Upholding Northampton’s international reputation for the finest handmade shoes
Ever since Oliver Cromwell had his army shod by the cordwainers’ of Northampton, the town has been inextricably linked with shoes.
The surrounding countryside provided a ready supply of cattle, water and oak – the ingredients necessary for tanning leather – and a community of skilled craftsmen passed on their knowledge through the generations.
By the late-19th century their world was changing – production was moving from the artisan’s cottage into large factories, and Edward Green, who was a young shoemaker at the time, was concerned that the values of the craft tradition were being lost. He set up his own workshop, drawing together a team of Northampton’s most respected shoemakers and sourced the best materials for them to work with, determined to maintain the very highest standards of the old craft tradition. ‘Above all never satisfied’ was his maxim – recorded by his son and successor Cyril Green in the company’s house journal, Evergreen.
Nowhere is this more true than with Edward Green’s most iconic shoe – the Dover. Hand-sewn with boars’ bristles, the Dover represents the pinnacle of the shoemaker’s craft. The bristle is carefully split and entwined into a thread before the shoe’s distinctive U-shaped apron is sewn, taking a skilled artisan over two hours a pair – as well as years in training to achieve their mastery. Today the Dover, and other Edward Green shoes, are exported globally, prized for their supreme quality and distinctly English character.
Edward Green shoes are made to age gracefully, gaining character like handsome mahogany furniture. Their signature antiqued patina is built up through layer upon layer of careful hand work, which gets even better with wear, time and careful nurturing. Shoes are returned to be re-crafted again and again on their original last, sometimes lasting for decades. Edward Green’s soles are tanned for nine months in a solution of oak, spruce and mimosa barks for an unequalled comfort and durability. And after being sewn to the shoe, the sole is bevelled to create an attractive and refined waist. No detail is missed. And it’s that combination of excellence and quintessentially English style that has served the company well all over the world.
‘The Japanese in particular have a culture of really appreciating dedicated craftsmanship and attention to detail,’ says Edward Green’s Head of Brand Development, Euan Denholm. ‘It can take over seven years to train as a ceramicist in Japan, so they readily relate to our values – our fastidiousness.
‘In an age when there’s so much discussion about Britain’s role in the world, it is energising to be working in a sector respected internationally as a centre of excellence. Over 80 per cent of our production is exported. Northampton shoes are a real British success story. I’d hope that as a country we can become a little more aware of how valued our shoemaking is abroad, and take a certain pride and inspiration from it.’
Edward Green’s St James’s home is on Jermyn Street opposite the statue of Beau Brummell, arbiter of style in Regency London and a pioneer of the modern modes of menswear, adopted around the world. The shop keeps an extensive range of sizes, widths and lasts ensuring that customers can find their perfect fitting. ‘It is only once you wear a pair of shoes that you really start appreciating the difference,’ says Denholm. Having found their ideal fit, many customers will go on to have shoes made to order, which makes up around 20 per cent of the workshop’s production, specifying leather, last, fit and sole.
If you are far from St James’s, have no fear – Edward Green’s full range of shoes is now available online from their website, with free global returns giving you confidence in finding the right fit. Cyril Green would approve: ‘We are young enough to be conversant with present day ideas and needs but old enough to know and apply the principles of shoe-making correctly.’ An ethos that continues to serve the company a century on.
EDWARD GREEN 75 JERMYN STREET, LONDON SW1Y 6NP +44 (0)20 7839 0202