TRADITIONAL STYLE, TIMELESS QUALITY

WORDS Rosa Shiels

A centuries-old adage states that ‘shoes maketh the man’. Archaic the language might be, but the concept lingers.

A stylish shoe or boot, well made, is superior to five or 10 cheap-as-chips examples and feet will thank the wearer for the weatherproof quality, comfort and both new and worn-in style. What’s more, the longevity of a well-made shoe equates to wise economy.

Sold at Sergio’s in Christchurch, but made in Britain, Loake’s shoes are the archetypal shoes to maketh the man.

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Andrew Loake, 60, is the managing director and a fourth-generation Loake. He had considered becoming a musician, but opted instead to run the company founded in Kettering, Northamptonshire in 1880 by his forebears – brothers Thomas, John and William, the sons of a silk weaver and plush-maker.

Loake’s Kettering factory houses some 150 staff, among them craftsmen exercising specialist traditional skills of which Andrew Loake is justifiably proud, especially the Goodyear welted construction used in signature classic styles.

“It is generally regarded as the highest form [of construction],” Andrew says. “A strip of leather, a welt, is stitched to the upper and insole of a shoe, and then a sole (usually, but not always leather) is stitched to this welt.

“The main benefits are that the shoes are relatively water-resistant, because the sole stitching doesn’t penetrate the insole and as long as the uppers are kept in reasonable condition, the shoe can be re-soled relatively easily.”

Loake’s makes 150 standard styles of welted-construction shoes and also retails a lifestyle collection of other styles, such as boat shoes, drivers and desert boots, sourced worldwide.

Its footwear, made mostly from European leather, is worn by many well-known footballers, politicians, musicians and actors.

“We don’t have official endorsees and we don’t give shoes to famous people for marketing purposes, but, of course, we’re always appreciative when we see celebrities wearing our shoes.”

Loake Shoemakers opened its first dedicated shop in the heart of London in 2011 and there are now three more in the city and several more throughout Britain. It made shoes and boots during wartime for the British Army and Navy, as well as convalescent boots and, during WWI, Cossack boots for the Russian Army.

It was granted a royal warrant in 2007, but, as Andrew says, “the business that we do with the Royal Household is, of course, confidential and we are not expected to discuss it.”

And while the company’s in-house design team tweaks its timeless styles to reflect contemporary tastes in order to march with the times and remain relevant, it’s no surprise that Loake’s most successful shoe is a full brogue Oxford.

“An English brogue is probably the most versatile style there is,” Andrew says. “It can be worn with a suit, with jeans or anything in between. No man’s wardrobe is complete without a pair!”