January 4th, 2019
My family has been making traditional English shoes for longer than anyone can remember. My great-grandfather John opened the first Loake factory with his brothers, Thomas and William, back in 1880. Today, five generations and more than 130 years later, the Loake association with fine, handmade shoes lives on.
In this section of the blog, we like to look at some of the other things that wearers of fine shoes might appreciate, so we look for the very best of English craftsmanship in other industries. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much in common between a pair of shoes and an umbrella. But think again.
Chelsea boots, also known as jodhpur boots, first appeared in Victorian times and were used for horse riding. Their distinguishable feature was an elastic insert that allowed them to be easily pulled on and off. By the middle of the 20th century, London’s ‘Chelsea Set’ had adopted the style and the name Chelsea boot was born. The design soon became synonymous with the Mod and Beatnik generation of the 1960s.
Here at Loake we are big fans of David Evans, cult menswear writer and author behind Grey Fox, a fashion and style blog offering sartorial guidance to men over 40. During his search for style, David has discovered and become a big fan of British menswear. We were recently fortunate to receive him at our Kettering factory. Here is his account of the visit.
I recently visited Kettering to see the Loake footwear factory. As a blogger, I’ve had the privilege of visiting several factories around England and Scotland. All were similar in many ways: the smell of oil, the sounds, the ordered but well-worn furnishings and machinery, the quiet focus of the workers, their enthusiasm and care and the breathtaking expertise shown in those quick, deft movements used by those totally familiar with their work.
Northamptonshire is the spiritual home of the brogue. No English gentleman’s wardrobe is complete without a pair of handcrafted Goodyear welted brogues from one of the county’s traditional shoemakers. However, the brogue did not originate in the Midlands. Originally it was worn in the wilder reaches of the Highlands and Ireland, the punched holes designed to allow water to drain from the shoe after walking through boggy terrain.
Meet Brendon Drage-Dawes, the Manager of our factory in Kettering, Northamptonshire. Brendon is a highly-experienced and very valuable member of our management team. He has worked in the shoemaking trade for nearly three decades.
We invited Craig Langdale, editor of men’s fashion and lifestyle site MenswearStyle, to choose the key shoe styles that should have pride of place in the discerning gentleman’s wardrobe. The selection and styling advice that follows is by no means exhaustive, but it explains why there’s more to men’s shoes than having a signature pair.
Named after Oxford University, even though the shoe was originally found in Scotland, the Oxford shoe style is great for everything. With this style available in so many different materials and colours, you won’t be hard done by to find something that suits you. Using leather for suits and suede for smart-casual means you’re good to go before you’ve even decided what outfit to wear. Just make sure to look after them.
The Chelsea Boot was originally a women’s shoe style. More recently this has been trickling into men’s fashion and rightly so. The boot has an elasticated side to help pull them on which allows easier access but also keeps the shoe tight around your foot. As the boot has this elasticated cut out, working these into an outfit with skinny jeans will sharpen up your bottom half by keeping it tight and defined.
The rustic design which features on the Brogue shoe gives an intricacy to your style that provides the impression that you spend time thinking about what you wear. The style is a lace up type with a solid shape that a shoe-tree would be great for maintaining. A slim pair of jeans rolled up to allow the shoe to be fully shown is a great way to display them, and a tan or brown option would look great with denim of any colour.
Monk Strap Shoe
Double strap, single strap or a low topped buckled boot are some of the options of a Monk shoe. With a technical design that uses no laces, only buckles, they look great under a pair of suit trousers. In terms of formality though, the Monk shoe style is less formal than an Oxford but more so than the tan Brogue. The slight heel that some of the shoes have will give you a little extra subtle height, but also the range of colours available gives you the versatility to round off your style for any occasion.
Desert Boots are almost posh high-tops, worn by the British Forces in World War II. The Desert Boot (such as our Sahara style), used to be made with calfskin leather, but more recently the use of worn suede has given the shoe a smart sandy look. Finding the right boot for the mood is a little harder here as they’re predominantly a smart-casual uniform wear shoe. Using darker colours with some fitted suit trousers, making sure to not clash the colours too much, is a great way to style them.
Pull-on shoes could bring back memories of horrible, wrinkled faux leather shoes you were forced to wear back in Primary school. But a well-made, smart Penny Loafer is a good option for easy, comfortable wear. The shoe has no buckles or laces, a solid shape and is one of the most versatile formal shoes you can own. The Penny Loafer isn’t a smart-casual shoe by any means, but if you’re feeling a little brave then wearing slim light trousers or formal chinos and no socks will bring the shoes into the outfit.