It’s all very well forking over £100+ of your hard-earned cash on a pair of trainers, but wear them with anything even remotely smart and you’re going to look a lemon. Likewise, team expensive shoes with anything other than an equally expensive suit and any style credentials you might have will dissipate faster than Tottenham’s title ambitions. But there is an alternative.
I am talking, of course, about the Burford boot from Kettering-based shoemaker Loake Bros: a boot smart enough to grace any oak-panelled boardroom; a boot rugged enough to bestride any high street regardless of weather; a boot so English it would make Charles Darwin, William Shakespeare and Sir Isaac Newton question their ancestry.
How English, you say? As English as a country garden. As English as rainy summers, xenophobia and sarcasm. If this boot could speak, it would sound like Terry Thomas and its first words would be “I say.” If this boot were a meal, it would be roast beef served with lashings of English mustard. If this boot landed in a foreign country, it would promptly stick a flag in it and claim it for the Queen.
And let’s be clear. This is not some namby-pamby call to “Buy British” to jump-start our beleaguered economy. This is a rallying cry to buy English because it is the sensible and proper thing to do if (a) you are a man; and (b) have feet.
Why? Well, for one thing, it originates in Northamptonshire, home to just about all the best traditional shoemakers in the country. For another, these bad boys are hand-made and it takes a collection of craftsmen, artisans and elves a full eight weeks to convert a swathe of the finest cow wrapper into footwear fit for a king.
Available in black or tan, the Burford boot features a Goodyear welted design that has been an intrinsic part of the Loake range for some 130 years and which sets them aside from the one-up-from-espadrilles designer brands from Italy and Portugal. Perhaps surprisingly, the Goodyear Welt has nothing to do with tyres. The “welt” is a strip of leather that is sewn around the bottom edge of a shoe. This stitching (the welt seam) attaches the welt to both the insole and the upper of the shoe. The welt is folded out to form a point of attachment for the outer sole. The outer sole is sewn to the welt, with a heavy-duty lock-stitch seam.
What does all this mean to the wearer? Simply, it means that the stitching runs around the outside of the sole rather than piercing the part under the foot, maximising the sole’s water-resistance and ensuring that your feet remain as dry as a camel’s humour.
Someone far more intelligent than me once said that you should invest in a good bed and a good pair of shoes because if you’re not in one, you’re probably in the other. And since no bed ever looked quite so good twinned with dark jeans, chinos, a business suit or (better still) tweed, I commit to you the Burford boot.