Most people in the shoe industry regard handmade English shoes as being something special – they define an old-fashioned style and have a timeless aspect not found in other kinds of footwear.
From the Victorian gent to the modern day, suited gentleman, leather shoes made by a skilled worker complement smart (or even smart-casual) clothing impeccably well. The 1914 Shackleton expedition used tough English Crockett and Jones footwear for the second time around, showing the strength of their build quality.
English shoemakers have had a long history and the first recorded centre for shoemaking (starting with tanning) was in Northampton in the Middle Ages. The plentiful forests provided high-quality bark, and the convenient location of the town lead to a boom in the industry.
The industrial revolution changed the landscape somewhat; improved manufacturing techniques led to an increased mass-production focus, there were issues with making the transition to mechanisation and a higher proportion of mass-produced shoes rather than purely handmade shoes, with many fearing losing their trade to machinery. The 1841 census paints perhaps the most impressive picture of how long-established shoemaking was in England; in 1841 there were 1,821 shoemakers in Northampton alone.
In terms of the actual manufacturing process, the ‘Goodyear-Welted’ construction that has been perfected over many decades affords many advantages over other shoemaking methods. For example, soles can be resoled repeatedly if necessary to dramatically extend their lifespan, sometimes even to decades. Shoes made using this method are also highly waterproof, and the durability of the shoe is enhanced considerably overall.
Handmade shoes are admittedly slightly on the pricey side, however if you get a bespoke pair of shoes fitted to your exact measurements you’ll be guaranteed comfort as well as something that fits in exactly with the look you’re going for style-wise.
They can be a good investment to make; the quality of your footwear can make a fairly large subconscious impact on those you interact with. Also, a quality pair should last you longer than cheaper equivalents.
There are still a number of english shoemakers out there making footwear to traditional, proven methods. If you want to get some footwear that stands out a bit why not have a look into them?
Written by Timothy.J.Brighton