This week I went into London with my wife for her birthday. We went to one of our favorite spots on Earth, Borough Market. We wanted to eat at as many of the food stalls as we could and during a break from the action we took a little time to have a gorgeous Monmouth Coffee. My Crockett and Jones Exmoors were looking particularly good all day! They held up extremely well under two full days of pounding the London streets in search of hidden gastronomic gems.
After purchasing my Crockett and Jones Exmoor there was one thing that kept bugging me... namely, the slight tear in the leather on the inside back of the heel on the right shoe. The left is fine, the right, not so fine. At first I thought I could let it go, but being extremely detail oriented and liking all of my shoes to maintain a perfect look, I decided to get my local cobbler to fix it.
When I brought the Exmoors in to the cobbler the first thing he said was, "have you not been using your shoe horn?" He then said, "or maybe you've been taking this shoe off without untying the laces, perhaps pushing it off with your other shoe?" Obviously, I have no idea how the previous owner treated these shoes, but it's clear from the before photos and now this, that he simply didn't treat them well.
But, that's what this project is all about. Taking a pair of totally unloved Crockett and Jones' and with a little TLC making them stand out and wearing them until they truly wear out. And not from a lack of looking after them, but from getting the most out of them, while maintaining their brilliance along the way.
This £5 bonding job should last quite a while and I don't anticipate it getting any worse. Is it perfect, like-new? No, not even close. That doesn't really matter for these purposes. Even with the new laces and this £5 repair, I have still saved myself a fortune buying these used. And I get the satisfaction of seeing these shoes improve every day I own them.
Yesterday was the first full day out with my used Crockett and Jones Exmoor. I photographed a wedding on a very sunny, hot day in Kent and I wanted to see how the shoes performed during the action. Weddings really take it out of my shoes. I am always kneeling, running and bashing into things with my shoes. Plus, I'm on my feet for 8-10 hours straight and anything wrong with a shoe becomes painfully obvious. So I figured it would be the perfect time to see if there was anything that was going to bother me about these used Exmoors.
I'm happy to announce that the shoes performed beautifully!
My only niggle was that after about 4-5 hours both of the backs of my heels were slightly sore from rubbing against the back of the shoe. I have this with most of my shoes and is usually cured by wearing thicker socks. Which, of course, I couldn't as it was a scorcher!
I did not experience anything close to what the internet forums have mentioned about buying used shoes, i.e. that they mold to the shape of the previous owner and can be horribly uncomfortable. In fact, they feel like any of my shoes after I've already broken them in. Perhaps a twin brother I was unaware of owned these before me.
For the last couple of years I have had a keen interest in English shoe makers. Most notably: Edward Green, Loake, Barker and my favorite... Crockett and Jones. Seems I am not alone in my love affair with Crockett and Jones. Since Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film, where four pairs of Crocketts were featured (Islay, Alex, Tetbury and Highbury) the world has fallen in love with Crockett and Jones.
There is one problem with falling head over heels (no pun intended) for a company like Crockett and Jones... the price! These shoes are not cheap. Well, certainly when comparing them to Edward Green or John Lobb they seem cheap, but for the average punter, these are very expensive shoes. There are, however, ways of getting them for a less than ludicrous price: 1. take your chances and visit their factory outlet in Northampton... (which I've done about five times in the last year and bought one pair of Rough Out Islays... my go-to boot for autumn and winter) 2. take an even greater chance and buy a used pair on eBay. Which, until recently, I would not have even thought about. The idea of someone else's feet being in my shoes is, well, less than appealing to put it mildly.
However, after being inspired by Mark Anthony at My Loakes are at I decided to take a chance. Mark tells the story that he had wanted a pair of Loakes for a very long time and one day with a little help from eBay he got his first pair. He loved them so much he wore them most days. He wore them so much that he decided to have Loake refurbish them and posted a YouTube video about his experience. He has since gone on to win the biggest Loake fan competition and visit the factory in Northampton.
My reasoning for buying a pair of used Crockett and Jones on eBay was more to give me a project and a hobby than to save myself some money. I wanted to see if I could, like Mark, buy a used pair of shoes and wear the heck out of them until they literally crumble beneath my feet and I need to send them off for refurbishment. In this day and age where we are "buy it and toss it away" consumers, the idea that one could take a pair of shoes that was unloved and thrown on eBay for scraps and give them a new home sounded good to me.
So here we go.
Over the next... however many years, you can follow my Crockett and Jones and me along this journey to see just how many miles I can get out of a pair of used, bought on eBay, Crockett and Jones Exmoor.
A couple of notes: Currently the Exmoor retails for £385. On eBay I was the highest bidder by £1.01. My highest bid was £101.01 and the next bid was £100.00. Sorry to whomever that was.
So far all I have done to the shoes is bought a pair of new laces from the Crockett and Jones store on Jermyn street for £2 and polished them with a dark brown Crockett and Jones polish I bought for £3.
I had the shoe trees (which were also bought on eBay) and I placed them in the second I received the shoes; after completely disinfecting the shoes with vinegar, peppermint oil and water. Sorry to all the purists out there that say I shouldn't use water and vinegar in shoes. There was no way I was walking about with somebody else's feet scent.
I think you'll agree, a quick polish and new laces has already worked a miracle on these shoes. I could probably put them back on eBay and turn a quick profit. But I won't. I'm already smitten with them!
Crockett and Jones Exmoor Before Polish and New Laces
Crockett and Jones Exmoor After Polish and New Laces