March 8, 2020 by Ville Raivio
Much has been said about G.J. Cleverley’s bespoke shoes, likely most by the mouths and pens of men who’ve never owned such pairs. There is no substitute for first-hand experience, so I took it upon myself to grab a pair from the endless selection of eBay. The gamble was with sizing and this cannot be avoided with bespoke pairs. As luck would have it, shoes were made by old man George Cleverley himself.
This I deduce from the pair’s sockliner which features Cleverley’s old address on Cork Street. A short message to the company and back confirmed that GJC moved away from those premises some 40 years ago. Cleverley was alive and well-heeled back them, so this gives me and Keikari’s reader an interesting look at what exactly made his reputation so grand. It would have been swell to look at the shoe trees too, but they didn’t last.
Today’s example pair is an elastic shoe made in the Tuczek-style from alligator leather. A short look at Keikari’s archives will remind the reader why that name is important. Cleverley and John Lobb Ltd. still market a few pairs in this style as Tuczeks. As Cleverley apprenticed and worked at Tuczek’s, his company’s orders were very much inspired by the legendary Nikolaus.
This pair doesn’t have that “suspiciously chiseled toe” that Cleverley has become known for, instead we have a softly squared one likely requested by the original client whose name is not recorded. The single leather sole is light and has a rounded, narrow waist and the heels disappear under the heelcup delicately. Both have nothing that sets them apart from those by other West-End shoemakers. The welt, on the other hand, is cut extremely close and has very clean stitching that nearly disappears into the fudging.
The heelcups look oddly straight from the back but the side profile is nicely rounded. The leather stiffeners inside are firm at the bottom but nearly disappear the higher one goes. The elastic is, as the name suggests, very elastic and has an interesting light blue colour on the inside. The lining seems to be made from leather usually cut for uppers, but it changes into linen at the front of the pair. For no smart reason I can come up with, the sockliners have no foam cushioning inside.
The upper stitching is dense and neat all around. The alligator hides are simply stupendous. There is no cracking, very little creasing, and no scuffs at all. The hides feel soft and had a strong shine even before cream and polish. The scales at the back of the pair, on the other hand, don’t match the small and round belly cuts at the front. Looking online on the GJC website, this choice seems to be the norm for them still in the 2020s. The back scales are larger and square.
Finally, a word on the lasts. The proportions and forms on this pair look very clean, very smart, and (to use that ageless word) just timeless. The shoes are some half a century old but have no shapes or lines that would deter, though not all men appreciate the looks of alligators. To put this all in a single word, these feel proper. This would have appealed to the British gentry who, of course, wanted to look and feel apart from the hoi polloi but didn’t want to attract the wrong kind of looks.
A proper appearance was the thing, though I’m unsure how alligator fit into this equation. I like to think that the pair was commissioned by an eccentric chap who wanted a smart pair for the club, and wore them only on special occasions. The closest RTW-lasts in current times to compare to these elastics would be those sculpted by Edward Green. Their forms look proper and never stick out. In sum, I feel Cleverley earned his reputation by being dependable, within reach, having a high enough quality, attracting the right kind of clients, and offering comfort as well as looks. Yet from what I’ve seen, the company’s shoes were nothing conspicuous or otherworldly or awe-inspiring. Simply proper.
Coincidentally, the fit of the pair was off for my feet in the end and I have put this pair for sale online. If the reader happens to wear size 7 or 7.5UK with a regular shape of foot, a message to me would be welcome.
March 4, 2014 by Ville Raivio
The skill and Ethos of Tuczek was featured on Keikari around a year ago, and last month I updated the old article with new photos and some tidbits I found. After having learned of Aubercy’s small private collection of masterpieces from old-world cordwainers, I contacted Xavier Aubercy for a closer follow-up on Tuczek’s masterful and suspicious chiseled toe.
For the reader’s eyes only: a mid-red brown half brogue model with ram’s head medallion (a Tuczek favourite), trimmed heels, tight and spade-like welt, five hidden eyelets, leather soles and that chisel toe; round but sloping, curvaceous but chiseled. Art in sculpting wood and leather, never to be shaped again quite like the master.
February 19, 2014 by Ville Raivio
Nikolaus Tuczek was a renowned shoemaker whose name pops up occasionally on menswear sites and forum discussions. Despite his masterful skill and chiseled lasts, Tuczek’s legacy is known by far too few. This cordwainer to the privileged was born to a family of Austro-Hungarian immigrants and amassed his knowledge in London, serving its finest legs for several decades. His firm’s history is sadly not as documented as the likes of Lobb Ltd. and I’ve seen scarce contemporary pictures of the firm’s display windows or pairs. Active menswear enthusiasts certainly know GJC and G&G, but fewer know that both makers have drawn from the fountainhead that was Tuczek. His name has escaped most rakes, now’s the time to change that.
G.J. Cleverley worked under Tuczek’s watchful eye for 38 years before opening his own firm in London. What’s more, Tony Gaziano and Dean Girling both spent nearly a decade at Cleverley’s before launching the latest English shoe factory, Gaziano&Girling. I believe both Cleverley and G&G best represent the ethos that was born from Tuczek’s hands: sleek, contoured, close-fitting, chiselled and slender footwear. Somewhat effeminate but always proper. More than anything Tuczezk had a masterful sense of proportion. The late master made the most wonderful chiseled toes and lasts closer to wooden sculptures than mere tools of the trade. Sole stitching was dense, welts trimmed close, a ram’s head brogue medallion was common. Leather soles had contoured waists and understated finishing, shoe trees were hollowed and close-fitting — all characteristics that G&G and GJC share today, with the exception of the former’s aggressive waist shaping and eccentric designs. Tuzcek was open for some of the more whimsical wishes, too. The elastic alligator shoes with a brogue medallion on the instep, pictured at the bottom of this post, is proof of this.
In his column for Cigar Aficionado’s Winter 1994/1995 issue, G. Bruce Boyer recounts the following story with John Hlustik, who bought and revived the Edward Green factory in 1982:
“Just the other week a gentleman came into the shop for some new shoes. He was wearing a pair made by Tuczek in the early 1940s. They were so marvellous, I asked him if he would sell them to me…offered him $3,500. He refused, and I can’t say I blame him. After 50 years, they had an absolutely vintage classicism about them.”
Back in the 80’s, $3500 had quite a bit more purchasing power than today. This comes to show how wanted and rare Tuczek pairs had become by then, even more so today among collectors and cordwainers who keep a small museum. I have searched for pairs on eBay every once in a while, and most items sell for closer to $1000. As the firm is defunct, no new pairs can be made. I feel the pairs still intact should be displayed in shoe museums or as part of collections, certainly not worn.
For dating vintage pairs, Nikolaus Tuczek has worked in these premises:
24 Arthur Street, Oxford Street, 1853-1855
24 High Street, St Giles’s, 1856-1861
109 New Bond Street, 1862-1886
39 Old Bond Street, 1887-1903
15B Clifford Street, 1904-1937
17 Clifford Street, 1938-1966
21 Jermyn Street, 1966-1969
Around 1970 the firm was taken over by Lobb Ltd., who have honoured the late master by naming a current sample model after him. The side-laced pair is called Elastic Sided with Plain Tuczek Style Elastic – (SS597). Apart from the strong chisel toe, Tuckzek’s firm is rememberd for its eccentric elastic shoe model. This model allows the shoes to be taken off and put on faster than laced pairs, while still retaining proper support and comfort. Although a rare sight today, the model is most common in Japan, where shoes are removed for house visits and the elastic detail is helpful. A current online search with Tuczek’s name comes up with many discussions about the late firm, implying that, although the man may be gone, he is somewhat remembered and his influence lives on. As is good and proper.
If the reader owns a pair of Tuzceks, I urge him to contact me and send along some pictures. The pairs still intact should be seen.
Pictures: © original uploaders
January 30, 2019 by Ville Raivio
VR: Your age and occupation ?
PF: 56, Property Manager.
VR: Your educational background?
PF: I attended St. Chris in Letchworth, Hertfordshire. A forward-thinking, co-educational, vegetarian boarding school. After a short spell working for my grandfather’s engineering company I was fortunate enough to be offered a position, aged 20, at the Dorchester Hotel in London.
VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your style enthusiasm)?
PF: Yes, I am married to Jackie and we have two teenage children. Olivia & George. I think it would be fair to comment that they tolerate my vintage clothing obsession. There are advantages as the 3 of them have all benefited from some special pieces. As I am in contact with a lot of the dealers I come across women’s items as well as men’s. Jackie has some vintage Huntsman, Henry Poole, Dege and Skinner and numerous furs.
Recently I was walking along Jermyn Street with Olivia & George. I had a Gelot fedora on. George a beanie hat. Someone stopped us and advised George that he should take some style advice from his father. As can be imagined, George has not taken up the advice of the passerby.
A summer party look
VR: …and your parents and siblings’ reactions back when you were younger?
I owe a lot to my mother. She has to take credit for being such a fine role model. Now in her 70s, she is still most elegant. My grandfather spent a lot of attention on his clothes too. His tailor was Airey & Wheeler in Piccadilly.
A 1938 Huntsman morning suit, Lock silk topper
VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?
PF: I enjoy fishing with George. I manage to include some vintage equipment especially when fly fishing. Sometimes using vintage is a big disadvantage, though. Last year I snapped a rod and lines, as lures and nets weaken over time.
My love of good food and fine dining has led to my collection of vintage menus. Although I have stopped adding to this. They are starting to be included on one of three of my Instagram accounts, vintage_menus.
I am very pedantic about quality of ingredients and presentation. After my early years at the Dorchester I worked for the Royal Household. My position here was involved with food supplies, presentation, menus and seating planning.
My other Instagram account is vintage_clothing_labels. On this account I post interesting labels of vintage pieces of mine and others, such as Hornets and Hogspear.
I used to horse ride a lot, but don’t get the opportunity so much now. I have kept my riding ‘kit’.1957 Lobb’s boots and 1947 Huntsman riding breeches. I recently sold my hunting pink swallow tails made by French C1900 of Kilgour, French & Stanbury to an American collector.
VR: How did you first become interested in style, and when did you first turn your eyes to the classics?
PF: I have enjoyed a more formal and classic style from as early as around 10 years old. My mother reminded me, over the recent Christmas holiday, how she bought me a Harry Hall tweed hacking jacket when I was 11. Apparently I wouldn’t take it off and paraded around like a peacock.
My first job at the Dorchester Hotel continued with the formal dress theme. In the front office, in those days, we wore full morning dress during the day. This was with starched detachable collars too. During the evenings we changed into black tie.
During my time at Buckingham Palace we wore morning dress for the day and white tie in the evening during State visits.
I have always preferred a more structured cut, such as Huntsman. While I can see the benefits of a more softer cut, giving ease of movement, such as Anderson & Sheppard, they don’t suit my shape as well.
A country look
VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the vintage look — from books, talks with salesmen or somewhere else?
PF: I suppose the largest influence during my earlier years was regularly trawling through charity shops. 30 plus years ago, before access to the Internet, one could pick up some treasures at very reasonable prices. This has very much changed. The quality pieces do not come through and prices are higher. Though there are still bargains to be found. It’s just harder and more time consuming. My ‘strike rate’ is rapidly decreasing over the years.
On the plus side we now have eBay. I check this every day. John Morgan of Hogspear has to be a favourite. He still manages to locate some goodies from private house sales.
My friends at Hornets in Kensington are valuable for an opinion. Bill Wilde has a wealth of knowledge and we frequently chat over a glass or two in the local pub.
During my working life I have been fortunate enough to work with two royal valets. Sydney Johnson was valet to the Duke of Windsor. I knew Sydney from my Dorchester days when he was then valet to the Sultan of Brunei. During my time travelling with the Court I met Michael Fawcett. Then valet to the Prince of Wales. Michael would give me lessons on various aspects of maintaining a wardrobe and dress style. At Sandringham, one Christmas, we painstakingly went through all the various ways of presenting a pochette in the top pocket of a coat. Note coat, not jacket. Potatoes have jackets!
And of course Billy Tallon was often present at our gatherings. Backstairs Billy as he was known. Page to HM the Queen Mother. A most diverting character.
VR: How would you describe your personal style?
PF: I am neither a follower of past fashion or future fashion. Just somewhere in between.
Shooting gilets with a spaniel accessory
VR: Among so many companies you’ve tried, which artisans or RTW do you favour and why these?
PF: My collection now has been honed to such an extent that I now have mostly Savile Row pieces. About 30 lounge suits. During my 20s I favoured Hackett and Chester Barrie. Hackett I have a great fondness towards as I bought from them in New Kings Road in the mid ’80s. Chester Barrie offered great quality and their 40 reg fitted me like a glove. They made for Turnbull & Asser and Huntsman too. Two of my preferred outfitters. Oliver Brown and Herbie Frogg were RTW favourites too. Simpson’s always for cashmere jumpers. Tremendous quality and value in the seasonal sales.
For suits and topcoats I prefer Huntsman & Sons and Dege & Skinner. There are others on the Row as equally as good, but these two I have had an acquaintance with for many years.
VR: Have you any particular style or cut philosophy behind the clothes you collect and wear?
PF: I am fairly open on all styles other than the Italian cut. It does not do for me at all. Too heavy on the shoulder and square. I prefer a double vent, too, on a coat. When wearing a suit I usually wear braces. Always when wearing a vest. There’s nothing worse than seeing a gap (usually with a bit of shirt fabric) between the top of the trousers and the bottom of a vest (waistcoat). The other ‘no, no’ is wearing a belt and braces. Hard to believe, but I have seen it!
All in all I subscribe to the best quality fabrics and workmanship in a classic Savile Row style.
Other than Purdey, Ray Ward and Holland & Holland I am beyond designer names. I have given my Gucci and Hermes belts etc., to my teenage children. They seem to enjoy wearing Purdey and Holland & Holland too. George has all my Ralph Lauren Purple Label now.
VR: Who or what inspires you?
PF: This is pretty straightforward to answer. Who would be The Duke of Windsor. Ahead of his time in many respects. What would be craftsmanship and fabric quality. Vicuña being the king of fabrics. For tweed it has to be the Islay Woollen Mill.
VR: What’s your definition of style?
PF: I think I have to borrow a quote from Hardy Amies on this. It is something I try and adhere to. A man should look as if he has bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them.
VR: Finally, given your knowledge on the subject why should Keikari’s readers consider vintage tailoring?
PF: At the end of the day it’s each man, or woman, for their own. What goes around comes around. I’ve seen some big named hitters buying vintage to replicate or at least for ideas. As the great YSL put it ‘ fashions fade, style is eternal’.
January 1, 2017 by Ville Raivio
The side elastic or side gusset or elastic sided shoe is an eccentric footwear type that has its origins in 1837. I’ve read several dates for the exact year, but have decided to put my trust in a museal source, courtesy of The Victoria&Albert Museum in London. One J. Sparkes Hall, bootmaker to Queen Victoria, launched his new invention back then; a “a slip-on boot with the gusset made from tightly coiled wire and cotton”, though it took three more years before this shoemaker of legend came up with an elastic similar to those in use today. His slip-on boot inspired the Chelsea boot, which was later followed by the Beatle boot and other elasticised models.
Side elastic shoes were made by the likes of Nikolaus Tuczek, a mostly-forgotten London cordwainer of note, and John Lobb Ltd., who still remember the late master with a model named in his honour. As patterns and styling go, the shoelaces are just replaced with a strong elastic that keeps the shoe in place. This seems easy enough on paper, but the fit cannot be adjusted without lacing. Side elastic pairs are thus a hybrid with the ease of the loafer and, depending on the details, often with the looks of a nice oxford. Most loafers lack the elastic bit, though, so they won’t stretch as well to fit the individual contours of the foot. Chelseas notwithstanding, well-made elastic shoes are not widely available in most high-street stores for reasons that escape me.
The example pair is the model Kibworth from the miracle makers Edward Green. I cannot remember when I first saw photos of elastic oxfords, but I knew I had to try them one day, the design intrigued too much. The pair is an older make with the former EG stamp, and doesn’t have a specialised loafer last. Instead it’s made on the 606-last, which they call square-toed but looks far from one, with hidden elastics and from Edwardian Antique calfskin. A combination of the looks of an oxford and the comfort of a loafer, I’m surprised more factories won’t offer elastic shoes. As things go, the shoe type seems to be most popular in Asia and Japan in particular, perhaps because shoes are usually taken off indoors in the land of the rising sun. As for other elastic shoemakers besides EG, at least Carmina and Crockett&Jones spring to mind if the reader would like a try.
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