As mentioned in my previous article, I love shoes in general and well made English shoes in particular. Therefore, ever since my passion started, I have always had an appreciation for Crockett & Jones. Here I will try to explain why and in doing so, take you on a stroll along memory lane, reflecting over a decade and a half.
I live in Sweden, it’s my home, even though I take every chance to cross the sea and visit my friends on the British Isles. Many years ago the range of shoes in Sweden left a lot to be desired. To be honest, here in the cold of northern Europe, there simply wasn’t the interest and passion for good shoes. Some 15 years ago I, like many others, sought out quality footwear and today it is quite the opposite and evidence indeed as to how quickly attitudes can change.
It was very hard to find a retailer that sold the kind of shoes I was looking for. The best option, though not a bad one, were the cobblers. In Sweden we have always had skilled cobblers that know the craft well. I would often visit them and note their frustration in making a living trying to save poorly made shoes, trying to add another few months of wear to boots pieced together with glue.
These men educated me in the fine art of shoe-making and that by ‘investing’ in good shoes they would last a long time.
To my good fortune, five or so years prior, these craftsmen had begun selling Goodyear welted shoes from Crockett & Jones, they explained the brand and in most cases had visited the factory in Northampton. C&J were the shoes on which they had learned their craft and honed their skills. They saw the benefits of selling and promoting a shoe in which required their services years later. Repeat business is hard to come by. Their collections were limited, with only around ten styles to choose from, since they remarked they were considered too expensive and ‘exotic’.
These men were ahead of their time and I am glad to say that the attitude and appetite for high quality shoes matured in favour of the better. Today the interest in well-made shoes in Sweden is great and, as a consequence, the range of which to choose from is prodigious. With that said, despite fierce competition, I believe that Crockett & Jones is the major player. This is in no small part thanks to the professional cobblers of the day, who lauded Crockett & Jones for their quality. A sentiment that remains with all who know the brand today.
I have met a lot of shoe enthusiasts and connoisseurs over the years and we have discussed which are the most popular Crockett & Jones models. Of course we all have our own tastes and preferences yet my personal observations lead me to believe that the slightly more mature gent here in the north of Europe favours the sleeker models with a more chiselled last found in the Hand Grade collection. The younger crowd is divided into two groups, one that likes everything in suede with the Cavendish and Lowndes featuring highly and another group that leans towards the more sturdy models with a rustic or rounded last such as Pembroke, Grasmere and Coniston. The insiders, the people of the trade and the influencers, have now gone all in on their Shell Cordovan Collection.
Today the interest in well-made shoes in Sweden is great and, as a consequence, the range of which to choose from is prodigious.
When reviewing my own collection in the basement, yes it’s there I keep my treasures, it’s not by chance that I have more dark green shoe boxes than any other brand. I count eight boxes of pure Northampton heritage containing the models: Lincoln, Harvard, Pembroke, Boston, Hallam, Galway II and Harlech... oh and a rare pair of Henley in Cordovan (a penny on the venerable 325 last). There is still some space left and I wonder which shoe or boot will become ninth or tenth in my collection? Who knows, I certainly don’t. For me it is all in the anticipation, with planning and consideration a part of the joy. So, do I lean towards the Cavendish in Shell? I do love shell, though a classic black calf Connaught is never far from my mind…