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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
With no disrespect to our American cousins, reading about American shoe brands such as Florsheim, Alden and AE etc has been interesting and I have learned a lot about shoes; discovering that some grown men need to be told how to polish their shoes was also an eye-opener for me, but I would like to have a discussion about shoes available in England.

Having convinced myself that it is perfectly acceptable to spend more on a pair of shoes than I spend on my annual holiday, I am not about to buy them without being able to try them on first, so that means they do not have to be an English brand (though that would be nice) but they do have to be available from a store in England - I live in Hampshire so the further south the better.

I am also cynical of the idea that paying more necessarily means you get better quality; obviously you have to pay more to get better, but paying more doesn't guarantee that you get better. So I really need some advice on the quality of what's available.

My absolute top price is £160.

What I am looking for is an Oxford - which regular readers will know is a shoe cut lower than the ankle bone; so no boots please. I am after a business/dress/formal shoe so laceups only - I can't imagine wearing slip-on shoes with a suit.

I have a high instep so do not wear Balmorals and much prefer Derby's, like this:

Loake - Badminton - £149.95

I like wingtips, but also a plain front, like this:

Alfred Sargent - Wells - £160.99

- which I believe is called a Gibson, and I also like toecaps like this:

Barker - Heywood - £134.95

...but only if the shoe is not black. Toecaps like that on black shoes are too military for my taste.

I'm relaxed about colour; black, burgundy, brown, tan; I have suits that will go with any of these but prefer not to mix colours for the time being - although a pair of spectators is a definite for the future when I get my seersucker suit.

My top three shoes at the moment are:
Loake Royal Brogue £116.99

Grenson Archie - £145.99 a "big punch" brogue in a colour they call Burnt Pine.

Barker Haven - £159.95 though probably prefer the black


I have done some research and found some names with which to kick off the discussion, which I have ranked in what I think is an approximate order of quality. The question then is, are these brands in (approximately) the correct order at my price range, and is there anyone else you think I might like to consider or special offers you know of that might be relevant? (I have seen the current offer on Alfred Sargent but would prefer not to have that waxy finish on a pair of business/dress shoes).

Grenson (mostly out of my price range, but lovely shoes)
Crockett & Jones (pricey but mostly not to my taste)
Barker
Tricker
Alfred Sargent
Loake
Sanders
Mephisto (these look over priced to me)

Although I have listed Loake almost at the bottom for quality they probably have more shoes I like the look of than any of these other names.

Many thanks,
 

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You didn't mention it so may not have seen this article on the home page:

https://askandyaboutclothes.com/Tutorials/JCuseyOnShoes.htm

Looks to be a roughly similar conclusion to yours, though maybe some of the author's opinions may be of help?

I agree with your assessment of Loake in that they produce a wide range of classic styles. You may not be as satisfied with the quality of your purchase perhaps but you'll still look good.
 

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I thought long and hard about those Grenson Archies...never did pull the trigger...do you recommend? (obviously you do) But what in particular do you like about the shoe?
 

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Grenson (mostly out of my price range, but lovely shoes)
Crockett & Jones (pricey but mostly not to my taste)
Barker
Tricker
Alfred Sargent
Loake
Sanders
Mephisto (these look over priced to me)

Although I have listed Loake almost at the bottom for quality they probably have more shoes I like the look of than any of these other names.
I'm a huge fan of Barker. They're not quite the same quality, of workmanship or leather, as the Church's or C&J shoes I've owned, but they're far cheaper. Better than Loake, IMHO, in both design and how long they last. Some of the Barker's line is sold in Jones stores, which are all over the country, so that may be a good place to try. Though the Jones own-brand shoes are of a distinctly lesser quality.

While it's a little far from Hampshire, the factory shops in Northampton sell 2nds at far less than retail, and it's usually hard to see any flaw. All of the C&J and Church's I've seen there are under £150, which puts them into your price range, and the Barker ones I got as 2nds were around £80. Apparently the Edward Green 2nds are not much over that, though you need to book an appointment there. For one pair, it's probably better to stay local, but if you were looking for 2 or 3 it can make a trip worthwhile.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Polar Bear, you are right, I did not see it but appreciate you drawing my attention to it. I looked at the Edward Green website but could see no prices, so acting on the age-old assumption that if you have to ask you can't afford it, I ignored him for my survey. Church's shoes are, in my un-educated opinion, hideous; you couldn't pay me enough to get me to wear a pair of those.

I appreciate your comment about the reduced quality of the Loake shoes. The way I worked it out was this: Quality in a shoe equates, more or less, to longevity. A good quality pair of bespoke shoes might cost £700 or £800 or more, but they will last you ten years. The kind of cheap rubbish I have been wearing to this point has lasted me eighteen months if I'm lucky. If, by trebling my outlay to about £150 I get a much better pair of shoes that last me six years (as opposed to the ten of real quality) then I'm more beautiful and stylish for longer than on my current programme. So the Loake's not being as high quality as the Lobb's or Church's is not an issue at this price. Does that make sense?

rgrossicone, please do not take anything I say as a recommendation. I know nothing about shoes and have started this thread to seek advice, not to give it. But the answer to your question about the Grenson Archies is that I really like the bold idea of using the bigger punch for the broguing; they look sufficiently "in-your-face" to be confident, which is how I will feel when wearing them. I like the colour a lot, they look as though they will acquire patina quite quickly and the idea of shoes with character appeals to me since seeing some of the posts in the other shoes threads on this forum. And that small detail of the three-layer sole speaks to me of quality built in.

But I still prefer the Loake Royal Brogue because it looks sufficiently classy for cocktails on the promenade and discreet dinners a dieu, but also stylish enough for dancing the Tango in after hours jazz clubs with the smoke of expensive cigars suspended from the rafters.
Why did you not go for the Archie?

Drogue (I don't think it is absolutely essential to quote the whole post, and probably a huge waste of somebody's expensive bandwidth).

Thank you for your comments re Barker v Church etc (which sounds like an important court case). The reason (or one of them, anyway) I have kept my price lowish is so that I can afford more than one pair. So the idea of a trip is not ridiculous and had been considered. Do you have experience of these factory shops? Are they proper shops or is it just a warehouse with stacks of boxes and you queue up at a counter and ask for your model in your size and fitting? If it's the former I might consider it but otherwise probably not.

Many thanks,
 

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Toe-cap = military? I think it is the opposite! Think George boots that the military wear and they do not have toe-caps but are plain. Toe-caps = City gentleman more like...

I would second Barkers. I have a pair of black Oxford toe-caps from them ('Arnold') and I wear them with suits and morning dress. They also polish very nicely and was complimented on them once. The only quarm I have with them is that the heel is full rubber which has a tendency to attract chewing gum like a magnet (both heels!) as well as bits of dirt, feather and things which I will not discuss here... I'm even thinking of getting the local cobbler to re-heel them with leather with 1/4 rubber to get rid of tis deficiency.

I think the leather soles of Jones's own brand is much better than Barkers. I've worn my Jones's more and the wear is less than that of the soles of my Barker's. However, the top leather of Barker's is better IMO.

Bespoke shoes cost as much as £2000.
 

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Drogue (I don't think it is absolutely essential to quote the whole post, and probably a huge waste of somebody's expensive bandwidth).
Apologies, I didn't read the post after posting and forgot the pictures and such. Have edited.

Do you have experience of these factory shops? Are they proper shops or is it just a warehouse with stacks of boxes and you queue up at a counter and ask for your model in your size and fitting? If it's the former I might consider it but otherwise probably not.
They're actual shops. Most of them are small and often next to the factory, but inside they look like (a bit old-fashioned) shoe shops, with shoes on display to try and shop assistants (who are usually pretty knowledgable. In fact the Barker one's quite a large shop with both firsts and seconds, though it's a little out of town so best to drive to. I haven't been to the Edward Green one as you have to book, but I probably will next time I pop back to see my parents.
 

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I think the leather soles of Jones's own brand is much better than Barkers. I've worn my Jones's more and the wear is less than that of the soles of my Barker's. However, the top leather of Barker's is better IMO.
That's interesting to hear. Thinking back, I don't think any of the pairs of Jones' I've had have had proper welted soles, so I may have misjudged them as relatively poor shoes simply because of the ones I've bought. I tend to shop there during their half price sales, so at £30-40 I tend to use them for more fashionable shoes. Since these are available all over the place, perhaps going for the better quality Jones' shoes, especially in one of their sales, is a good way forward. They have the same, more modern styles of shoes as with Loake, but are likely to be cheaper and, given my experience with Loake is not particularly good, perhaps better.
 

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I am in complete agreement with you in terms of not making a shoe purchase without trying a pair on.

I have narrow feet. In most lasts I wear an American C, but at times a B has been in order.

That being said I like every selection you've listed and I would buy a pair straight away if I could only try them on,....:(

To top it off from the internet browsing I've done it seems quite difficult to find English made shoes that are narrow. (Wide is no problem but not narrow)

I'd be interested to find out if any of the shoes you've listed come in a narrow width?

It looks to me as though the British have access to a much broader range of moderately priced traditional looking well made shoes. (I'd love a pair of the Grenson's to wear with jeans!)

Thanks for the images,

Bill Woodward
Portland, Oregon
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Cardcaptor Charlie said:
Toe-cap = military? I think it is the opposite! Think George boots that the military wear and they do not have toe-caps but are plain. Toe-caps = City gentleman more like...
Well, different strokes and all that, but having spent twenty years in the military, when I see toe caps, particularly on black shoes, this is what I think of:



...and I don't recall seeing any city gents wearing those recently.

But your observations regarding the relative quality of Jones v Barker, particularly as you actually own both brands, are very welcome and useful, thank you. In fact, looking at where Barker are positioned in the quality list it should not come as a surprise that they have defenders. I just don't like the look of the few models in my price range, with the possible exception of the 'Haven' which is the most expensive shoe I've seen and liked.

I take it, by the way, that when you speak of Jones, this is not a short-hand for Crockett and Jones, but Jones as in Jones Bootmaker with shops all over the country? (including one in Chichester - the website lists one for Southsea but it closed recently - which is a short train ride away).

127.72 MHz said:
I'd be interested to find out if any of the shoes you've listed come in a narrow width?
From my limited browsing, American brands, not just in shoes but in clothing generally, are available in a wider range of sizes and options than in the UK. US shirts, for example, are offered in different sleeve lengths almost as standard whereas over here that is something we pay extra for. US shoes are offered in a much wider range of fittings whereas it is not at all unusual to find over here that the shoe you want is just not made in your fitting, even if you are very nearly "normal" or "medium".

I'll check the models I have already mentioned but it will not be today as I am taking g/f to dinner in a minute.

Many thanks,
 

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Northampton still appears to have the highest average quality RTW shoes being made. But my recent experience is limited within the context of your question. I can say I have recently obtained a pair of shoes made by Sargent that was very well made of fine materials. And from this shoe, and from photos I've seen, Sargent evidently uses lasts with a high instep, which is also particularly suitable for me.

As to style and color, I think it's really mainly a matter of what you find appealing. If you want shoes to mainly wear with suits, a non-derby oxford would probably be most useful. If you want maximum acceptability in any circumstance, you might wish them to be black.
 

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Two names missing from your list, Church's and Cheaney. If you can get to an Austin Reed store that sells shoes, they are selling Cheaney for £108 and Church's £172; this includes oxford, oxford brogue and derby style shoes.

Looking at the Austin Reed website, they have a Pompey store in Gunwharf Quays.
 

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Bets bet = sales...

In the last January sales, one shop in Oxford were selling Grenson shoes and boots for as low as £50, and another were selling Church's for just over £120, and Barkers for £70-80. Would say that Grenson are much better than Barker though, with Church's better than either, though perhaps disproportionately expensive (another Oxford shop was selling John White shoes and Loake 1880s for £80+, John White being of much lower quality than any of the others, and the Loakes, while better, being worse than Barker). What I'm saying is essentially that your best bet would be to shop around in sales :icon_smile_big:.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Flanderian said:
...If you want shoes to mainly wear with suits, a non-derby oxford would probably be most useful...
Any particular reason for saying non-Derby with suits. Is this a personal preference or are their stylistic precedences for this?

I'm not, incidentally, being argumentative; I'm very interested in your comment.

ToryBoy said:
Two names missing from your list, Church's and Cheaney
I believe I mentioned my aversion to Church's designs, but you are right to suggest that they should be in a comprehensive list.

I'm glad you mentioned Cheaney's because that was one name I had not come across. Their website is a little confusing because one of their photo's is used to illustrate two different shoes. So I don't know whether this:



... is a Romney or a Euston, but I like the look of it and either would be in my price range; thank you very much.

I went along to Austin Reed at Gunwharf Quays and they do not have a shoe department. I did however spy a branch of TM Lewin where they are currently doing RTW slim fit shirts reduced to £25 if anyone is interested.

hghevans said:
...What I'm saying is essentially that your best bet would be to shop around in sales.
This is good advice which, I regret, I am constitutionally unqualified to follow. After factoring in the cost of the train fare to Oxford, and the loss of income through taking the day off, and trying to establish the actual rrp of the shoe in the first place, the whole thing starts to resemble a treatise on Elliptic curves rather than an exercise in buying shoes. I'm rather more concerned with finding a decent quality shoe in my price range than with ensuring I buy that shoe as cheaply as possible. But I value your contribution none the less.

Cardcaptor Charlie said:
My local Jones Bootmaker has a sale on their Church's but the price is still too expensive (£200+).
I'm off to Jones Bootmaker in Chichester today and will report back what I find there.

The Swedish Chef said:
...many thanks to those who have contributed...
+1 to that.
 

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I'm glad you mentioned Cheaney's because that was one name I had not come across. Their website is a little confusing because one of their photo's is used to illustrate two different shoes. So I don't know whether this:



... is a Romney or a Euston, but I like the look of it and either would be in my price range; thank you very much.
I missed your comments on Church's (I have a pair of Church's like the Cheaney shoes you posted).

Concerning the Cheaney models, they are both made on the same 175 last but the Romney model costs more because they are from the CoE range while Euston are from the Essentials range.
I do not know the difference between the price range; my only Cheaney branded shoes are from the CoE range, the others are re-branded.

ps: Cheaney are owned by Church's
 
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