Saturday, 18 September 2010

Made in England to last

A chance this morning to clean shoes. Shoes get bad treatment round here, what with no pavements in Jeziorki, cracked and uneven pavements in town, snow for two months of the year, salt, grit not to mention frequent dunkings in puddles.

All my formal shoes have one thing in common; they are all made by the Loake Brothers of Northamptonshire, England. Three different styles, two colours. Plains (with Dainite sole), Chelsea boots (beloved of Mods and cavalry officers about town) and American brogues (where the broguing line does not dip into the instep as with English brogues).

This type of footwear is ideal for Warsaw, if a) worn in rotation and b) repaired when necessary.

Yet you cannot buy such stout and fashionproof formal footwear in Warsaw. Here, you are forced to choose between cheap shoes from China that last a season, and expensive shoes from Italy that last a season. The latter because they are made from Venezuelan albino bat-wing leather and have little silver clasps and silk tassles and fashion dictates that they become laughably anachronistic within a few months. The former cost 40zł a pair, the latter 2,850zł a pair. What Poland's male footware market has is a 'missing middle'. (You can see it in so many other market sectors as well.)

Loakes are well made, traditionally-styled (these shoes do not feature in end-of-season sales) and are unavailable in Polish shops (though I can see that both new and used they have been turning up on Allegro). They cost around £120 - £150 in the shops in London, and while not built to last for ever, will give you decades of use if looked after. The brown pair in the middle was bought by me in April 1980 - my very first pair of Loakes, and while no longer fit for wearing to town, are still worn around the garden.


Anonymous said...

This spring while in Warsaw, I bought a pair of Polish shoes-RYLKO brand. So far they have worn well. The only problem with that brand was the selection of styles. I bought their only one with rounded toes. All the others sold seemed to have exagerated pointed toes.

Andrew in Calif.

Unknown said...

I bought some Ryłko brand shoes this spring as well. I wouldn't rate them as quality shoes.

I agree that there is an apparent missing middle in the mens shoe market, and my fiancee reports the same condition for ladies shoes. I think with more exploring I might find some better options.

One of our brethren has a style blog which includes reviews of at least two bespoke polish cobblers (maybe more in the Polish version of the blog). Kielman of Chmielna is not reviewed (and the prices are way out of my range) but there are reviews and comments about other cobblers that hold promise. Check out and the associated forum. Somewhere there you'll find a thread dedicated to finding quality, stout, stylish (no silk tassles or albino batwing leather) footware in the city.

student SGH said...

What a lovely alignment...

I have three pairs of elegant shoes, naturally all bought in Poland, for different parts of the year. One pair with insulation for winter to keep my feet warm (can't see any pair like this in your collection), one summer pair, made in Poland from leather, very comfortable, I bought them last year in FC Piaseczno for 230 PLN (outlet price), my feet have never got sweat in them even if the temperature was +34C, but I had to glue them after a month of day-to-day wearing. The third, spring / autumn pair I bought this year in Deichmann, at first uncomfortable, but I've broken them in, however they have one significant drawback - they are "canoe-shaped" what means I can normally operate pedals in a car while having them on.

Your shoes in turn have a classic and classy shape.

The pair in the middle - my father had very similar ones, bought in Poland in eraly 1990s, they lasted till 2008. I have a pair of shoes bought in 2002 (when my feet ceased to grow), for first five years I would wear them for formal occasions only, from 2007 I wear them almost every day, they are warped where every shoe gets warped, but don't seem to fall apart in the foreseeable future.

It's actually really hard to buy decent footwear in Warsaw. Actually durability is the weakest point of almost everything sold these days :(

adthelad said...

Here I generally buy Clarks not having the ability to travel to and from the UK as often as I would like.I've even ordered then via the web. My favourite pair of their Oxford's had a special pneumatic sole that circulated air as you walked. After they wore down I contacted Clarks to try and find out where I could get a replacement sole. No reply :(

Michael Dembinski said...

Key is a good szewc. I'm lucky in having two close to my office - one on ul. Koźmińska and another on ul. Przemysłowa; both enjoy - indeed see as a challenge - working on decent, stout shoes, as opposed to supermarket rubbish or dainty Italian ballet-ware.

The craft skills of both szewcowie ensure that my footware will keep me well-shod for years to come

Unknown said...

@ Student SGH, et. al., Certainly all shoes will wear. But wearing the same pair of shoes almost every day is extra hard on them because they don't get a chance to properly breathe like leather needs to.

As far as warping, it sounds like your shoes (and perhaps yours too, Michael) would benefit from regular use of cedar shoe trees like all good leather shoes deserve.

pinolona said...

ooh those look nice. They're a bit like the shoes my Dad used to wear to work. There's something intrinsically reassuring about smart men's shoes.

Cheap shoes are even more of a problem for women though and I'm constantly wondering whether to bother having a pair of 30GBP shoes re-heeled or just to buy another pair in a similar style. Or indeed whether it's worth spending upwards of 200EUR apiece on a couple of nice pairs of shoes that will probably get worn down just as quickly. I walk quite a lot too, including to work, which doesn't help. Oh and smart women's shoes are rarely comfortable to wear for more than a few hours at a time, which is another issue...