, if the Main Collection is so good and represents such good value for money, why would a customer consider the Hand Grade collection?
Firstly, last shape. Look no further than the infamous 337 last! All of our Hand Grade lasts are unique to the Hand Grade Collection. At C&J, we have a rule where we only ever ‘up-spec’ a last. Which we have done on a few occasions of late (For example: Our Limited Edition 20th Anniversary Retail Collection and our Limited Edition wholecut Oxford, JAMES, made in celebration of our Official partnership with EON Productions and James Bond). Never, is a Hand Grade last given a Main Collection specification.
Secondly, attention to the finer details. Sporting leather soles that have been slowly tanned with natural barks, in the most traditional way producing superior comfort and flexibility. This sole is then channelled, concealing the sole stitching resulting in what can only be described as ‘soleful’ art! Adding a final touch, the inside corner of the heal is removed, known as a ‘Gentleman’s Corner’ this minimises trouser snagging.
To appreciate our Hand Grade shoes, simply means you have an appreciation for something a little out of the ordinary. Where somebody, somewhere has gone beyond the port of call to create something better. Whether that is a BMW from M division, an Audi from the RS department or a Lotus from… Hethel!
The origins of the Hand Grade Collection are derived from this requirement for something finer. The collection as we know it today officially launched 25 years ago, in 1997, when Crockett & Jones opened its first flagship retail store on London’s Jermyn Street. In fact, this top grade specification and the skill of manufacturing required was born a decade earlier. After developing top grade collections for John Lobb (Paris) in the late 1980’s.
Lobbs bespoke division, alongside Jonathan Jones’ manufacturing prowess, created new lasts and patterns suitable for bulk production. Crockett & Jones produced the first read-to-wear collection displayed by John Lobb (Paris), and so successful was the pairing that at one point Crockett & Jones was producing nearly 10,000 pairs a year for the brand. As Lobb’s success grew and they continued to expand, as did our own aspirations to own and run a retail division. Unable to keep up with the production demand, the relationship, although successful and amicable, ended. Thankfully, all good things don’t have to come to an end, and this relationship ultimately paved the way for what is now known as the Hand Grade Collection.
Stamped with our recognisable 1930’s logo each pair takes a little longer to produce than the Main Collection. Largely, this is due to the hand finishing of the upper, which requires more layers of antique between burnishing, building up depth to the leathers’ naturally aged look.
Most certainly aimed towards smart personal or smart business wear, all of the styles from our Hand Grade Collection will bring a timeless elegance to your footwear collection. There is more chance of tea going out of fashion in Yorkshire, than our Hand Grade Collection becoming obsolete. A high quality Cap Oxford is a little like the wheels on your car, tough to reinvent.