Image: Ted Humble-Smith @ Hmmm...
November 02 2009
Lucia van der Post
While the differences between women’s shoes, particularly high fashion ones, are usually clearly delineated, the nuances of men’s footwear are infinitely subtle. And yet how much it matters. Shoes say so much, and there’s nothing quite so much of a turn-off in a man as really naff shoes. Which is no doubt why so many men take refuge in sticking to the tried and tested classics. Now a new player on the block, Lodger, has come up with a livelier option – the chance for a bit more fun without the risk of looking daft. To start with, Lodger believes passionately in quality, but it doesn’t see why quality has to mean old-fashioned. Lodger was founded by Nathan Brown, who had worked with Adidas sportswear and therefore knew about all sorts of technological possibilities; his take on men’s shoes is to marry cutting-edge technology with traditional craftsmanship.
To start at the beginning: it’s called Lodger after the medieval travelling shoemakers who went from town to town making shoes. Every pair was – perforce – made by hand and to order. Nathan Brown wanted to revive the tradition of custom-made footwear and old-fashioned notions of service but to combine it with modern technology. So he uses laser scanning and 3D design to help deliver a shoe that really fits, and he uses modern communications – ie, the internet – to enable him to deliver anywhere in the world.
While the traditional bespoke shoemakers (John Lobb, George Cleverley) have to charge in the region of £2,000 a time because they make an individual last to order and then make the shoe, Lodger uses laser scanning to find which of its many existing lasts best suits the foot of the customer. This means that it can deliver a shoe that fits perfectly for between £225 and £600. The shoes are bench-made by craftsman shoemakers in Italy and Northamptonshire in factories where they’ve been making them for generations.
The fascinating thing is that when he started, Brown was fairly sure that it was the classic designs that would be the most popular. In fact, it’s Lodger’s “shoe of the month”, which is usually a highly adventurous design, available to order only for that month and never seen again, that seems to attract the most attention. A 1909 vintage tennis shoe, for instance, was a sell-out, while the July shoe of the month (second from left in picture) was a bit of a shaker – blue and white striped linen backed with calf leather and tied with yellow laces – but it went down a storm. August’s was a soft loafer, a design that Lodger is particularly fond of, and last month’s shoe (far right in picture) was a black woven dress shoe with laces, in patent and suede leather.
Most shoes cost £550 a pair, though the desert boots start at £250, and among the standard designs always on sale, it is the deep oxblood hand-painted whole-cut shoe that is the most sought-after. And in case you’re wondering, it’s called whole-cut because each shoe is cut from a single piece of leather. The shoes come in a gorgeous box with a photo of the shoe on the outside. Finally, if you’re a shoe freak, you’ll love the website.