The making of Crockett & Jones shoes
It’s no coincidence that Northampton developed as the place to be for shoe making in the English isles. Back in the day, the abundance of oak forests and thus oak bark which was the best tanning material of the era and the confluence of the River Nene through the area made the county the perfect centre for tanning. When Crockett & Jones started making shoes in 1879, Charles Jones and James Crockett with a grant of GBP100 (a fairly princely sum then) each from the Thomas White Trust ‘for men of good character’ concentrated on making men’s boots.
Crockett & Jones shoes from last to finish
The leathers were cut at their small factory in Carey Street Northampton and then sent out to contracted workers who made finished components with the materials at home before sending them back to the 20-strong facility. With success, the small factory expanded and more jobs were completed in house. By the time the 2nd generation of Harry Crockett and Frank Jones took charge in 1890, they were already using new Charles Goodyear of modern day ‘Goodyear welted fame’ machinery- the US led industrial revolution stitched uppers, welts and soles together- a superior construction process still in use today.
Today, more than 130 years on, Crockett & Jones shoes not only retain the detail, quality and comfort of the originals but serve as reminders of that Charles Jones and his brother in law, James Crockett started a footwear revolution that even modern day super spy James Bond swears by.
8 weeks 8 stages
1. Pattern Cutting: The pattern of the prototype is made and after some adjustments, a final sample is produced. This sample is used as the template for mass production.
2. Clicking: This is technically stage 1 of production where the shoe uppers and linings are cut.
3. Closing: This is where the detailing work on the shoe upper takes place- punching holes for brogue styles, edge staining, hand sewing, machine stitching prepared sections together to form the shoe upper and fitting eyelets.
4. Preparation: The insoles and soles are cut from leather bends or rubber sheets using large heavy presses. The leather insoles are prepared for ‘Lasting’ by attaching the material rib, to which the welt will eventually be stitched. The heels are built in-house with leather or rubber lifts and top pieces.
5. Lasting: This is where the shoe begins to take shape. The upper of the shoe is tacked to the back of the last to ensure the back height is correct. It is then pulled over at the toe by the lasting machine, before being side lasted by hand.
6. The Making: Here, the welting process begins. The bottoms of the shoes are filled with cork and wooden shanks are inserted to provide support beneath the insoles. The soles are then stitched to the welt. This method allows for the soles to be removed for repair without affecting the uppers. After the soles have been attached the shoes undergo a process of ‘Bottom Levelling’ which rounds the soles to the shape of the last.
7. The Finishing: An all important stage involving lots of skill, all shoes are hand-finished to provide an even and consistent finish. The soles and heels are then stained and hot wax is applied to the edges to provide a waterproof seal and a good shine. Various decorative finishes are applied to the soles such as, wheeling and crowing before a final polish.
8. The shoe hits the store: Antiquing and burnishing was a tradition started at Edward Green before filtering down to Crockett & Jones. Obviously before the shoes hit the stores, the lasts are removed from the shoes and the leather soles are stamped with the Crockett & Jones brand. Finally the shoes undergo a scrutinised check for quality before they can be passed for lacing and boxing.
All images sourced from Crockett & Jones. [Buy Crockett & Jones shoes here]