June 30, 2013 by Ville Raivio
England is home to many shoemakers in general and the shire of Northampton to several factories in particular. Crockett&Jones, founded in 1879, offers a large collection of shoes and boots for men and women in sizes 5 to 13 and 45 to 105, respectively. The company’s lasts are sleek and contoured, more akin to Italian designs than the plump and robust forms of Blighty, with chiseled and petite toes to boot. The men’s collection offers three lines: Main Collection, Hand Grade and Shell Cordovan, the last forming an exception to English devotedness to bovine leathers. C&J has eleven company stores in the UK, USA, Belgium and France, with specific models catering to well-shod sensibilities in each country. The British models amount to over two hundred in more than a dozen materials and colours, lasts to thirty, and a MTO program is offered for those with particular tastes. Accessories, shoe care products and belts guarantee a longer, more stylish lifespan for the footwear.
As an example of C&J’s make is the plaintoe derby model Ashdown in shell cordovan leather, made on last 341, with double leather soles. The cordovan uppers, often titled crup in England, are lasted carefully with no creases or bubbling in sight. Stitching is straight and tight in a suitably matching shade of thread. The derby edges are piped with black leather, which offers a welcome contrast to the otherwise eggplant-like pair.The heels are rigid and rounded, the toe chiseled and slightly pointed, all with proper stiffeners to maintain shape and guarantee support.
The last 341 fits true to size with contoured lines on the ankle and instep, though the toe is somewhat elongated. The 360-degree welt is trimmed and, when worn, remains hidden below the heel and waist’s contours for a sleek profile. The Goodyear-welt stitch is dense and tight, the storm welt more for looks than function. The sole, though double in height, is also on the sleeker side when compared to the likes on Tricker’s pairs and also has a wonderful vegetable smell. The leather lining is very soft, but not the stuff of legends.
On paper, a plaintoe derby with shell cordovan uppers, double sole, storm welt and 360-degree welt add up to a clunky casual workhorse. Yet C&J manages to trim these variables down and, paired with a contoured last, the end result is a beefed up smart shoe, more inclined to favour a bit heavier suitings than corduroy or moleskin. I feel this shows the skill of the maker. Crockett&Jones is well-known among the cognoscenti for its excellent price-quality value, sleek lasts, clean finishing and details. One point I don’t see mentioned often is their leather insole. It’s tanned both rougher and thicker, which combine into an insole that won’t be pressed down with wear as much as most. This means that the fit will not change much as the years go past — a feature I find welcome.
I’ve owned and do own several pairs from C&J, each one of them reminds me just how much shoe they’re able to offer with the price. In its price range, I feel the factory has no competitors inside the UK. Carmina from Spain springs to mind, similar in lasts and make, also a master of shell cordovan, yet not British by heart and spirit. When footwear is in question, one can’t go wrong with Crockett&Jones. As long as the reader avoids their cavalry calf, a corrected grain material, everything is just dandy.