Northampton Factory Outlets Revealed
Undeniably, the foundation of any sound outfit is a fine pair of proper gentleman’s shoes constructed by skilled craftsmen from the best leather available to man and polished to perfection.
Equally indisputable is that some of the world’s best shoes are made in Northampton, England, a city that has produced finely crafted footwear for the last 150 years.
In fact, despite the decimation of the British shoe industry over the years, there are still no less than 18 different shoe factories including John Lobb, Tricker’s, Joseph Cheaney and Sons, Grenson and George Cleverley — all manufacturing the finest shoes known to man using methods that have not changed in decades.
Luckily for us, many of these factories have their own Northampton factory outlets where samples and slight seconds are sold for up to 70% off their usual cost while the city itself [Northampton] is but one hour on the train from London’s Euston station.
As as a lover of fine footwear, this is a pilgrimage I’ve often completed to stock up on the classics with visits to the high rollers, the Kings of Cordwainers, the boys who’ve been in the game for centuries and who are renowned worldwide for their talents.
Accordingly, I opted to walk to my first port of call, Church’s which is just a few minutes walk from the railway station and housed in a big, and rather imposing, redbrick Victorian building.
Whilst the factory workers beaver away churning out the high end footwear, the neighbouring outlet shop is open all week and proffers items at approximately half the usual shop prices.
And of course, there are lots to tempt and, but even though I tried hard to resist I couldn’t help but shell out for a sublime pair of black Shannon for £250 (half retail) that is perhaps the most versatile shoe a man can own.
Made of a single piece of leather the upper is smooth, there’s no toecap or stitching, except for on the eyelet facings, while that thick triple sole is attached via a Goodyear storm welt.
For the uninformed, this is basically a strip of leather sewn around the bottom edge of the shoe that, attached to the upper and insole and then sewn to the outer sole, which ensures long-lasting, weather resistant footwear with replaceable soles that last for years.
In my opinion, this is the perfect shoe that looks great with both suit or casual clothing and is a no nonsense masculine perennial that makes all other footwear seem somewhat redundant.
But even so, I was on a mission so took a 5-minute cab ride to the Crockett & Jones factory that really is a Northampton must see. The company has been in the same red brick, Victorian building since 1897 and are still a family business going back five generations.
Recently, James Bond wore their shoes in the movie, Skyfall while other customers have included H.R.H The Duke of York (later King George VI) Basil Rathbone, Cary Grant, Bryan Ferry and many more.
Northampton Factory Outlets Are Easy to Reach
And, as you stroll into the factory, you are smacked in the face by this wonderful smell of wax, glue, polish and leather, whilst hearing the noise of the knives that the clickers use to cut the world’s finest leather. Sewing machines buzz away rhythmically in the closing room.
After that it’s the turn of craftsmen who tack the leather on to its last only for finishers to welt, shape and sole the shoes, finish with hot wax, remove the last, then polish the blighters.
In total 200 different manufacturing processes are employed to make one pair of shoes over an eight-week period so it would actually be stupid not to drop a few quid on such a pair of lovingly manufactured shoes.
After huge ado, I settled for the apron fronted Durham Derby’s in brown Scottish grained leather with a Dainite rubber sole for half retail at £200 and was as happy a boy.
And even though, I’d spent more than I could afford I still carried on and ended up, after a short cab journey past the racecourse, in the John Lobb factory outlet which is a must for lovers of high end footwear.
Luxury Shoe Brands at Discounted Prices
And all the Lobb classics were there – stunning Oxfords, Monk Straps, boots, and loafers and, lest we forget, items they produce in collaboration with Paul Smith.
I almost bought the Croft classic rubber sole with four eyelets but bottled it when I saw that, even though they were half price they were still £500, which was simply a bridge too far after already buying two pairs from the other outlets previously visited. That said, I still regret not buying them.
Next up was Tricker’s who still enjoy a royal seal of approval and boast ‘English shoemakers since 1829’ and offer up perhaps the widest array of styles.
Shoes start here at £175.00 for men’s footwear but, as beautiful as they were, no styles this day sung out to me so I made my way back to London, not only happy with my lot but unable to resist opening the boxes on the train to smell my goods — ahhhh leather and glue!
My new shoes are so ridiculously comfortable wearing other shoes now seems to make little sense. And yes, I will admit that it was an extravagance and I should have spent the money on something sensible like paying overdue bills, but these are a joy to own and a fine investment as, I don’t need to buy another pair of shoes for years.
A well looked after pair of mostly hand made Northampton shoes will live longer than you and very well may end up in your will! ML
More information on Northampton Factory Outlets may be found here: http://northamptonshoes.com/factory-shops