If you’ve been following this blog for a while you can’t have failed to notice that there is a lot of love for the traditional leather shoe. A hand worked leather upper with a solid Goodyear-welted sole results in a solid, long-lasting piece of footwear. If there is a downside, it does also make for a fairly hefty piece of footwear. As in heavy of weight and now always the most comfortable, especially if you’re clomping around city streets for a full day.
One option would be a pair of trainers. Another option is a pair of sneakers. And sneakers are where we are today. Is there a difference? I’m not totally sure, but to me trainers are more obviously related to sports use, whereas sneakers are more casual shoes. Opinions may differ, but while I would go for a run in a pair of trainers, I’d not go for a run in today’s shoes.
Anyhow, the sneakers in question are not from the usual Asian sweatshops, but are handmade in Northampton by Crown Northampton, a business that has been family owned since 1908. 5 generations of the Woodford family have been creating footwear and have earned the privilege to use the towns crest on their products. And Northampton is where all the finest shoes in the UK are made. Think of any high end brand and it’s pretty much a given that Northampton is where they are made. First though, let’s take 4 minutes to enjoy my first impressions when I open the box, ok? And believe me, this is as exciting for me as it is for you!
So, pretty nice leather sneakers, right? “Overstone Derby Sneakers”. Derby in the way the lacing is done up, according to Wikipedia “a style of boot or shoe characterised by quarters with shoelace eyelets that are sewn on top of the vamp. This construction method, also known as open lacing”. The leather upper is in full grain Italian calf leather. They are also fully leather lined, with a padded leather tongue. In fact, everything you see is leather, apart from the sturdy rubber outsole. The laces included are waxed, so they nicely compliment the leather.
A unique aspect of Crown shoes is that there is no stock, everything is made to order. This means no overproduction, no sales on surplus stock. Once you’ve ordered a pair some one gets to work cutting and sewing. While this might not help give massive economies of scale, it does mean that there is a level of personal attention to every pair made. I was very pleased to see mine have “WellDresseddad” written inside. I’m a sucker for such a personal touch!
What are they like to wear? After two days of walking around in them I’m confident enough to give them a thumbs up. The leather is naturally soft from the start, so I haven’t given them a bath in boot oil (pretty much the starting point for every pair of Red Wing boots) or even a quick polish with Bear Creme. There is a spare pair of insoles to help adjust the sizing, but my size 8 shoes are a true fit for my size 8 feet, so the sizing is spot on. The big rubber sole is soft enough for comfort and rigid enough to put a spring in your step, and they don’t feel heavy at all.
In summary, I reckon these will be my go to shoes when I spend a few days walking the streets of London in two weeks time.
Available to order now from Crown Northampton at pretty fair 185 pounds a pair.