Innovation in classic men’s footwear is, for me, a question of subtleties – such as tweaks to toe shape or structure. Unfortunately, this is something only few shoemakers do, and Justin FitzPatrick is someone who I think not only gets those subtleties right, but also applies them to unusual models in interesting ways.
FitzPatrick is known for his popular blog The Shoe Snob and increasingly for his range of shoes called J FitzPatrick. It was his bespoke training with the late Florentine shoemaker Stefano Bemer that gave him the tools to implement such accomplished twists to classic designs – by altering the last shape or the leather.
Take his version of the hiking boot, for example. While hiking boots have recently been adapted and updated by a range of designers, they often seem to have a chunkiness to both the sole and toe. The Snoqualmie (£410) is different, with a slim shape, a low toe and a straight rubber sole in place of the more usual commando. It is a city shoe that’s great for wet weather.
“A hiking boot’s key design point is its high, rounded toe, which is often reinforced or even has a steel cap underneath,” says FitzPatrick. “That’s the thing that makes it look most rugged; take it away and you immediately have a much slimmer line.”
FitzPatrick also uses subtle tweaks to tone down more unusual and dandyish models. He offers an almond-shaped toe Westlake button boot (£410), for example, something that is almost impossible to find in ready-to-wear collections (his model comes with a complimentary button-hook). In a black leather and black suede combination, it is made quite conservative – so much so that it can even get away with white mother-of-pearl buttons.
Other pieces from the collection I’d highlight are the Aurora (£350), a shoe version of the button boot, the Corliss III monkstrap (£335), which adds a Scotchgrain finish to the strap, and the suede Ballard III chukka boot (£360).