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NB – more will be added and I will be open to suggestions for new topics, or areas for greater depth of coverage. Contact me here
I hope you find this useful. It expresses some of my enthusiasm for and interest in “proper-job” (in my case, English) shoes and hopefully helps you to buy shoes more knowledgeably, to look after them better and therefore to enjoy them more (and for longer).
I found the books Handmade Shoes for Men by Laszlo Vass and Magda Monar and Shoes (Costume Accessories) and Shoemaking (Shire Paperbacks), both by June Swann, interesting and useful – the Vass book for shoe anatomy and technology and the Swann books for shoe history. Loake also have some nice videos that show bits of shoemaking in action.
More recently, Rebecca Shawcross has written the sumptuous Shoes: An Illustrated History. She is curator of the shoe collection at the Northampton museum,. so the book is pretty authoritative.
You will notice that I have used examples of shoes from Loake (Kettering, Engand) throughout. They are my personal favourites and I have found the Loake team to be very helpful in advising on purchases and in after-sales support, so no apologies for brand loyalty! They also have a good Webpage and a lively Facebook page – so you can feed your shoe-fascination easily! If you screw your eyes up, you will see a nice old image from Loake as a backdrop to this index page. It’s also at the foot of the page.
There are, of course many other manufacturers of quality English “shoes that you can buy in a shop” (e.g. Church, Cheaney, Barker, Crockett and Jones, Trickers) – a number of whom are also have their head offices in and around Northampton, where there is a long history of shoemaking described here and here. John Lobb (London) also make fine shoes – but they are truly bespoke/custom-made, which is a different kettle of fish. I’m not familiar with brands from elsewhere in the world, but I do know that quality shoes are still made in several countries and that the stuff in this shoe-resource site is relevant to them all.
I also apologise to women everywhere, as this site focuses on men’s shoes. Some of the information is relevant to all shoes, but women’s shoes tend to be more “disposable” and do not have the same continuing heritage of manufacturing that men’s shoes have. Sad, but true – most now come from China!