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Log for Francis Bown

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 Bown's Bespoke - Bespoke Two Tone Blue & Grey ShoesThe elegance of a gentleman begins with his shoes. He might be wearing the finest Savile Row suit and have upon his wrist the most complicated Patek Philippe watch, but if his shoes are cheap and nasty, he will be an inelegant mess. It is astonishing how many chaps do not realise the truth of this sartorial rule: there can be no substitute for a fine pair of bespoke leather shoes. And the finest bespoke shoes in the world, in the less-than-humble opinion of your correspondent, are made by George Cleverley & Co. in the Royal Arcade, off Bond Street, in London. But no-one can make do with a single pair of shoes – and I make bold to say that a fellow can never have too many good shoes – so it is a constant necessity to give thought to the design of the next pair. Beauty must be paramount, of course, but useability and comfort must also be considerations.

Thus I found myself once more at the premises of George Cleverley & Co. Having pondered long and hard, I decided upon a pair of two-tone shoes in blue and light grey. This combination would allow me to wear the shoes both in the summer, when jolly colours are de rigueur, and in the winter, when a blue suit can often be appropriate. The blue of the shoe leather would be Chelsea Blue. (This choice took me as close as I am ever likely to get to supporting a football team.) The other details were equally important: the design would be the Cleverley ‘Balmoral’ with winged caps; there would be the famous Cleverley “hint of chisel” to the toe; the waists would be bevelled; the heels would be tapered and would have steel inserts (to ensure the ‘clicking’ I like when walking down the street); there would be two rows of brads to the toe of each sole (to limit wear); and there would be my ‘FB’ monogram on each toecap. These would be a delightful pair of George Cleverley shoes. And they would fit perfectly, for my wooden last – along with those of hundreds of other customers (many of whom would be known to the world, but the firm is discreet about such matters) – are kept upstairs in the last room.

Sadly, George Cleverley himself is no longer with us, having passed to his eternal reward, full of honour and distinction, in 1991. But his noble legacy is brilliantly continued by his two pupils, George Glasgow and John Carnera (pictured with your correspondent – Mr Carnera is in his customary white overall). Mr Glasgow is a Londoner, born in Pimlico of Irish parents. Mr Carnera has family in Northern Italy, and is proud that his uncle, Primo Carnera, was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world in 1933 and 1934. Together, these gentlemen have ensured that the high standards set by the Great Man have been rigorously maintained. “Cleverley shoes,” we might say, “are still Cleverley shoes.” Only the finest materials are used – the leather for the uppers is from the Freudenberg Company near Cologne and that for the soles is oak-bark tanned at Barkers’ thousand year-old tannery in Devon. Much of the work – including the carving of the individual wooden lasts for each customer – is done on the premises.

 Bown's Bespoke - Bespoke Two Tone Blue & Grey Shoes

As always, specially made wooden trees would be supplied to ensure that the shoes would keep their proper shape. (It is important to follow the rule that shoes should not be worn on consecutive days. Always allow shoes to ‘rest’ and regain their shape for at least one day after they are worn.)

The price for the shoes would be £3,800. This is now the standard price for Cleverley’s bespoke shoes. It is lower than some other makers, but I know that it might startle those who make do with lesser, off-the-peg footwear. But we are talking about the best shoes in the world. I therefore regard this price as very good value indeed. No-one who can afford Cleverley’s shoes will, as long as they retain their sanity, wear anything else.
There is only really one distressing part of the ‘Cleverley experience’. That is the waiting. The order having gone in, I had to be patient while the craftsmen gradually constructed their work of art – for, I need hardly say, there is always a queue of work to be done. There are, thank goodness, still enough persons of taste and discernment in this naughty world who love Cleverley’s shoes to ensure that those craftsmen are kept very busy. Still, the months rolled by, as months tend to do, and eventually my enquiry was met with the words I wanted to hear: “Mr Bown, your shoes are ready.”

 Bown's Bespoke - Bespoke Two Tone Blue & Grey Shoes Bown's Bespoke - Bespoke Two Tone Blue & Grey Shoes

I hurried along and there they were: the incarnation of my brilliant idea. The photographs do not do the shoes justice, but allow me to direct you to those points which, even so, should be evident. The balance and poise are remarkable, both in the shape and in the colour. These are qualities for which the coachbuilders strove when they put a bespoke body onto a Rolls-Royce chassis in the 1930s, and here they are in bespoke shoes made in the 21st Century. It goes without saying that the shoes are supremely comfortable. This, after all, is what one expects when those high levels of skilled workmanship for which the firm of George Cleverley & Co. is renowned are employed for one’s benefit.

They say that Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is not. It is an objective quality which reflects the Divine participation in His creation. Beautiful shoes therefore have a hint of Heaven about them, and my blue and grey two-tone shoes are most assuredly beautiful shoes. There can be no dispute: the elegance of a gentleman begins with his shoes.

 Bown's Bespoke - Bespoke Two Tone Blue & Grey Shoes



13 The Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, London W1S 4SL, England.
Telephone +44 (0)207 493 0443 or 1058
Fax +44 (0)207 493 4991
Email: enquiries@gjcleverley.co.uk
Bespoke shoes, including trees, cost from £3,800 a pair.
Visits are made to Japan and to cities in the United States. Ask for details.

Francis Bown 2004
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