BESPOKE CROCODILE SHOES
G. J. CLEVERLEY & CO. LTD.
Let me at once address the concerns of the conservationists. There are now, quite properly, the most stringent regulations in force about the use of crocodile and alligator skins. These creatures are protected species. Only those specimens specifically bred and farmed for the purpose can have their skins used, and so – with regard to any shoes made by the firm which features in this article – there can be no question of harm being done to any wild animal.
Most of the skins used for shoes nowadays come from Mississippi alligators of about three months old. The skin is that of the underbelly, and experts will tell you that the scales of the alligator tend to be slightly rounder in shape than those of the crocodile. My own shoes (in this article) were made from crocodile.
Why did I want a pair of crocodile shoes? Well, friends, it is a question of beauty. We need to put more stress on this quality in sartorial matters. The prevailing taste for the drab and the downright ugly needs to be challenged. (Is there any more depressing experience than encountering street after street of folk who all seem to adhere to the cult of shabbiness?) So these shoes constitute one blow against the scruffiness of the age. I have gazed and gazed upon my completed shoes, and I do think I will ever tire of doing so. The look and the texture of them are wonderful. This pair of shoes is a work of art.
And the artists responsible are those who make the finest shoes in the world. Indeed, it seemed to me that it would be the height of irresponsibility to ask anyone else to fashion shoes from this valuable and precious material. Who are they? The gentlemen of George Cleverley & Co., of The Royal Arcade, off Bond Street, in London.
My photograph shows Messrs John Carnera (on the left) and George Glasgow. These fine fellows shoe many of the most famous feet of the age, as did the eponymous founder of the firm, the great Mr Cleverley himself – who dealt with customers as diverse as Rudolph Valentino and Sir Winston Churchill.
As soon as you enter the discreet domain of Mr Carnera and Mr Glasgow, the owners of the firm, you sense that you are in the presence of true craftsmen. Indeed, Number Thirteen, The Royal Arcade, is a repository of old-fashioned skill. There is here the sort of concern for quality which must cheer up any gentleman worthy of the name. I have never made a visit to this shop without feeling the better for it afterwards. I have noted, too, over the years, the arrival of new young workers at the firm, and I have found it encouraging that each of them seems to be imbued at once with this ‘Cleverley Spirit’. And pride in their achievements makes them very pleasant of conversation.
Having had the privilege of bespoke Cleverley shoes previously, I knew that my last would be stored at the top of the winding staircase, in the room containing the lasts of all the current customers. No measuring of my feet to be done and no patterns to be drawn on this occasion, then. I simply had to decide on the style. The natural colour of crocodile and alligator skin is a light tan, so it is usually dyed. I decided upon deep burgundy – a hue of great practicality, for it can be a proper substitute for both black and brown shoes, being in harmony with clothes of almost any type.
As a change, I opted for the more open Derby style, with three eyelets. I thought this would best display the qualities of the crocodile skin. Kid leather would back the skin, to provide strength. The waists would be bevelled and the toe would have the typical Cleverley ‘hint of chisel’. I asked for my usual metal quarter heels (for I love to hear myself walking along), and for a double row of tiny nails on the toe of the sole (for longevity). One feature for which I did not need to ask, as it is an invariable part of the Cleverley striving for crisp elegance, was the subtle tapering of the heels (pictured) – a small detail in which I have always taken a particular delight.
I have mentioned that my choice of crocodile was born of a desire for beauty. Here I have to point out that such beauty does not come cheap. A pair of bespoke shoes in crocodile or alligator from Cleverley now costs £3,500 (which includes, of course, a pair of specially made shoe-trees). But perfection is surely worth that, and more.
Now it was just a question of waiting, which I did with as much patience as I could muster. After three months, I was back at the Royal Arcade, and there were my shoes – light, supremely comfortable and looking like the finest shoes ever made. I offered my congratulations to everyone involved in their manufacture.
Such exquisite workmanship is expensive. Of course, it is. But I expect you deserve your treats. I know I do. So, if you have never been excited by a pair of shoes (or you need to be excited all over again), I heartily recommend that you take yourself off to G.J.Cleverley & Co and order a pair of shoes in crocodile or alligator, like mine. Never has footwear given me such a thrill.
ADDRESSESGEORGE CLEVERLEY & CO. LTD.
13 The Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, London W1S 4SL, England.
Telephone +44 (0)20 7493 0443 or 1058
Fax +44 (0)20 7493 4991