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History of Retail - Jermyn Street

We nod to the history of one of London’s most iconic shopping streets, home to non less than two Crockett & Jones stores.

History of Retail - Jermyn Street

It will be no great surprise that Jermyn Street holds a special place in our hearts at Crockett & Jones. This quiet little thoroughfare in London’s St James’s has been the spiritual home of refined British menswear for nigh on 300 years.

Today, Jermyn Street is associated primarily with the shirtmakers, shoemakers and outfitters who call it home. It became a hub for luxury menswear in the the early 1800s, largely to complement Savile Row’s growing reputation as the world’s foremost bespoke tailoring district, just a short walk away through Burlington Arcade (home to another of our shops).

Even so, the street’s first shop wasn’t a menswear emporium. In fact it was a small corner shop and green grocer by the name of Fortnum & Mason, which opened in 1707 and over the course of the 18th century would grow into the Great British institution that it is today. Even then, Fortnum’s was held in high regard for the quality of its produce, setting a blue-print that other fashionable shops – shirtmakers and shoemakers included – would come to follow.

Luxury retailers have always thrived on Jermyn Street thanks to its elevated status. The street’s origins can be traced back to 1664, when King Charles II authorised Henry Jermyn, the Earl of St Albans, to develop an exclusive residential neighbourhood next to St James’s Palace. At the time, the area was named St James’s Field, and was demarcated by 14 grand townhouses and four new streets for noble families and Charles’s preferred courtiers to enjoy. From that point onwards, St James’s became a hub for London’s fashionable intelligentsia, and by Earl Jermyn’s death in 1663 he’d earned the nickname ‘founder of the West End’.

Today, Jermyn Street is home to two Crockett & Jones stores; our flagship at No.92, and 'the original' at No.69. Both teams work closely together to ensure that our customers in the West End receive impeccable service sharing stocks to the benefit of all. The Manager at No.69, Christopher Tan, took a few minutes out from his hectic schedule to paint us a picture of daily life at our very first Jermyn Street shop.

‘As one of London’s sartorial highlights, Jermyn Street attracts a wide variety of visitors. From tweedy romantics to sleek businessmen, students having saved up for their first pair, or billionaires adding to their collection; everyone in need of proper shoes knows to come to Jermyn Street.

For us at Crockett & Jones, an understanding of a wide range of needs and requests is essential in order to give appropriate advice. Some customers actively seek guidance from us, whereas others know exactly what they want when they walk through the door.

I remember a cheerful young man purchasing Cavendish tassel loafers for his first job in the city on a busy Saturday. Our advice was to go for a toe-cap Oxford, however his heart was set on the tassels. A week later he returned, less cheerful, with the loafers in one hand and the tassels in the other. His new boss had a strict “no tassels in my office” policy and had forced him to cut off the tassels from his brand-new loafers. The young man now wears Black Connaughts, with his re-tasseled loafers reserved for the weekends. There’s never a dull moment on Jermyn Street.’

For other customers with less formidable superiors or altogether different requirements for their shoes, we hope that a visit to either of our Jermyn Street shops will prove to be both enjoyable and enlightening.

Jermyn Street’s rich history is a remarkable thing, and we’re pleased to play some small part in it – and to shod the feet of some of its most colourful characters today.

*Thank you to Fortnum & Mason who kindly provided historical informaiton and imagery to support this article.

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