Loake’s new shoes have all the best bits of bespoke without the six-month wait
Words by The Jackal
Loake's limited-edition line brings historic detailing to ready-to-wear shoes – and, even better, it's made here in Britain
In the era of fast fashion and insatiable consumption, it’s notable that the most historic menswear-makers still operating in Britain are those who happen to specialise in creating items that are designed to last. Loake is a perfect example. Founded back in 1880 in Northampton, the shoemaker has perfected not just a timeless selection of silhouettes, but also the kind of craftmanship that stands the test of time.
However, as much as a brand can perfect its shoemaking skills, people’s needs change as time moves on. In Victorian times, it was usual for a man of means to get his shoes made once or twice a year to his specific foot measurements and needs – he would have a personalised last crafted and kept on file for whenever he needed to invest in a new pair. So while many companies were initially dedicated to making bespoke shoes, they had to adapt to offer a ready-to-wear line as men switched to buying clothing in accordance with trends, as opposed to thinking more long-term about what they were wearing.
Now, in the twenty-first century, as men get more discerning and interested in once again investing in quality over quantity, Loake is looking to find a middle ground – a shoe line that offers the convenience of ready-to-wear with the craftmanship of bespoke. Introducing the brand’s limited-edition 1880 Export Grade range.
Constructed on pre-made lasts in specific sizes, these shoes are hand-finished with the sort of detailing you’d expect from those made to order, such as a leatherboard stiffener slipped into the heel for added reinforcement, edge-finishing and a gentleman’s corner notched out of the heel to stop it catching on trouser hems.
It’s also about the material being used for the uppers. All styles feature leather from top grade, full-grain calf skins, which are individually hand-selected to avoid any possible imperfections before being cut. This is particularly important for the Parliament silhouette (a shoe that features an elegantly elongated toe with a chisel end) which is cut from a single piece of leather. Sleek and minimal, it’s the kind of shoe that works across dress codes – especially if you opt for the jeans-friendly new blue iteration.
For the more traditionally-minded, there are brogue and Derby styles also available in suit-suitable black and brown. But whichever you go for, rest assured that each is finished with finger polishing and hand antiquing to give every pair an unparalleled patina, before finally being boxed by hand. A reminder that in a digital world, sometimes it’s the time-honed analogue methods that feel the most special.
From £350. Available now in limited numbers exclusively at Loake shops and at loake.co.uk