Edward Green shoes: True heart, true friend to the dandy…
And to serious men who want to both look and feel their best. Let’s put our foot squarely on the issue, it’s all about the shoes. Your shoes define who you are and what you think of yourself. Consider the cushion shoes provide to your foot and spine and how the proper size and shape affects your walking gait and stationary stance. Shoes determine how your body will react and respond throughout the day. The fact that most men consider shoes something to be ground down and discarded places among the elite the man that cares about his shoes.
But just because shoes are serious does not preclude a bit of cinematic fancy on the part of the wearer. If you have ever seen the movie Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock, 1951), in the beginning sequence you will see Robert Walker get out of a cab in a fetching pair of black and white spectators. I had never seen them made in quite that pattern before. It would take years of dreaming on my part after first seeing the film before Edward Green finally reproduced them for me faithfully (Black box calf and white buckskin suede) through their made-to-order service.
And that really is the point; shoes are the things dreams are made of. Women have no problem admitting it, men need to come to grips with it (perhaps they need a kick in the pants?). And Edward Green, recently moved to 75 Jermyn Street in London, are the purveyors of the dream. They make the handsomest English ready-to-wear style shoe for the jacket and tie set. The 202 last is as exquisite as it is timeless. It would be interesting to have a timeline of how many men and dandies of influence wore Edward Greens while making important decisions.
I think too many believe that it is solely the silhouette of the suit which creates this image of what you want to present yourself to the world as. You may fool the oceans of humanity who know little about clothes and genres of style but frankly those in the know will be able to tell who is genteel vs. who is a nasty poseur. The wrong shoes will announce your background faster than sardines on the breath, and might do so in the minds of people who could influence important decisions in your life.
My father, never a man to do things with his own hands, made a pointed habit of shining his own shoes, so important was it in his mind to demonstrate that he was a high sitting member of the sole-agarchy. I gave up shining my own shoes due to the exigencies of modern city living but the reflexes have stuck with me. When I notice men’s shoes in say a board meeting, I can read a lot about them from their shoes. Like tarot cards a man’s shoe choices tell me stories about his past and his future. You don’t like those judgments? Well, that’s too bad. They take place both consciously and unconsciously every day a million times a day and they will affect your value in the eyes of those who know better. Thus if you are clever enough to learn the lingo you will go out and get yourself some E. Greens and you will become a member of the club, whether you like it or not.
The shoes are made with a high percentage of handwork whilst the machine work is actually guided by hand. In the ready-to-wear art gallery, their shoes are located in the wing of the great masters, Vermeers for the feet which also provide support and become more comfortable the longer they are worn. In terms of propriety Edward Green puts the pie in cap-a-pie. It is fair to state that without a pair of Edward Green shoes, a dapper aspirant isn’t quite the full fig. Brummell would have lived at their shop, Fred Astaire did.
Speaking recently with Hillary Freeman, Managing Director of Edward Green I was able to surmise some interesting bits about the biz. I had thought that the newer, sleeker shoes in their “Contemporary Classics” range with either the absence of, or with smaller pinking holes were designed by Edward Green to accompany the lighter weights and finer weaves of cloth men select today for tailored clothes. This is part of the answer, the other part is that we tend towards a minimalist look these days and the lighter more refined range of shoes is primarily to complement and reflect that mood of minimalism
With regards to shoe last styles, the last being the basic shape of the shoe, the 202 last is their classic round toe last. It is very old, their oldest in fact. From a Global viewpoint, Edward Green has to cater to a variety of regional wishes and stylistic dreams. Thus, whereas the Italians love and demand none other than the rounded, 202 last, the French want a chiseled toe. Both Japan and Italy are big markets for the shoe company.
There are several lasts to choose from but I would advise going with the one that fits your foot most comfortably rather than which aesthetic strikes your fancy. Although you may be drawn to one last over another, foot comfort is paramount and all of their lasts are acceptable amongst circles of quality.
The 202 is the master last from whence every other Edward Green last is derived. It would be fair to say that this last has been in circulation so long and become so prevalent among the privileged set that it now represents the most acceptable shoe of a modern man of manners, rather like the way Kleenex eventually became synonymous with tissue.
In contra-distinction to the fate of most luxury items from the old world, Edward Green feels that the quality of their shoes has actually improved over time. To be sure the company has faced some challenges in the modern era but rather than retreating from these challenges, they have endured the trials and emerged triumphant.
It is important to get them fitted properly by a shoe store that knows how to handle their shoes. A large part of the Edward Green experience is being properly fitted (I was re-fitted by Ms. Freeman which was comic if only from the standpoint of her amazement towards the width of my feet.). Once a fitting is done properly, you can rest assured that you will have comfort and dexterous balance the rest of your walking life.
Polishes are hand applied in numerous coats to the shoes and calculated to create a compelling sense of depth in the leather. It is a substantial look which is nothing short of astounding. After a while you stop noticing yourself how beautiful the shoes are, unless you concentrate, but others never stop noticing.
The shape and last of the shoes and their particular type of high grade upper leathers have practically been branded into the Italo-Anglo-American consciousness as the very definition of what those who form the sartorial intelligentsia would be found wearing. When you think of the musketeers, you think of their thigh boots, when you think of Sherlock Holmes you think of laced boots and when you think of the western elite, you think immediately of these shoes, whether or not you in fact know of their existence.
The shoes themselves are well balanced neither delicate nor chunky. The lasts and uppers are both the natural and perfect accompaniment to the properly scaled tailored outfit. The shoes are solid and they provide comfort but they are also designed to make the foot look its best. The company possesses a built in sense of class refinement and never produce a model that wouldn’t do for a well heeled man in some suitable outfit. From spring garden parties to fall deer stalking to boardrooms the world over, Edward Green has several models that will make it apparent to anyone you meet that you are wearing the best. Their medium brown spectator with the khaki twill quarters is a perfect colonial accoutrement for the summer poplin or dupioni silk suit. The mahogany country calf is the perfect red-brown shade for the “Galway” model lace up boots to wear with your tweed suit or cords.
They have a fair selection of lace up oxfords and derbys which are shoes with the open throated separate pieces over the vamp of the foot which are supposedly a little easier on those with a high instep. The monk strap range is probably larger than it needs to be. There are several stand outs like the “Dover” which is a Norwegian style split toe lace up and the “Newmarket” which is one of the handsomest Chelsea boots I have ever seen. Also the “Harrow” slip on which was a favorite of the Duke of Windsor (especially with a cream suede top quarter under a calf vamp).
The burnt pine color: On its own it is not a particularly pleasing color but when mated with a quality trouser material the shading genius becomes apparent. This color has become one of their most popular because it turns an ordinary suit into something fetching. The color is appropriate on all their shoe styles. If you want to turn it up a notch, the willow calf is quite handsome, although if you are conservative by nature, the willow grain finish is probably better relegated to the jacket and odd trousers than the day suit.
Brown suede for the country: In the States we wear suede shoes in lace up styles to work without blinking an eye but In England they are reserved for country or weekend wear. Edward Green suede wears beautifully and defies the elements admirably, developing its own patina over time. The darker to medium shades are the most acceptable from winter to summer respectively.
Chestnut: The medium saddle tan color which the British make so beautifully but dare not wear in Albion. It is a magnificent leather color and the perfect shoe color for spring and summer woolen suits in medium to light shades or in darker shades of linen, mohair, cotton or silk.
Country/Weekend: Edward Green makes a complete country collection in both suede and pebble grained leather in both boots and lace up shoes. Shades abound but the mahogany country calf color has that dark brown with a hint of red that goes so well with country checks and herringbones even if they aren’t true tweeds but millionaire cashmere jackets for a weekend of roughing it at a city brunch spot. Whatever your actual lifestyle, the country shoe range whether the chukka boot (Banbury) in mink suede or the oddly stylish “Elmsley” in brown pebble grained calf evokes images of hunts in the highlands or grouse stalking or Goodwood or Sunday drives in Connecticut for that matter. Double thick soles (which are available on all of their shoes special order) and or hard rubber treads in a variety of designs are available to lend traction and authenticity.
Resort/weekend: For the weekend or the warmer climates or even by the shore there is a selection of slip-ons which are both solid and mature. In brown suede or in the above mentioned chestnut shade they are fantastic for a summer sports jacket and in black for the navy solid odd jacket. I suppose if you wore white, cream or pale blue pants with the navy jacket that you might try something in navy calf or in navy calf and cream buck suede; tres elegante and the deft way that Edward Green renders this hard to execute navy calf color makes them compelling to the smart set. It should be mentioned that Edward Green refuses to make a shoe with a woven quarter.
Black Calf: There is of course the richness of unrelieved black calf. This color is relentlessly serious and the only proper thing for the Public school boys to wear when they start their careers in the City. Black leather photographs poorly but to the naked eye there are immense differences between qualities of black calf. The best black leather has a soft, soothing and compelling allure about it. Cheap black leather looks like cardboard. Apart from some of the English bespoke craftsman, I would not hesitate to advise someone to head right from their custom suit fitting and buy themselves a pair of Edward Green lace ups in black calf.
Evening Shoes: Edward Green still make a calf leather evening pump with a bow, they make patent lace up shoes in just the proper toe shape for this item and they make velvet slippers in a variety of colors which you can have monogrammed on the toe box with your initials or an animal head or a crown or Fleur-de-Lys or any number of imagio dei in various (though principally gold) metallic thread colors.
The original 202 last was designed almost a century ago. This is a tremendous tradition and example of past and future maintaining a constant link. It is exciting thinking that you may be wearing the same shoes that Fitzgerald wore in Paris or the Duke of Windsor wore while elegantly fox-trotting his Kingdom away. Were these the shoes Chamberlain wore while assuring peace in our time or the ones Sir Winston addressed parliament in while England stood alone against the darkness? I do know that present day mandarins wear them as do many the more successful of the City of London set.
Although most of us enjoy referencing the past, I am not sure that many would actually like to live in it. However I do realize that a glimpse of an actor in a classic movie wearing an item in a stylishly lost manner can often excite the viewer. It engenders wonder about a lost world theoretically recent but might as well have existed millennia ago for those of us who never knew it. Perhaps we are the lucky ones; after all we can permit ourselves to imagine that it was all as the old movies promised it was without any comparison with reality to dispel the magic.
No one can bring back the past but if you want to bridge the gap, Edward Green shoes offer you the chance to link to those natty celluloid heroes and still wear shoes that are completely and acceptably current. Edward Green shoes go with everything a man in tailored clothing needs for upscale social or business events both night and day, and for either town or country.
I do not believe if I dress like Fred Astaire that I will become Fred Astaire. I do believe that if I take what he did which is pick the most modern version of what a man of style and talent would choose and give it my own spin I will be as well dressed as Fred Astaire. Likewise, although I enjoy being as well heeled as the dapper “Bruno Anthony” in Strangers on a Train, thankfully I will never become him. A close second is enjoying Edward Green shoes made to my specifications and understood by them to contaminate present day banality with the individualism of a more elegant age.
Stock models are available in London at Edward Green’s own shop at 75 Jermyn Street 011 44 (0)207 8390202 and in New York City at H. Herzfeld (212) 753-6756 and at Jay Kos 212-327-2382, call for specifics. There are also trunk shows at the NYC locations several times a year. If you’re on a budget, the shop has a sale twice a year which is handy if you are in London but If you are thinking of a mail order, I advise making sure you know which of the lasts in which size and width suits you before going this route.