TWO-TONE BESPOKE SHOES
GEORGE CLEVERLEY & CO. LTD.
MONOGRAMMED BESPOKE SHOES WITH BUCKSKIN
Never trust a man who wears cheap shoes. This sage advice is hardly new, but it bears repetition. A man in cheap shoes (unless personal tragedy is involved) can hardly command respect. He has no regard for his appearance (and therefore little respect for the rest of humankind), he cares nothing for personal discipline and his character will be of the ‘anything will do’ variety. Thanks be to God, then, for the patrons of the discreet premises near London’s Bond Street which are the shop and workroom of George Cleverley & Company. These patrons are the gentlemen (and I use the word advisedly) who have sought out the finest bespoke shoes in the world. I confess that I am of their number. And the shoes which form the subject of this article should convince you, dear Reader, that the union of craftsmanship and beauty, while never cheap, is always worthy of admiration.
George Glasgow and John Carnera are two of the most excellent chaps you will meet in London. Having been his pupils, they took over from the legendary Mr George Cleverley the business of shodding the feet of many of the most discerning of the world’s Great & Good. (More about the history of the firm can be read in the other articles on Bown’s Bespoke.) Nowadays Mr Carnera performs a gentler role than previously, and therefore rejoices in the title of Head Cutter Emeritus. He is on the left of the picture, next to your correspondent. Then comes Mr Glasgow and, on the right, the current Head Cutter, Adam. We look, I think, a contented quartet. And so we should, for the moment before the portrait was taken I had received my wonderful new shoes.
After the first pair, the acquisition of a new pair of bespoke shoes is a straightforward matter. At Cleverley, my last is kept upstairs, along with the lasts of all the other clients for whom the firm makes. This, of course, ensures that any shoes are made to the precise shape and size of my feet. (Slight adjustments have been made to my last over the years to ensure continued accuracy, as age has taken its toll.) All that is necessary, therefore, is to make decisions about style, colour and material and then wait – as patiently as one’s personality allows – for the longed-for letter with the proclamation, “Dear Sir, Your shoes are ready.” It goes without saying, of course, that at Cleverley only the very finest materials are used – like leather for the uppers from the Freudenberg Company near Cologne and oak-tanned leather for the soles from Bakers’ thousand year-old tannery in Devon.
I have shoes in various colours and styles (as can be seen from the picture of some of them), but it had occurred to me that a beautiful effect might be achieved by mixing not only the colours but also the textures of the leathers uppers. This is one of the joys of bespoke shoes. It is possible to have exactly what takes your fancy. I therefore decided upon a combination which I suspect is Edwardian in origin: smooth, highly polished black leather alongside grey suede buckskin. The style of the shoe would be a black Oxford with a straight galosh in grey.
The photographs reveal, I hope, that the effect is devilishly stylish and yet also exquisitely discreet. My monogram – FB – adorns the toecap, which is modestly chiselled. The lining in the shoes is red. The heels are exactly as I like them – tapered, with metal quarters (so that I can hear myself ‘clicking’ down the street). The waist is bevelled, for both elegance and lightness. Rows of small nails around the tips of the toes of the leather soles help to reduce wear.
No person of taste (or intelligence) could look at these shoes and suppose them to be anything other than the finest bespoke. They now occupy an honoured place among the other examples of Cleverley craftsmanship in my wardrobe. In the wearing they are supremely comfortable. But, of equal importance, they impart that satisfaction which derives from the patronage of the very best craftsmanship the world has to offer.
Those of us who wear bespoke shoes from Cleverley have joined a proud club, whose members span the world. Membership costs a little, naturally – think around £3,000 and upwards for a pair of bespoke shoes – but, as those of us who drive Rolls-Royces frequently murmur, the quality is still being appreciated long after the price has been forgotten. And, after all, the ancient saw retains its wisdom: Never trust a man who wears cheap shoes.
GEORGE CLEVERLEY & CO. LTD.
13 The Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, London W1S 4SL, England.
Telephone +44 (0)207 493 0443/1058
Fax +44 (0)207 493 4991
Bespoke shoes from circa £3,000, including wooden shoe trees
The ‘Anthony Cleverley’ range of ready-to-wear shoes, which uses bespoke grade leather with hand lasting, hand welting and hand finishing, is considerably cheaper. Ask for details.
Visits are made to several cities in the United States. Ask for details.