When you think of excellent craftsmanship, you immediately think of watchmakers, furniture makers, tailors and shoe makers. Here in Britain, we are incredibly fortunate to be blessed with a whole host of ‘traditional’ shoemakers that have managed to withstand the test of time. Over the last few decades, the majority of footwear brands have gradually moved production overseas to cut costs, yet the British shoe industry has managed to continually go from strength to strength.
This is partly due to the current trend for heritage fashion, with consumers deciding against buying mass-produced poor quality items, and investing in quality pieces that will last instead. One item that is well-worth investing in is an excellently crafted pair of shoes, which can easily be worn with different outfits and are extremely hard-wearing (if looked after properly). Below is a guide to some of the best British shoe manufacturers, all of which are true experts in their field and have a genuine passion for manufacturing shoes.
In case you didn’t know, all of the shoe manufacturers featured still ply their trade in Northamptonshire, which is known as the home of English shoemaking (even the local football team are affectionately referred to as ‘The Cobblers’).
Loake have a wealth of experience in creating shoes that can cater for all occasions and indeed all gentlemen. They were established in 1880, and five generations and more than 130 years later, their reputation for manufacturing fine, handmade shoes lives on. As is the case with most traditional British shoemakers, a handmade Loake shoe takes 8 weeks and around 200 different operations to make. My personal favourites are these Loake Burford boots, which feature a classic brogue design and are suitable for both the office and your leisure time. Loake also sell a luxury valet box, containing 6 tins of wax polish, 4 brushes, a polishing cloth, and a shoe horn, which will ensure that your shoes will continue to look immaculate for a very long time
Joseph Cheaney and Sons are another independent family-owned English company, who have been making traditional English shoes in the same small market town of Desborough in the heart of the Northamptonshire countryside since 1886. They have over 160 different processes that take place to make each and every pair, which are the same traditional techniques that have been used since their inception. They have full control over the entire production process, from the cutting out of the leather through to the final polishing.
They have recently signed up with high street brand All Saints to celebrate British manufacturing and deliver a range of limited edition Goodyear welted shoes. They are individually numbered and are manufactured using only the highest grade Italian leathers. My personal favourite is the Conduct Shoe, a classic double buckle monk shoe with a toe cap, which are guarantee to get you some admiring glances whenever and wherever you wear them.
Grenson still use the same factory that they built in 1895 (yes, you guessed it, in Northamptonshire) and their manufacturing process is still very much the same as it was back then. All of their shoes use the Goodyear Welting process, which is the traditional method for the manufacture of men’s dress shoes. All of their shoes are made from the finest shoemaking materials, yet they are probably the most accessible and affordable of the traditional shoemakers. They are synonymous with fashionable shoes, and these Alistair Black Chelsea boots are a particular favourite of mine, which feature brogue-style detailing with stretch side inserts and a rubber wedge sole with contrast stitching.