Sunday, January 23, 2011

Collections... Shoes

"I have just caught the shoe bug and would love to see a cross section of your collection Steve. Would make a great post..."
Anonymous Reader

What follows is a direct result of the above anonymous comment received on our Style Stalking feature and an enthusiastic nudge administered by EJ. The shoe bug is indeed contagious and I could not shirk the opportunity to unveil my collection. Now, as you all know, the ever changing pursuit of building the perfect wardrobe is a lifelong one so here is a snapshot of my present collection. The much appreciated art of wardrobe building is not a fast or haphazard activity: instead it is developed and nurtured over time. Of course there will be the odd irrational purchase or taste questioning gift but over time these items will be forgotten and you'll be left with a true indication of your style at a given time.

In recent years, I have attempted to focus my attention on one specific area of need at a time. The last eighteen months have seen me refine, edit, purchase and lay the foundations of a shoe collection fit for my tastes of today, and hopefully tomorrow. This period began with an acknowledgment that it was time to bid a fond farewell to eight pairs of pavement abused and gig sullied Converse All Stars and a plethora of well loved Adidas trainers. Following this difficult period of trainer cleansing (of course the odd, well preserved favourite was kept), I began investing in footwear that my feet craved. The collection, once reduced to its bare essentials, has slowly but surely grown to its current level of seventeen well loved pairs. This weekend I decided to take a snapshot of the current collection and highlight a few of my favourites...

The current line-up in full

Varying heights and styles...

From Boots to brogues to lace ups to trainers to high tops...

A few trainers remain alongside a couple of new pairs.

Now, having offered the requested cross section of my shoe collection I could not resist offering a closer look at a few favourites. What follows are descriptions of seven of my well loved and well worn pairs. I've always loved the idea of a man's wardrobe providing an eloquent narrative of his life less ordinary. Here's what my shoes have to say...

The shoes that...are always on my feet...

Kudu boots by Lodger worn with suit trousers by Reiss.

After interviewing Lodger's Nathan Brown back in September 2009 my imagination was overwhelmed following his description of his September shoe of the month, the Kudu Brogued Boot. From this moment on I day dreamed about them gracing my feet during the upcoming winter months and beyond. Having bought them, the reality was just as good. I feel as passionately about them now as I did then. The boot is an eight eyelet brogue style, and has a skeleton lining of the same Kudu leather as the upper, and a full lining in a plush purple velvet from Scabal. The craftsman in Northampton created something truly beautiful out of that antique African antelope hide and I feel special every time they grace my feet.

The shoes that...are the newest...

Lanvin Hi Tops worn with socks from Uniqlo and trousers by Tim Soar.

You might recall that when I hit the quarter of a century mark, Susie knew me all too well and bought me the best present ever in a pair on Lanvin hi tops. Fast forward a couple of years and Susie saw that my eyes had lit up thanks to a wool and leather combination for AW10. She opted to treat me to a pair of these flocked grey, navy and maroon weave hi tops as an early Christmas present. Since then, these texture rich trainers have been worn countless times.


The shoes that...receive more longing looks than any other

Orwell Stingray by Mr Hare worn with socks by Topman and trousers by b Store.

Mr. Hare's passion for fine shoes is infectious and for all to see over on his blog but it is even more apparent in his designs. For me, there is one particular shoe that made me look at footwear differently. The Orwell Stingray is an apron Derby shoe in patent leather with stingray built on a Blake construction. “When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room. Accept no substitutes.” This sentence uttered by Ordell Robbie in ‘Jackie Brown’ was the only sentence that came into Mr Hare's head every time he looked at the Orwell and I can certainly see why. He declared that the "Orwell is an apron derby that has all the attitude of 60s Kray run London and the joie de vivre of Sammy Davis Jnr. I just received the Stingray version which is sick." After wearing them for eighteen months, my feet always feel as though they a ready to dance around town in a bygone era. They set the shoe bar ridiculously high.

The shoes that...I saw being made...

Mentor Brogues by Joe Casely-Hayford for John Lewis worn with socks from Marks & Spencer and trousers by Tim Soar.

Back in September, I was invited to watch the Cheaney craftsmen at work at their Desborough factory, to learn more about one of England's master shoemakers and see the fruits of their collaboration with Joe Casely-Hayford for John Lewis. I eagerly followed and snapped away at each well honed and practiced process from start to finish in the factory that has been their home for well over two hundred years. It was a pleasure to be able to watch each stage unfold in a space that has seen the same processes come together for over two centuries. It is little wonder why Joe Casely-Hayford partnered with them once more. After the deserved success of last season’s Pukk brogues (they had this blogger's heart skipping a few beats), Casely-Hayford has taken the much appreciated design concept a step further. During my time at the factory I was able to see firsthand snapshots of the creation process for the latest Joe Casely-Hayford for John Lewis, Cheaney brogue; the Mentor. I was fortunate enough to view the finishing touches being applied to one of the final dozen due to be dispatched to John Lewis. A few weeks later and I received my own pair.

The shoes that...are as comfortable as slippers...

Harris Tweed Desert Boots by Clarks worn with socks and trousers by Uniqlo.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Desert Boot, Clarks Originals created six unique new designs (three for women and three for men). It still amazed me that these stylish staples were first invented in a Burmese military outpost by a young Nathan Clark. The original boots inspiration is a crepe soled boot made from rough, suede in Cairo's fabled Old Bazaar and it was soon the off-duty English Army officers footwear of choice. There are of course a plethora of different desert boots out there made by all sorts of names but why deviate from the original? To mark the anniversary Clarks Originals created a look inspired by each of the six decades that the Desert Boot has spent as an essential fashion item. As soon as the anniversary boots were released back in September my head was turned by the Harris Tweed, 1950's pair and they have provided me with comfort ever since.

The shoes that...remind me that I'm in the PDG...

Flocked Polka Dot shoes by Dr Martens worn with socks by Sock Mate and trousers by Omar Kashoura.

As one of the founding members of the Polka Dot Gang (EJ is the other) these shoes make me incredibly happy. In addition to adding much needed colour to my ever expanding shoe collection, they also add a sense of fun. While excitedly poring over Dr Martens AW10 models I fell head over welted soled heels for a pair of purple polka dot lace ups but unfortunately for me they were one of the jewels of the women's line. The product team at Dr Martens are also huge fans of polka dots and have been experimenting with flocking techniques for some time. The result is something quite special. Made all the more special because they are (currently) entirely unique. You might think that I'm wearing a girls shoe in a larger size but you'd be wrong. Instead of using the women's DML comfort last the Dr Martens team made my shoes on the 84 last. The 84 is unisex and is much narrower and has a slightly more pointed toe. Every time I look at the flocked polka dots I will let out a wry smile and will remember just how special they are...

The shoes that...feel like a holiday...

Striped Oxford by Lodger worn with socks by Happy Socks and gingham trousers by b Store

Back in July 2009 my head was turned by yet another offering from Lodger's all too tempting shoe of the month unveiling. The breathtaking Striped Oxford was duly added to my shoe list and after saving the required pennies, I decided to invest in a pair. Inspired by the Duke of Windsor (undoubtedly one of the best dressed men of all time) the design is an interesting blend of fine Scabal striped linen and burnished French calf. It is this combination which makes it a great addition to the shoe pile for the warmer months. All in all, these have made for a fine investment. Now, I just long to find more sunshine at home and abroad.

The piles of footwear choices strewn throughout my flat are a constant reminder (Susie calls them a nuisance but she really can't talk!) of my fondness of footwear but I have to confess that I've never really considered myself as a shoeist in the same vein as Mr. Hare or Queen Imelda. No doubt my collection will grow and I'll update you as and when it does...

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