I’m not going to dwell on the obvious. This year has marked something of a sea-change in how we work, socialise, travel and of course how we dress. Various players on the ‘classic menswear’ scene (I hate that term, but you know what I mean) have been struggling to come to terms with the world’s slide towards a more relaxed, casual mode of dress for some time, and the disruption caused by COVID-19 has only served to accelerate this process.
With this in mind it’s reassuring to see that even before COVID-19 struck, Crockett & Jones were already well into the planning of its AW20 Collection which by chance or more likely knowledge, plays well to the realities of the ‘new normal’. The season’s new pieces are rugged, relaxed and fuss-free – while retaining the elegance you’d expect of top-grade English shoemaking. Taken together, they’re a little more casual than you might ordinarily expect. Indeed, Crockett & Jones are a little more forward thinking than some fashionistas might realise!
Let’s start with the boots. There are several new designs in the Main Collection, each of which makes quite the statement in its own way. First up, Ross has been reimagined in a new material for C&J, Fawn Suede, with a Dark Brown Suede collar and Vibram lightweight cleated rubber soles, which are storm-welted for peerless water resistance. Introduced last winter, Ross is one of C&J’s most hardy boots and this new colourway lends them a sophisticated but casual look. Wear tramping over hills and dales in your wax jacket, the next time you escape the big smoke.
Ross is followed by a new model, Shannon, a derby boot with a stitched apron. This design is surprisingly chic; the Dark Brown Suede contrasts nicely with its tan stitching and natural storm welt, which adds interest to an otherwise conservative design. It’s lasted on the 375 with close-fitting, supportive heels and medium-round toes that lend these a lean, sweeping profile. Also on the 375 is the Aldershot, a handsome boot that mixes Dark Brown Rough-Out Suede with their classic Scotch Grain. Plain toe caps, more oversized Vibram soles, speed hooks and ankle straps lend the Aldershot a utilitarian appeal that feels contemporary nonetheless, and a clear nod to their heritage of producing for the military.
The Aldershot is partnered by the Sandhurst, a hearty Derby shoe in Dark Brown Scotch Grain with plain toe caps and reinforced eyelets. Not only are its cleated soles practical, they lend the Sandhurst a chunky, fashion-forward look too – not unlike C&J’s now iconic ‘Black Editions’. In fact, you might even say that this winter is the season of the ‘brown editions’, because the Henley 3 penny loafer and Whitby monk shoe have both been rendered in Dark Brown Cavalry Calf, set on the same distinctive rubber Vibram soles. The cavalry calf leather is both hard-wearing and satisfyingly glossy (a little like Cordovan), which again helps to lend these shoes welcome fashionable credentials.
Of course, Crockett & Jones is never one to abandon classicists, either, and if smart simplicity is your thing, the Chelsea 8 has also been updated in Chestnut Burnished calf. You’ll also find two other new boots to choose from; the Cranton low-leg Chelsea, and the Upton two-eyelet chukka. All are set on C&J's ever-dependable rubber City Soles; ideally suited to the cooler, wetter months.
In the Hand Grade collection, the new Kew chukka boot is a treat to behold; lasted in my favourite of all C&J’s leathers, Dark Brown Willow Grain, with its distinctive linear grain. A casual style meets a dressy material, also finished on rubber City Soles.
The smart-casual theme is maintained elsewhere in the Hand Grade collection with the Lawrence 2, a distinctive take on a single monk-strap sewn with a stunning hand-stitched apron and split-toe (an astonishing skill I have witnessed in person!). The Vincent 2 is a finely rendered tassel loafer in Tan Antique Calf, with plenty of beautiful hand-work in evidence; from the delicacy of its hand-cut tassels to its fine apron stitching. Both this and the Lawrence 2 are lasted on Crockett & Jones’s anniversary last, the 140, which was produced in late 2019. A flawless fit meets elegant almond toes.
What unifies all these new designs is a sympathy for the curious time we find ourselves in. While formal dress shoes may not be at the top of most shopping lists right now, dependable boots, sturdy Derbies and casual day-to-day designs have taken on a fresh appeal in recent months.
With their considered designs and forward-thinking features, Crockett & Jones’s new AW20 Collection is very much ‘of the moment’.