On Buying English English Shoes

A year and a half ago I started to look for a new pair of shoes, before that I mainly wore desert boots or cheap shoes from various retailers.  The desert boots were good but lethal in winter and all the other shoes fell apart in 6 months.  It was that time of year, so I started looking around for some brogues.  This time I was thinking of spending a little more money to get something that wouldn’t fall apart and started looking around but still couldn’t really find anything.

I can’t remember quite how it happened but somewhere I read about benchmade English shoes from Northampton.  Church’s, Trickers, Cheaney, Crockett & Jones, Barkers –  I remember seeing shoe shops like this when I was younger and they seemed old fashioned.  It was probably all the black formal shoes.  But reading this article opened my eyes.  Northampton produces some of the finest shoes and reading about the process, skill and craft made me think it could well be worth it.

I’m not really an impulse buyer.  I like to read about things and mull them over first if I’ve got the chance and there was no rush so I started to reading about shoes, English in particular but not exclusively.  Over the next few months of looking I came up with a number of arguments to myself.

Reasons to buy benchmade shoes

  • Goodyear welted/Veldtshoen construction means they can be repaired.  I find buying nice shoes a struggle so when I find a pair I like, it’s annoying when they fall apart within 6 months.  I could get these repaired.  As a bonus, many makers offer a refurbishment service where they resole at the factory – that’s faith in your product.
  • High quality materials – again, this means they’re not going to fall apart in 6 months, also, they look much better than cheap shoes.
  • Comfort – I sound like a grandad here but comfort is important and these shoes are comfy.
  • Style – in terms of brogues, which is what I was looking for first, there’s a massive choice and they all look amazing.

It was just before christmas, 2013 that I went into one of the cheaney stores and walked out with a pair of Arthur III mahogany brogues.  I had looked at Church’s and Grenson’s but in the end I like Cheaney’s the best.

Cheaney Arthur III

Around that time I also was fortunate to score a pair of Pennine IIR Burgundy boots.  Besides brogues, I also desperately needed winter shoes as I spend my time sliding around in winter.  These things are indestructible and also look great and a year of use and they still look like new and they’re nowhere near being resoled.


I’ve had both pairs of shoes for over over a year and I can’t recommend them highly enough.  Both still look great, are comfortable, and have not fallen apart within six months.

I’ll be doing a few posts in the next few weeks on looking after and polishing your shoes and also a brief overview of English shoemakers.

Style Icon: Warren Ellis

Warren Ellis is a musician primarily with The Dirty Three, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, and Grinderman but he’s so much more than that.  He shows men everywhere that a long and flowing beard, when cultivated correctly, can be a thing of beauty especially when twinned with sharp tailoring and fine shoes.  Warren Ellis is not concerned with the whims of fashion, no, he’s too busy looking sharp, writing music and hanging out with Nick Cave.

Warren Nick

Spotty shirt

Warren Ellis Spotty shirt

Out with the kids, Sartorialist

Warren Ellis - sartorialist

Photography bookshops in London

London is a great place to buy photography books especially some of the more obscure publications which can be a bit tricky to get hold of.  I’m rather fond of browsing a good bookshop.  Here’s a list of shops to visit if you’re in town.

Claire de Rouen Books, 125 Charing Cross Road

An excellent and wide ranging selection of photography books.  It has a number of rare items, quite often has signed copies and also hosts launches/signings at the store.  It’s also well placed on the edge of Soho so it’s easy to get there from either Tottenham Court Road or Leicester Square.  Bar Italia in Soho is a good spot, although it can get busy, for a coffee once your done looking at books.

Koenig Books, 80 Charing Cross Road

Worth popping in here as well as it’s near Claire de Rouen.  It’s primarily an art bookshop but stocks photography books too.  They focus more on recent releases for photography books and have an interesting range of smaller publications.  They’ve often got some gems.  The remainder section, downstairs, has some good books from a few of the larger publishers.  They also have shops at the Whitechapel Gallery and the Serpentine Gallery.

Foyles, 107 Charing Cross Road

One of the best general bookshops in London and a bit of an institution.  The photography section now has lots of smaller publications and is much more interesting.  It’s also on Charing Cross so it’s worth a look.

Photographers Gallery, 16-18 Ramilles St

I quite often buy books here as it’s purely photography, they always have the latest releases and quite often they have signings and also stock signed books.  There’s a wide range of books.  The prices are at the retail prices rather than collector prices.  As an added bonus they have excellent exhibitions and also a cafe for refueling.

Donlon Books, 75 Broadway Market

A bit off the beaten track but fortunately for me, local, so I quite often buy books from here.  Donlon’s has a great selection of collectable and also recent releases.  He stocks a lot of photography but also there’s loads of counter culture stuff which I love.  It’s not uncommon to find a book on black metal sat next to the latest Mack release.  There’s a host of cafes and bars in the area so although not central London, it’s worth a visit.

Tate Modern, Bankside

A massive bookshop and recently they now have some of the more sort after publications.  It’s worth a look.  I don’t really go there that often as it’s a bit of a trek to get to it but f I see an exhibition then I will always look in the shop.