In this second part of our two-part footwear style guide, we’re lifting the lid on four types of shoe that are a little more unusual, yet no less important to Crockett & Jones. Whether you’re thinking about a new pair of winter boots, or else comfortable, elegant shoes to wear on the weekends, you’ll find them here.
Chelsea Boots are a contemporary wardrobe favourite, known for both their elegance and their versatility. The origin of the name is obscure, but whatever their backstory, these elastic sided (or side-gusset/side-gore) boots date back to the mid-1800s. Smooth calf Chelsea boots with chiselled or almond shaped toes are dressy enough to wear with tailoring or business dress, or on a well-dressed evening out. Plain black calf is even smart enough – as one of our guest writers, Christopher Modoo, suggests – to wear with morning dress to the races. It’s both ‘an intelligent choice and technically correct’, he says.
Today, Crockett & Jones makes Chelsea boot designs that range from hand grade models in A-grade calf, to rough-out suede designs with casual country styling that get better with every bump and scrape. Given their ‘whole-cut’ pattern, Chelsea boots are technically demanding to make, and thanks to both the form-fitting quality of our lasts, and the fact that we ‘block’ the uppers of all our boots to help them mould to the shape of the customer’s foot, we can say with all confidence that our Chelsea's are some of the best in the business.
Monk Straps have a colourful history. The legend goes that they were developed by small groups of Swiss and Italian monks in the 15th century; the monks needed shoes robust enough to cope with perilous mountainside trails, that wouldn’t slip off their feet. Buckling front straps were the solution. By the 16th century, monastic staff across Europe wore the style almost unanimously. In their modern form, they found mainstream popularity amongst the Parisian hand-makers, as an alternative to lace-ups at the turn of the 20th century. Back then, they were popular with gangsters, but thankfully not so much nowadays.
Instead, they’re a favourite of intelligent sartorialists, like our contributors Olof Niethenius and Nigel Cleaver. Unbeknown to many lesser informed individuals, the monk strap is almost a ‘modern Derby’. With open quarters, and a whole-cut vamp and tongue, Monk straps (both single and double buckle) are remarkably comfortable on the foot, and boast similar fitting properties to Derby shoes. Whether worn in the city in dark brown or black smooth calf, or lasted in Scotch or Pebble Grain for countrywear, monk shoes are a smart-thinking choice away from convention.
The sartorial Albert Slipper was developed in the 1800s and named in deference to Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert. Originally, it was referred to as a ‘house shoe’ to keep the feet of the English aristocracy warm and clean as they padded around their grand country houses. Nowadays, it is the most elegant kind of slipper we offer, finished with slim leather soles, an extended tongue, grosgrain edge tapes and a quilted satin lining.
While it’s not the sort of shoe you’d want to wear walking in the country, you don’t have to restrict its uses to wearing around the house today. An evening slipper can be a smart, characterful alternative to a patent dress shoes for Black Tie, or even paired with a luxurious lounge suit to wear to parties. This look is a firm favourite of our guest editor, Aleks Cvetkovic. ‘Opt for plain black velvet or a classic monogrammed design for a sophisticated impression. Alternatively, you can even pair C&J’s navy velvet slippers with a matching smoking jacket – it’s a look’ he says... If you own a smoking jacket!
Confirmed advocates of classic English shoes that we are, Crockett & Jones is no stick-in-the-mud. We understand that in some rare circumstances, a solid welted sole isn’t the most practical choice, so we offer a collection of unstructured and ultra-comfortable driving shoes for high summer, or indeed for keen motorists. Made famous in the 1960s by the Italians, ours are made in Italy, from only the softest leathers, with the requisite cleated rubber soles.
Our Driving Shoes are available in a mixture of soft full-grain leathers or lightweight suedes, in both navy, dark brown and different shades of tan. Of course, while they’re called driving shoes these also work well on holiday (sans socks), or to wear around town in warmer climes. Being soft and unstructured, they can be easily squeezed into a weekend bag or suitcase when needed, and require less maintenance than traditional English shoes.