March 4, 2020 by Ville Raivio
Over the rolling years, I must have owned more than 150 pairs of welted leather shoes, most of them now sold to new homes. My goal with this silly project has been to find out which things lead to quality in men’s footwear; that is, which leathers look and age best, what last shapes are both pleasing and comfortable, which details are helpful as well as stylish. The ultimate end has been to find out who makes the best damn shoes on the planet. I’ve done the same with collar shirts, neckties and other clothes too, but see the shoe list at the end of this post. Today, after more than 10 years of searching, I feel I’m ready to tip my hat to Edward Green. It’s true, of course, that EG’s pairs don’t have the most handwork (like Vass) nor the closest-fitting lasts (like G&G), they cost more than some artisanal pairs (any from Hungary), and so on. I still feel that their RTW shoes are the best damn things available. How do I love them? Let me count the ways.
Edward Green uses similar oak bark leather soles and heels as most high-end makers, and their finishing is not conspicuous. They do last a very long time in my use like other oaken pieces, the rubber heel piece as well. Most of Green’s models have a 270-degree welt which leaves the heel hidden under the shoe, and this makes the pairs look delicate. The welt is cut close to the uppers, which makes another notch on the list of delicacy. The welt stitching is always tight and clean, the welt is finished with tight, decorative fudging. The leathers Edward Green uses are simply superb, among the best in RTW-shoemaking. They have a clean, smooth grain with beautiful aniline dyes and burnished finishing. The amount of colours and antique shades EG offers is the widest I know of. The same goes for made to order-selection as the factory keeps stock of discontinued patterns and lasts as well. The leathers are easy to care for, polish up well, and crease little. The upper stitching is always tight, accurate, a joy.
The lining leather is soft and clean, though always in the boring sandy colour which nearly all factories go for. The heel stiffener gives a strong support and keeps its shape. Apart from the leathers and finishing, what endears me to EG are the lasts. They both look smart and feel great, there is no exaggeration in shapes or lines. They have a sort of look that forgoes time. I have seen Green pairs from 30 or 40 or 50 years ago that just look right even in the 2020s. What also look right are the upper patterns. Even the finest lasts lead to stupid shoes if the patterns laid on them have odd proportions. The designers at Edward Green have an immense sense of proportion, the patterns just look right. Finally, the factory’s pairs are extremely comfortable. I don’t know how they achieve this as the leathers and structures they use are no different from other high-end British makers. They just feel right when walking.
To sum up the points, Edward Greens are the best damn RTW-shoes because they have developed a tradition of doing many things so well. The leathers, the lasts, the finishing, the comfort, the looks — Green pairs have them all. Several shoemakers I’ve tried have some great things, some do certain parts better than EG, some fail comfort. It really is the combination that does it. What’s more, I have EG shoes made in different times, from the 1990s to this decade, and all have the same level of quality. The standard has been high and enforced, the results consistent. The sad thing is that Green’s shoes are dearly expensive. Their prices have risen several times over the 2000s, the pound is strong, and with Brexit looming in the near distance, the pairs are set to become even more expensive.
The quality is there but behind a gilt door. I, of course, urge the reader to try them out. My tip for the student and prudent man is to buy Edward Green shoes from non-retail sources. There are always dozens of pairs on eBay at any moment, and some of them are unused. The lot includes sample pairs, unwanted gifts, slight seconds, emptied stock, and so on. Another source are European web stores which don’t use English as the default language. I’ve seen Italian retailers, for example, offer Green shoes for 40% discounts from time to time. The gilt door can be passed with cunning and great treasures await.
* * *
To date, I have owned and used American shoes made by Allen-Edmonds, Alden, Johnston&Murphy (vintage), Florsheim, Rider Boot, White’s, Red Wing, Edwin Clapp.
From Hungary: László Vass, Heinrich Dinkelacker, Roznyai, Buday, Saint Crispin’s.
From Italy: Silvano Lattanzi, Borgioli, Buttero, Stefanobi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Romano Martegani, Luigi Borrelli, Italigente, Cortina.
The following from Spain: Meermin, Carmina, Crownhill, and from Portugal Carlos Santos.
From Great Britain: John Lobb, Gaziano&Girling, Cheaney, Edward Green, Loake, Crockett&Jones, Church’s, Tricker’s, Alfred Sargent, Sanders, Grenson.
Finally, from the French I’ve tried Bexley and Bally from Switzerland. I don’t count private label shoes on this list, such as the pairs Crockett&Jones makes for Brooks Brothers under the name Peal&Co. Whatever the label might read, they are still C&J shoes.
February 7, 2020 by Ville Raivio
February 2012 was marked by FTDF’s Pierre-Antoine Levy and Virgile Mercier meeting with the Humphrey Bogart of Japan, Yukio Akamine. In his thorough interview, Akamine shares his journey into a life spent in style, contemplates the classics, and decrees how the Japanese culture has fused with Western dress. Well worth a look or two.
Sadly, Forthediscerningfew has closed down. For occasions like this, we luckily have The Internet Archive and its wonderful Wayback Machine which has saved a copy of the site in the state it was in eight years ago. The interview in English can be read in full.
“With beautiful things, it is all about learning to wait, being patient. People today, they don’t want to give it time. But it is like love, it is like a relationship, it is like learning, like all the things we admire, it takes time. Anything that happens in the snap of a finger isn’t good.”
January 18, 2020 by Ville Raivio
Bookster is an English company, founded by Michele and Peter King in 2007, dealing with men’s made to measure clothing. Its beginnings go back to the early 2000s when the owners started selling vintage and classic men’s clothing, specialising in tweed. Many times the customers were offered a serving of no-can-do because larger sizes are hard to come by used. Men were thinner and shorter decades ago. Thus the idea of making pieces to order and, as luck would have it, most men asked for tweedy things.
Bookster began as a humble eBay store in 2003, within a few years they got a bit of a reputation online as a tweed and country clothing specialist. In 2007, they set up their online custom tailoring site with a few permanent pieces, such as a hacking jacket, that could be customised with a set of options. Unlike most MTM-companies, Bookster has honed a long-distance process for measuring at home, with assistance through email or by phone when needed. There’s also a showroom in Newent, Gloucestershire, for those who’d like to make a reservation face-to-face. The company was on a hiatus for a year and finally sold in 2013 to Tattersall Tweed Ltd. Today both Kings continue with the updated Bookster.
To date, Bookster’s specialisation is in very British tweeds. The cloth selection is some 350 at the moment, around 60% of these are tweeds. The selection has been widened to suitings and coatings and cottons and such, but nearly all mills are British. Only one is Irish and loden cloth is imported from Austria. The customer can order fabric samples by mail before deciding anything else. The company has its orders made in Europe, in the UK if requested, and offers one of the largest selections for custom details I’ve seen. All jackets and coats feature a half-canvas with usually a strong shoulder structure, with the option for softer constructions by request. There is plenty of info to be read on the site about cloths, measuring, and details before deciding anything so Bookster is not really suitable for hasty chaps — unless they choose some of the set of off-the-peg pieces for men and women. Rather, those with very particular likes and enough time will return. The wait time is some 7 weeks from the order date.
The latest update from Bookster is a stand-alone sales point at Lidholm’s, a classic clothing store in Gothenburg, Sweden. Otherwise there is little info about the company online and few customer photos, so my tip for the reader is to search online for one Nicho Lowry. He is a long-standing Bookster customer and a thoroughly tweedy dresser.
Bookster’s cloth suppliers:
- Abraham Moon
- Alfred Brown
- Bateman Ogden
- Brisbane Moss
- Dugdale Brothers
- Fox Brothers
- Harrison’s Of Edinburgh
- Holland & Sherry
- House Of Edgar
- Islay Woolen Mill
- Isle Of Harris
- Johnston’s of Elgin
- Lovat Mill
- Marton Mills
- Urban Fabrics
- Marton Mills
- Molloy & Sons
January 5, 2020 by Ville Raivio
VR: Your age and occupation?
ACJ: Age 72 years. Occupation: Citizen and Merchant Taylor of London. My career has been as a tailor and a teacher, now I work part time.
VR: Your educational background?
ACJ: Secondary School to age 15. At age 15, I started a 5-year apprenticeship as a tailor attending the London College of Fashion part time whilst also working, and gained City & Guilds qualifications. Later in mid career, in 1985, I studied part time to gain a PG-Certificate in Education so I could start to teach tailoring. In 1995, I enrolled on a Master’s course, part time, to take an MSc in Technology Management, graduating in 1997. This enabled me to progress to teaching at Master’s level and to supervise Ph.D. students.
VR: Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your tailoring enthusiasm)?
ACJ: Married 48 years, with three children who are a Mountaineer, a Teacher and a Garment Technologist. So my youngest has followed into fashion in a technology role.
VR: …and your parents and siblings’ reactions back when you told them of your job goals?
ACJ: Always supportive and encouraging.
VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides apparel?
ACJ: Outdoor walking, Canal boating, theatre and music. Frequent concert attender, especially jazz, blues and rock music.
VR: How did you first become interested in style, and when did you turn your eyes towards more classic pieces? Why these instead of fast fashion?
ACJ: After I started my apprenticeship at age 16, I went into tailoring as a career to learn skills and my interest in style developed from that. I was aged 13 in 1960, so those formative years were through the 1960s for all my teenage years. The ’60s was an amazing period for both music and fashion.
At Chester Barrie‘s
VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of tailoring — from books, in-house apprenticeship or somewhere else?
ACJ: Through my apprenticeship, followed with reading books and magazines, talking with people and listening and learning from my masters (Master Tailors).
VR: You worked for Chester Barrie back in the days, first as a cutter. What was CB’s cut like?
ACJ: The CB cut was a mixture of American and Swedish. The company originally started in New York, then opened a factory in Crewe, England. The original cutting was American and then in the 1950s they took on a Swedish Designer who was technically trained, and he developed the classic cut and style. I worked alongside him for a year which was memorable. He was a very talented man and a good teacher.
VR: How was Chester Barrie different from others, and why was it so influential?
ACJ: First of all, QUALITY. The quality of C.B. suits was at the same level as Bepoke Tailoring at Savile Row. The suits were partly hand made (sewn) but in a very engineered method ensuring consistent quality. Several Savile Row tailors stocked C.B. suits as a ready to wear option if customers required that service. They led the world at that level, a comparison today would be Brioni, Cifonelli. They were ahead of Hickey Freeman and Oxxford Clothes in those days.
VR: Your path led to the London College of Fashion after CB. How did you come to join the college and what was your position in its ranks?
ACJ: The industry started to go off shore and the Ackerman family decided to sell C.B. to a retail consortium, so I looked for a career move. I was speaking at an industry conference on tailoring and afterwards was approached by the Principal of the London College of Fashion, and asked to join them to lead and develop both Menswear and Tailoring at the college. I started as a Senior Lecturer rising later to Principal Lecturer and Director for Menswear and Bespoke Tailoring.
VR: How did you feel about the changes in men’s tailoring in the ’60s?
ACJ: The 1960s were very much about the Mod era with Tonik suits. Carnaby Street and the Kings Road in London revolutionised young fashion by breaking all the rules. People like Mary Quant, Mr Fish, Tommy Nutter and Edward Sexton really changed fashion whilst challenging it, and they kept a quality to their work.
VR: Do we have it better style-wise now than before? How do you view the future?
ACJ: Yes, we have much better insight into style and fashion than before from magazine, blogs and the Internet generally. It has to be said, though, that while it is there, it’s the people who have to choose to follow it. We see many fashion conscious people wearing style and quality, and others buying the cheapest on the high street. It has to be a choice. Currently there is a strong interest in good tailoring and it is affordable for the discerning customer. The future is good, simply because people have to wear clothes and want to be individual.
VR: Who or what inspires you?
ACJ: Always good tailoring, looking back to inspiring designers/tailors such as Hardy Amies. I respect Paul Smith for what he has done for fashion and the Antwerp Six. I currently follow the work of Joe Morgan on Savile Row and Boglioli, Cifonelli. Recent revivals have also been Tiger of Sweden. Many good Italian labels, such as Pal Zileri, Canali, Caruso. The current Caruso range is really strong. I also respect others such as John Smedley knitwear, Sunspel underwear and casual wear, plus Levi’s, Desiel et al. For shirts, I go for Thomas Pink and Paul Smith.
VR: What’s your definition of style?
ACJ: Classic quality which looks good and does not date. Details that are classic. My idea is that you can be wearing a garment for ten years and still get positive comments when wearing it. It is important to have a range of clothing and wear a different garment each day to let them relax. Don’t wear the same jacket and trouser on a number or repeat days. Even if you only have a few changes, keep changing them.
January 5, 2020 by Ville Raivio
Copyright © 2013 Ville Raivio