Most heritage brands justifiably trumpet their histories, and are given to glorying in tales of the celebrated individuals who graced their door in days of yore. “So many companies just talk about their past, who they used to dress,” says George Glasgow, Jr., the CEO of storied British shoemaker George Cleverley. “Sure, we could do that, too. We have such a rich history in that sense, making shoes back in the day for Winston Churchill, Humphrey Bogart, Rudolph Valentino, Gary Cooper — all those guys.”
Yet unlike so many of their old-school gentlemen’s outfitter contemporaries, Cleverleys refuses to rest on its historic laurels and lazily ‘stand on the shoulders of (old, deceased) giants’, Glasgow says. “The thing is, we also have those types of guys today — guys at the top of their field, whether it’s the head of Apple or Google, or Sly Stallone and Jason Statham. We have amazing clients now, today.” And though Cleverleys is best known for its traditional wares — classic oxfords, brogues and the like — they’ve managed to maintain a contemporary appeal, servicing men of means aged 25 on upwards, by listening to their client and catering to his evolving needs.
“Very simply, we know our customer,” Glasgow explains. “And the reason we know our customer so well is because either my father [GJ Cleverley chairman and master shoemaker, George Glasgow, Sr.] or I will be present at every single trunk show or retail event around the world. That requires a helluva lot of travel and effort on our part, to regularly meet with all our customers and the stores we work with internationally. But it’s worth it because we get to see what they’re enjoying, what’s selling, and react to the direction our clients are giving us.” The clients are, in a way, Cleverley’s design committee — ready-to-wear shoes are almost always inspired by especially successful bespoke commissions.