Check out this definitive guide on the best British shoes brands. Here at Idle HQ we love a good pair of kicks, and nowhere makes a pair of shoes better than right here on our fair shores, so take a look and see who you like best.
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People from all corners of the globe know that British made shoes are some of the best on the planet with some even making pilgrimages to Northampton, the shoe making capital of the world. Generations of men and women have worn British made shoes for most of their lives and now we are in a time of a re-cultivation of the craft.
Young men these days want a pair of shoes to last instead of the fast fashion culture which we currently live in. Quality of quantity. They are seeking some of the oldest shoe makers in the world to dress their feet and here at Idle HQ we couldn’t be more thrilled at this fact. Brands such as Churchs, Joseph Cheaney, Grenson and Trickers have been making shoe for well over one hundred years and they know their craft, making high quality shoes built to last you a lifetime.
History Of The Craft
Many who know about the best British shoe brands know of Northampton. A large town in the heart of the UK where most of the shoes supplied in Britain were made. Due to its central location and decent supply of cattle, Northampton rose to the top of the shoe game, and have been doing so for the last 500 years.
During the 19th century the shoemaking industry took its part in the industrial revolution with shoemakers coming into the workplace (as they previously worked from home) and embracing new technologies to produce high quality shoes, but much faster. In 1871 Charles Goodyear created a new method of sealing the upper of the shoe to the sole, called the Goodyear Welt, which is still used today with brands such as Grenson priding themselves on this.
These days the shoe making factories in Northampton are far and few between as cheaper labouring costs and material sourcing went overseas. However, in the past few years these companies have seen a real increase in popularity as we now want high quality, hand made shoes that are built to last, rather then the cheaper version on the high street.
The origins of the brogue are a bit hazy. No one really knows where the original brogue was made, but what we do know is that it was made in the UK. Ireland, Scotland and Wales all claim ownership of this wonderful creation, and why wouldn’t you, but what we can all agree on is that these shoes are some of the best around.
Originally made to be worn in the country as the perforated holes and rivets were designed to let water out of the shoe should it find itself in a puddle. These days the brogue it the epitome of the smarter shoe world with bankers and office workers alike all sporting a pair of these beauties. However, the brogue can be seen on the feet of some of the trendiest people in town with old and young people all loving this key style. So it doesn’t matter what your age is, you can easily pull them off.
- Joseph Cheaney
- Base London
The derby shoe is more of a classic looking piece. Different form the brogue is has little to no detail being made of only a few pieces of leather. It can be also known as the Gibson or Blucher but many know it as the derby. This is a shoe that you may have seen your grandad wearing as its roots go back decades.
This is a shoe you would wear to a very formal occasion as the brogue is seen to be too casual. When wearing black or white tie it’s customary to sport a pair of derby shoes. These days you can see the derby shoe on the feet of bankers and the hipsters of Brick Lane as its versatility shines through.
- Edward Green
- Base London
- John Lobb
These have to be my favourite style of shoe ever, and I’ve owned my fair share of pairs to know a good loafer when I see one. Of course, now that I’m a sophisticated adult, I’m very lucky to own a very decent pair of loafers and can’t see myself ever parting with them.
The loafer dates back hundreds of years with the native Americans sporting the first style of slip-on shoes known as the moccasin. The were developed from that as a casual shoe and eventually brought to England by Raymond Lewis Wildsmith where he developed the loafer as a casual house shoe for King George VI in 1847. Over the years the shoe was continuously used as a casual house shoe until the Americans started to wear them in city clubs with a lounge suit.
Now the loafer can be seen as a very formal shoe with city workers wearing them or they can be seen being worn at more formal black and white tie events. Personally, I wear the loafer with whatever takes my fancy on that day, jeans, trousers or shorts, the possibilities are endless with this shoe.
- Paul Smith
- John Lobb
The slipper, or dress slipper is a shoe that many of you may not be too familiar with. Also known as the Prince Albert slipper it gained popularity through gentlemen of decades past wore them with a smoking jacket for a more casual day. The evening slipper is normally made from velvet with a crest or your own initials sewn on the front.
These shoes can be seen as a very formal shoe as they can be seen worn with an evening suit or smoking jacket (if you own a drawing room of course). Nowadays the evening slipper has fallen out of popular use with high street shops aiming them at women. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t sport a pair yourself, I own a pair in black with gold embroidering on the front and I absolutely love them, comfortable and very sophisticated if I do say so myself.
- Alexander McQueen
Probably one of the most popular styles of shoes going, the Chelsea boot has seen its fair share of re-models over the years. Originating in 1851 in England where shoemaker J. Sparkes-Hall created the boot for Queen Victoria to wear as a daily shoe. She shoe became popular not only as a day shoe but a riding shoe as well.
The Chelsea boot came into mainstream fashion during the 60s when celebrities such as The Beatles started to wear them. Since then other subcultures, like the mods, have sported a version of the Chelsea Boot. Designers such as Saint Laurent thrusted the Chelsea boot to the world, giving it an alternative edge to wear with jeans.
- Edward Green