London’s James Purdey & Sons, the “King of Gunmakers” is a company best known for beautifully hand-engraved shotguns and gentlemanly hunting attire. This autumn though, the brand turned out an astonishingly handsome collection of footwear that rivals anything see anywhere, hunting-centric or otherwise. The entirety of the footwear collection is made in Northampton, England by an endeared and respected maker (we’ll let you take a guess who that is, should be obvious from the shapes seen here). This collection of upland-focused shoes and boots is especially great because Purdey put its touch on these otherwise classic styles. If you figured out who the manufacturer is, then you know how conservative they can be with the materials and shapes. That was the first thing we though of upon our initial encounter with these boots in London. We knew the make and appreciate the style. Not to mention the fact that both Purdey and said shoemaker weren’t going out of their way to herald this as the new new collaboration du jour — it was a discovery made the old fashioned way, with a visit to Audley House.
It’s not exactly Barbour season for me, but while my Bedales & Beauforts sleep in my closet waiting for their triumphant return this fall, the factory where they were made hums right along at a fever pitch making great-looking and long-lasting outerwear.
Last summer I was thinking about embarking on a trip around the U.K. visiting the British factories that turn out the classic menswear items that captivate me (like my “Made in Italy” trip). As it turned out, I didn’t end up having the chance to organize the trip —I still might do it, eventually— but I did manage to tour the Sunspel factory last fall, which was my first exposure to “made in England.” Recently I was invited as a guest of Barbour to see their factory and home office in South Shields, near Newcastle, England. No brainer.
The Barbour repair shop is tucked away in a comparatively small room at the back of the main factory in South Shields, England. It’s a relatively calm space when you consider the frenetic energy that fills the factory floor not too far away. Upon entry, you immediately notice the racks and racks of well-worn old Barbour jackets that have been sent in for repair. In some cases it’s just a minor fix or re-waxing, in other cases are life or death and major surgery is required. The casual observer would say: “Why go to all the trouble just to save some old ratty coat?’ While those of us who know better would instruct the men and women of the Barbour repair shop to “please do all you can to save her”.
While a guest of Barbour at the factory, the ladies in the repair shop noticed the two torn pockets on my 10-year-old Bedale (don’t walk your dog on a leash with your hands in your pockets) and offered to fix my jacket on the spot. Before you know it, my jacket was on a table getting the snaps cut off with pliers and open heart surgery was underway. They promised me everything would be back in action in a few hours.
The history, the shape of the lasts, the legacy and most of all the quality. Those are the reasons which keep me buying and wearing shoes from Crockett & Jones. Every time I am in London I stop by at least one of the Northampton shoemaker’s shops (there are two storefronts on Jermyn Street for some odd reason) in Mayfair to browse and to occasionally take home a new pair of shoes that I plan on owning forever. The New York store is also nice to visit, but not nearly as much fun as seeing these shoes on their home soil.
Crockett & Jones is one of those companies that I have long sought to know on a more intimate basis, partially because I admire the history of the company, but also because I like to wear the shoes so much. Only thing is, Crockett & Jones is a pretty conservative company, one that is much more focused on making great shoes than making much of a fuss on the internet. It rightfully figured it has a loyal following and a strong business, the product is the marketing.
All of this reminds me of Alden. (Incidentally I have basically never had any contact with Alden, but that’s fine because all I need from them is to continue making shoes I love.) The beloved New England shoemaker is another company that doesn’t need to have a heavy hand when it comes to marketing, the shoes and the quality tell everyone all they need to know. Production is limited and it doesn’t want to go crazy increasing it and risk ruining everything. It’s admirable because it works, and also because both Alden and Crockett make such great things.
Americana loving Brit designer Greg Chapman spent a year and a half traveling around the world with the Globe-Trotter Safari Air, a case that he purchased at the revered company’s shop in London’s Burlington Arcade after a meeting with brand Creative Director Gary Bott. A little while later, Chapman approached Globe-Trotter and Bott about collaborating on a modified case that incorporates some modern day considerations — though nothing too crazy like wheels — and then set out to create a small run of special edition Globe-Trotters based on the company’s functional 1912 Stabilist series.
More history on the inspiration for the Greg Chapman x Globe-Trotter collaboration:
In 1912, the Stabilist series were bespoke manufactured Globe-Trotter luggage that featured special functionality for the Victorian traveler; such as wardrobe trunks, hat and shoe cases for travel by horse drawn carriage, rail and cruise liner.