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
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