It has been interesting to see what I feel is the growth of English shoemaking in the last few years. Now, I do not mean this as the industry is getting larger but rather the fact that I see English shoemakers stepping out of their own comfort zones to produce what 20 years ago they might have scoffed at. A string loafer is the perfect example of that (not to mention the bit loafer). It’s not really “British” to be quite honest. I believe the first one that I ever saw was on a pair of Bontoni’s. But I cannot claim to know who started/created this tassel alternative that has grown rapidly in recent years. And rightfully so. The tassel could not remain the end all be all. Something had to break through and offer as an alternative. And so the shoelace-like string has grown in popularity among newer shoemakers. And it is good to see that it has made its way to a maker as large and respected as Crockett & Jones. Why? Because they have the power to make it a staple, especially in the UK. And as many brands love to copy Crockett, it will soon make its way around the world. Just watch.
So, naturally, as I love to see progression in the shoe industry, in terms of design, not to be confused with vegan shoes or anything like that, one can understand my pride in seeing makers step out of their comfort zones and do things differently. This is a cause I have been championing since day one. That brings us to the next step of C&J’s SS2022 collection. An idea that one might not have ever thought a British maker would go down is the idea of ‘unstructured footwear.’ Historically, that has been left to the Italians as it is a hotter country with a lot more walking on cobblestones and with a premise of relaxed comfort (just think of the difference between Italian and British suiting). But as the world trends towards ‘comfort’ via way of sneakers, Crockett’s more sensible and classic answer is an unstructured loafer collection that is on par with British Excellence. ‘Forget sneakers, let’s keep it classic and dressy.’
The new Unstructured Collection has many features that give it this title. C&J created a new ‘Superflex’ sole that has been in development for the last 2.5 years and is Crockett’s most flexible sole yet. It is permeated in waxes to give it that soft and flexible feel yet maintains its durability. People often mistake that flexibility with weakness but on contrary, a sole is actually strengthened when it is oil/wax impregnated. An overly dry sole is the one that is the one that is weak. Furthering the comfort and flexibility is done through the use of ‘flexi-welts,’ lightweight ribbing and shoulder cut insoles. The most interesting change however was the removal of the toe puff (and/or reinforcement) literally leaving the shoe without any stiff points. I have never felt that outside of a Nike-like sneaker, which of course, is comfortable so would imagine that those looking for extreme comfort in a dress shoe will find this a quite appealing feature.
Last but certainly not least is the reintroduction of the American ‘Buck’ through their Ivy League collection. A classic model that goes back a very long way but was at the height of its popularity in the 1950’s in US. Then in the early 80’s Ralph Lauren wanted to bring that back and teamed up with Crockett and Jones to do so. They had a successful collaboration but like most things eventually came to an end. But the model does not. And style always reinvents itself. It will be curious to watch how this model performs and if it picks up traction. I love sneakers through and through but it would be good to see men wearing more proper leather shoes even in their casual dress. And the American ‘Buck’ is a good option for that idea. Here’s to hoping!
Learn more/grab your pair: www.crockettandjones.com
I recently picked up a pair of the string loafers in khaki so can comment on what they’re like to own for those who are interested. Like you, I was a little surprised to see these appear on the C&J website as they were more on the casual side than I’m used to for C&J, but given the state of the work world post-Covid, casual is exactly what I needed at the moment, so I decided to give them a try given how solid all C&J shoes have been for me over the years.
My prior experience with C&J is largely limited to other more traditional loafers (penny and tassel of which I own several) but this new line is certainly more on the casual side.
In real life the Khaki is far more olive than khaki/light brown, and sadly C&J doesn’t yet sell matching belts for this summer line, so I did have to do a little post-purchase hunting around to find a matching belt.
I was a little on the fence around removal of the toe support, as I prefer a slightly more formal/classic look, but so far these shoes seem to hold their shape well, and certainly get more of a casual look as a result of this change. I tend to prefer a more traditional sole to the super-flexible ones, as I find most attempts at flexible soles make the shoe so flexible that they are uncomfortable. In this case however, C&J seem to have found the sweet spot between flex and support and I think these will prove popular as casual summer shoes for those that tend to wear traditional shoes more often than not.
I’ve not yet had a chance to wear them much as the weather is still iffy where I live, but I’m excited to get more use out of them this coming summer. Good to see C&J taking a risk on trying something new here.
Thank you for sharing your story and feedback. I do appreciate it. It helps others understand the shoes better so thank you!