BESPOKE MONOGRAMMED SHOES
GEORGE CLEVERLEY & CO. LTD.
Every item in a gentleman’s wardrobe should bring him pleasure. Those pieces which have been made for him alone – the finest suits and topcoats from Savile Row, the perfectly constructed shirts from Jermyn Street et al. – will be much loved pieces, regarded with that fondness he otherwise bestows only upon members of his own family. After all, they express not only his sartorial standards but also his aesthetic values, both of which, we hope, are impeccable. For myself, I confess that my keenest enthusiasm is reserved for the contemplation of my shoes. Fine bespoke shoes are works of art. In their form and in their practicality (for shoes must be comfortable), they manifest beauty and speak reassurance. In a world awash with the trivial and the second-rate, they tell us that there are still those with the skill and the eye to create and to care about the best. And, in my judgement, the best bespoke shoes in the world are made by George Cleverley & Co. Ltd.
That is why, when I determined upon a pair of black, monogrammed bespoke shoes, I headed straight for 13, The Royal Arcade, off Bond Street.
Number Thirteen draws lovers of fine footwear from all parts of the civilized world. And so it should, for there is to be found a team of true craftsmen. At its head are Messrs George Glasgow and John Carnera (pictured, with your correspondent, with Mr Glasgow on the right). These two gentlemen continue to devote their lives to the pursuit of shoe perfection. Having worked with the late Mr Cleverley himself, they are true disciples of the Great Man and share his great passion for elegant shoes (if not his other passion – for horse racing). They make for many of the most famous and most important men of our day, although it would be quite improper of me to mention the names of any of their current clients. I am content simply to list a quartet of those who have worn Cleverley’s shoes in the past: Sir Winston Churchill, Rudolph Valentino, John Gielgud and Humphrey Bogart. George Cleverley & Co. is used to dealing with those for whom only the best will do.
But why the monogram, I hear you cry? Might that not suggest – speak it softly – a hint of vulgarity? There is some sense in this accusation. A maker once suggested that my bespoke shirts should have my initials embroidered in a place where they might be seen by those other than myself. I recoiled – and I would still recoil – at the suggestion. But the toecap of a black shoe is a place accustomed to receiving punched decoration, and a monogram, as long as it is carefully constructed and not in any sense ‘obvious’, can be accommodated there without the slightest hint of immodest ostentation. Besides, I thought as I made my way to The Royal Arcade, Mr Carnera and Mr Glasgow would never allow anything to be made on their premises which was not entirely comme il faut.
The notion had entered my mind for a moment that I might have one initial on each toe – ‘F’ on the right shoe and ‘B’ on the left. But it occurred to me at once that, were I to cross my legs, the resulting abbreviation might not be entirely flattering. I determined therefore on ‘FB’ on each shoe, and sketched a simple amalgamation of the two letters, which I hoped would be legible on close inspection but which would seem no more than a pleasant curlicue at a cursory glance. I presented my idea to the experts. It was approved.
Of course, there were many other details to be discussed. My wooden last, made many years ago for my first pair of Cleverley’s shoes, was already upstairs – carefully stored along with those of all other Cleverley customers. But measurements and an outline were still taken for each foot, so that the last could be altered to reflect any changes wrought be the passage of time.
Then there were decisions to be taken about style and construction. I enjoy hearing myself on the pavement, so I like to have metal quarter heels – for the ‘click, click’ effect. I tend to wear the front tips of the soles disproportionately – even though, as always at Cleverley, they are made from oak-bark-tanned leather from Bakers’ thousand year-old tannery in Devon – so I have two rows of nails to slow the wear. The impression of lightness – one of the hallmarks of Cleverley’s shoes – would be assisted by the slight tapering of the heels. To the same end, the shoes would have the “extended Cleverley look”, a subtle lengthening which heightens the degree of elegance. I settled upon the Balmoral design, in black leather, with the typical chisel toe for which George Cleverley remains famous. Upon that chisel toe would go the monogram. The interiors would be lined with red leather.
Mr Carnera suggested a fitting, so that we could be sure the monogram was exactly right before the shoes were finished. I was happy to agree. In fact, I always agree with Mr Carnera – not least because his uncle, Primo Carnera, was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world in 1933 and 1934.
While I waited for the summons to the fitting I began to scrutinise the footwear of well-dressed gentlemen with increased care. Despite my efforts, I did not observe any monograms. Either they were too subtle for my feeble eyes, or my shoes would be more unusual than I had supposed. Had I made a mistake? The fitting allayed my fears. The Cleverley version of my monogram was perfect: legible and yet winningly discreet.
Finally, the completed shoes were ready. They are magnificent. I hope the photographs convey some sense of how the quality of the materials and the artistry of the workmanship have combined to produce shoes which will afford deep satisfaction to me for the rest of my life. Are they supremely comfortable? Of course. Are they exquisitely elegant? Look at the pictures. £3,600 might strike some people as a high price for a pair of shoes. But these shoes are a bargain. They are unique. Every time I wear them, I feel that the world is a slightly better place, and that I am fortunate to be a part of it. Such joy is beyond price. My advice is therefore simple. Get along to The Royal Arcade as soon as you can. And start designing your monogram now.
GEORGE CLEVERLEY & CO. LTD.
13 The Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, London W1S 4SL, England.
Telephone +44 (0)207 493 0443/1058
Fax +44 (0)207 493 4991
Bespoke shoes from £3,600 a pair, including wooden trees.
The ‘Anthony Cleverley’ range of ready-to-wear shoes, which uses bespoke grade leather with hand lasting, hand welting and hand finishing, is considerably cheaper. Ask for details.
Visits are made to several cities in the USA. Ask for details