If I had to limit myself to footwear from only one region in the world, it would be Northampton in the UK without question. The British style of footwear appeals to me much more than their continental counterparts, and I find that they have a better breadth of styles – from formal to informal – than their American cousins. And if I had to limit myself to one brand from this region (what a horrible fate that would be), I would pick Crockett & Jones. Although there are brands at higher price points with finer details, I find that C&J offers a very strong value over a wide breadth of styles. And although I would give Alfred Sargent – my other favorite from the region – a slight edge on formal oxford styles, C&J really shines with their more semi-formal and informal options (bluchers, loafers, boots, shell cordovan, etc).
All this is to say that on my recent trip to London I made a point to spend some time in two of C&J’s stores, located about a block apart from each other on Jermyn Street. At first I was confused to see two full retail locations on the same street – this isn’t a Starbucks, after all – but after talking with the C&J team it makes a bit more sense. The smaller store of the two is the original retail location for the brand, and a core piece of their history (it also has some office space). The other is their much larger and much newer flagship store, which was pretty packed the entire time I was there. Both stores have the full line of products, and if something is out of stock at one it’s probably available a block away.
There isn’t much to say about Crockett & Jones that hasn’t already been said elsewhere, so I’ll keep my history lesson brief. The company has been making Goodyear-welted footwear since the late 19th century and is currently run by the great-grandson of one of the cofounders. C&J has about a dozen retail stores in total, and many stockists around the world. They’ve been a cornerstone of #menswear footwear collections for many years, and have recently begun to build a broader consumer base (thanks in part to publicity from being James Bond’s current footwear brand). They’ve also made private label goods for a handful of retailers, most notably for parts of Brooks Brothers’ Peal & Co. line and Ralph Lauren (their RL shell cordovan shoes have a cult following).
Like I mentioned above, I feel that C&J’s “in-between” footwear offerings are their best. As far as shortwing bluchers go, I think their Pembroke is the best in the game (it’s also the model for the iconic Ralph Lauren Marlow). And although I do love penny loafers from Alden, I think that the unlined C&J Harvard is my absolute favorite (readers have seen them on this blog many times). Their boots are also some of the best out there, from the classic Coniston to the James Bond-approved Islay, as well as their incredible shell boots. The breadth of exceptional designs, paired with great material quality and sturdy construction, is why the brand remains one of my favorites.
Another important point to mention is where to procure C&J footwear. If you’re not near a store, there are a few retailers online that will ship to you. The most important note is that pricing varies considerably by region, and because of the weak pound it is very advantageous for US-based customers to purchase through a UK-based retailer. Even the C&J website (which was recently upgraded in a big way and is now a great resource) will display US pricing if you’re based here, and the difference is substantial. For that reason I recommend either ordering directly by emailing them or going through a UK-based retailer (my favorite is Pediwear). Shipping from C&J to the US is 30 pounds, which is more than Pediwear, but they also have much more stock (Pediwear is a middleman so they don’t get restocks as often). Either way, if you’re US-based make sure that you’re buying in pounds minus VAT and not at the US MSRP (which can be as much as 40% more).
All told, it was great to see the full line of products from one of my favorite brands all in one place (two places, if you count both stores!). If you don’t have a similar opportunity, I highly recommend checking out the product pages on their new site. They will give you tons of information on lasts, materials, history, and much more. It’s not as good as seeing them in person, but it’s a close second. Thanks to Chris and all the C&J team for fielding my incessant questions with classic British politeness. I wasn’t planning on purchasing anything, but I ended up coming away with a little something – more on that soon.
Oxfords on the 341 last – a classic British look
Black oxfords of various styles – another example classic example of British footwear
Harvard unlined loafers – one of the best shoes I’ve ever owned
Skye II and Harlech, two core boots in the shell cordovan collection
Pembroke in brown pebble grain – the perfect shortwing blucher.
The Islay, made famous by Bond in Skyfall, and the tan Coniston country boot.
Harvard loafers in shell cordovan
C&J’s dark brown calfskin is one of the best in the game. A fantastic shade.