“If you place trainers firmly into the casual category, ‘smart-casual’ and ‘smart-comfort’ are the categories that
enable manufacturers and brands like us to prosper during these less formal times,” says James Fox, the Brand
Director of Crockett & Jones, whose already comprehensive repertoire of handmade English loafers has just been
bulwarked by four further renditions in its Spring/Summer 2020 collection. “If you consider the material, sole and
construction as the elements that categorise a style, the loafer is another notch down from the smart-casual derby
and monk shoes, and worlds apart from the traditional Oxford, so it gives us great opportunity to showcase a side to
our business that 20 years ago didn’t exist.”
For Fox, loafers are a serious addition to the armoury of anyone who wishes to indulge in crossover fashion — which
is pretty much anyone with a stylistic imagination. He says: “You can easily wear your favourite tailored suit with
a pair of classic Oxfords — let’s say either Connaught or Audley in black calf — but you can also swap those out for
a Boston or a Cavendish at a whim, with little disruption to your look. Remove the lining from the Boston, add our
city rubber sole and render it in our dark-brown repello suede, and you get a Harvard II, a style that can be worn
easily with shorts on the Riviera — and leave your socks in the hotel room.”
Pick one of each of the four new styles, and you’ll find yourself retrieving your chunkier footwear from storage with
a heavy heart come autumn. The tasselled Jersey, which comes in sage green or bright powder blue, is made of
top-grain nubuck, sanded to a velvety point of tactility, and built upon the brand’s City rubber sole, while the
Kensington, with its beautifully clean-lined upper, is an exquisitely textured affair, whether you choose tan woven
calf, black woven calf, or dark brown-calf suede.
Butterfly loafers, meanwhile, are a favourite at The Rake (how many shoe styles go as well with shorts as
they do with full evening dress?), and the Selby shoes in this collection are as sophisticated an expression of this
sub-genre as you’ll ever encounter. Finally, the Richmond, a classic penny style with proudly raised seam apron,
comes in snuff suede or tan wax calf, or a dashingly bold two-tone version in tan burnished calf and stone
“The Jersey, which has brighter colours and an unlined forepart for breathability coupled with our flexible and least
formal City rubber sole, is no doubt the tassel loafer that you take on holiday,” Fox says. “The nubuck is easy to
brush sand off, and would be perfectly matched with some tailored shorts or lightweight linen trousers floating
above the tassels. The Kensington style plays to the current trend of unfussy styling, a little like last year’s
Camden loafer — uncomplicated yet still interesting.
“The Selby, meanwhile, is a classic Jermyn Street style that would qualify as a more formal loafer. We’ve added
sportiness to it by removing the traditional brogue/punched apron and applied our famous hand-pulled apron that is
used so often throughout our loafer collection. This shoe gives customers who might ordinarily have come in looking
for a tassel loafer a different option. Smart-casual dress with an unstructured blazer, of the kind better suited to
the absence of a tie, is perfect for a style like this.”
This quadrumvirate and its various configurations are, creatively speaking, the fruits of Crockett & Jones’s
meticulous attention to customer wishes as well as detail. “Around 10 years ago we really began to notice the speed
of rubber sole requests and a plateau with our formal shoe sales, so we set about amending lasts that lend
themselves to unlined shoes,” Fox says. “We increased the breadth and depth of our suede offerings; we developed
new, flexible leather and flexible rubber soles… Naturally, this then opened up opportunities for materials like
canvas, woven leathers, brighter colours or suedes and nubucks.”
While tastes and trends may hone creative process, though, time-honoured methods are cast in granite: “We’re not in
the business of changing a tried and tested construction method such as Goodyear welting, and all of our new loafers
go through the same 250-plus operations that our formal shoes would,” he says. “We have to make minor adjustments
all of the time, though — such as half-lining the Jersey due to the interlacing that runs through the rear quarters.
By removing the lining from the forepart, we still increase comfort and flexibility.
“The Kensington has a leather binding that circles the entire top line, which serves two purposes: the first is so we
can stitch the woven calf down so it doesn’t fray; the second is to add strength to the top line when slipping the
loafer off and on regularly. The calf-and-canvas combination version of the Richmond is also unlined, but the back
of the canvas feels rough to touch. In anticipation of sockless use, we split our lining leather, making it almost
unnoticeable to the consumer, and line just the canvas apron to make sure comfort is not compromised because of
design — which is so often the case in fashion. Nothing drastic, but a few thoughtful tweaks.”
Fox’s modesty notwithstanding, the processes he’s describing serve to make loafing around during the warmer months
moltopiùdolce — and for summers stretching long into the future, not just the
one upon us.
Read the full story in Issue 70 of The Rake - on newsstands now.
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