It’s that time again. As we move from a surprisingly balmy February into breezy March, Crockett & Jones is releasing its Spring/Summer ’19 collection, which means it’s time for you to start forward-planning some fresh footwear. Out with the chunky brogues and derby boots; in with understated suede loafers, softer silhouettes, and a new Natural Crepe sole.
While Crockett & Jones’s collection can always be relied upon for a trusty supply of classic British shoes, this season’s releases are particularly interesting; bringing a number of intriguing – and dare I even say unorthodox – design features to the table.
First and foremost, the company has been experimenting with high quality rubber crepe; a curious material that is in fact the purest form of natural latex rubber. It’s tapped sustainably from rubber trees in an environmentally friendly process that leaves said trees unharmed. While not the mainstay of C&J’s output, it does lend the collection’s three new suede models a refreshing, casual quality – perfect for relaxed warm weather weekends.
Namely, these are the Flore III in Snuff Suede, the Cranleigh in Mid-Blue Suede Chelsea boot, and the Hartland II desert boot in Dark Brown Suede. All are unlined for enhanced softness and comfort when worn, and their springy crepe soles ensure that these are as suited to pounding pavements in the City, as they are to quiet country walks. It might seem odd that C&J is introducing two new boot models for spring, but there’s method in the madness. Keen readers might remember this time last year I introduced the Cranleigh Chelsea boot for the first time, proof that you can wear boots in spring – so long as they’re lightweight and unlined like these.
I’ll confess that I’m often dubious of crepe shoes. The crepe can be used to give cheap footwear a desirable ‘fashiony’ edge and disguise shoddy workmanship – no danger of that here. C&J’s crepe is of superior quality, and these shoes are finished using proper Goodyear welted construction. Like all C&J’s leather and rubber sole welted shoes, these new crepe models can be returned to the factory for repairs without fuss - though I’ll guarantee you’ll get more than just a few seasons’ of wear out of these before you need to.
If however, you’re a leather sole devotee, don’t despair. Crockett & Jones has also been experimenting with its thoroughbreds too. The Henley II is a smart new loafer in C&J’s distinctive Tan Burnished Calf, finished with single leather soles; perfect for pairing with a lightweight suit, or tan chinos and a crisp hopsack blazer in the office. On the 375 last, the Henley II has a chic almond toe shape, highlighted by its hand-pulled-up apron, which lends it a handsome, rakish profile. Richmond II in Navy Pebble Grain is also introduced this season, with a relaxed rounded profile on the 367 last and a single leather sole.
In the Hand Grade collection, C&J has also introduced three models in a new Willow Grain, which counterpoints its Scotch Grain and Pebble Grain leathers with a fine linear print. Again, there are loafers for summer; with the more dressy Cadogan in Dark Brown and Black Willow Grain on the 363 last, unlined with single leather soles. Balfour in Dark Brown Willow Grain, an exquisite hand skin-stitched Derby completes the set. This shoe is the perfect smart-casual choice for spring and summer; as comfortable with tailoring as it is with breezy linen trousers, exposed ankles (yes, the ‘mankle’ is a thing – more on that to come) and a Breton striped T-shirt.
Finally, we close on a trio of new experiments. If you’ve paid attention to C&J’s Pitti Uomo reports, you might have noticed that menswear on the whole is getting less fussy; after a fair few years of enjoying dress-up, stylish men are embracing classical colours, simple silhouettes and understated combinations once more.
Enter then the ‘Tassel(less)’ Loafer, which as the name suggests, taps into menswear’s current move towards simplicity of form. This new model is called the Camden, and it’s a close relation of C&J’s Cavendish tassel loafer; one of the company’s most popular models. Certainly, Camden shares Cavendish’s smooth silhouette and its hand-pulled-up apron, but not its tassels! The result is a clean, sophisticated loafer in a choice of Mushroom, Ocean or Snuff Suede, that’s as clean cut as can be.
It’s easy to point the finger at heritage brands like Crockett & Jones, and to write traditional makers off as stuffy or out of date – particularly when Northampton’s shoemakers are operating in a market crowded by cheap, trend-led footwear. This season, though, C&J has proved that it can cut a rug with the best of them; innovating just so, to ensure that its shoes mix the quality and classicism you’d expect with designs that are fit for today.