December 8th, 2016
My family has been making traditional English shoes for longer than anyone can remember. My great-grandfather John opened the first Loake factory with his brothers, Thomas and William, back in 1880. Today, five generations and more than 130 years later, the Loake association with fine, handmade shoes lives on.
The history of the Monk shoe goes back centuries. European monks found that they offered better protection than the sandals they usually wore and the style went on to become a popular choice as a work shoe.
The obvious hallmark of a Monk shoe is its lack of lacing. The construction is similar to that of a Derby, with the quarters overlapping the upper vamp or tongue of the shoe. However instead of the quarters meeting in the middle to be laced, the shoe is closed by a buckle and strap.
Once considered too informal for suits, but also too smart for casual wear, nowadays the Monk shoe ranks somewhere between the Oxford and Derby in terms of formality and has become surprisingly versatile.
Single strap or double strap (or even triple), suede or leather, worn with or without socks, dressed up or dressed down – the Monk shoes popularity is expanding all the time. It can now be worn equally well with a suit or denim.
Here are five of our Loake favourites.
David Evans is a menswear writer and the author behind Grey Fox, a fashion and style blog offering sartorial guidance to men over 40. Like most men, until recently David’s shoe buying habits have been fairly hit-and-miss. However, a recent chat with Tony Ryan, manager of our shop in Piccadilly, has shown him a different path.
Buying shoes is easy: you just buy online or nip into the department store and try on a few until you find some that look good and even may fit. That just about describes my shoe buying habits until I was recently invited to the Loake store in Princes Arcade off Piccadilly in London. Soon after meeting the manager, Tony Ryan, I realised that there is much more to buying a good pair of shoes.
With the correct care and maintenance your Loake shoes will retain their excellent appearance and comfort for years to come. Here are some tips we have drawn up to advise customers on how best to look after their shoes.
Leather is a natural product so your shoes will benefit from regular application of a good quality shoe cream or wax polish. This will help to moisturise the leather, keeping it supple and preventing drying or cracking. The wax polish will also provide some protection from staining and bring a shine to the uppers. Before polishing, make sure to wipe over your shoes with a dry cloth first to remove any surface dirt.
In the third of our series My Loake Life, we talk to Andy Tite, the Leather Buyer based at our factory in Kettering. Andy has spent his whole working life in the shoe trade and has worked for Loake for 23 years.
Jaclyn Craig, founder and editor of popular lifestyle blog Bumpkin Betty, is getting married later this year in Scotland. She and her fiancé Stu were hunting for the perfect pair of brogues to finish off his outfit and following a professional shoe fitting at Loake’s Piccadilly store found exactly what they were looking for.
The loafer has come a long way since it was first developed in England in the 19th Century as a country house shoe for the landed gentry and the Royal family. Via Norway, where a moccasin style was introduced and soon exported to the rest of Europe, then America where GH Bass produced the famous Weejun (sounding like Norwegians) with the addition of the distinctive strip of leather across the saddle with a diamond cut-out, the style has grown in popularity to become a significant part of men’s shoe wardrobes all over the world. Another variation on the basic style, the tassel loafer, emerged in the 1950s.
Today loafers and slip-on shoes are transitional styles that offer a great alternative to lace-up shoes. They are also versatile enough to work with both classic and casual looks. Leather is the best choice of material for a structured and formal look, so standard colour rules apply – brown or tan for versatility, black for more formal attire. Loafers also complement a more relaxed look, especially if your preferred mode of wear is the currently popular ‘sans socks’. Suede is particularly suitable in the summer months when the lighter material pays dividends.