“Ben Affleck came to the door, and the next thing you know we’re in his sitting room, having ice tea,” recalls George Glasgow. In just five years, the 30-year-old Londoner has managed to become the shoemaker of choice to Hollywood’s male elite: Samuel L Jackson wears his shoes, Michael Caine is a fan, Jason Statham has a full-on collection.
This is all the more impressive given that these are bespoke shoes from a small British company, GJ Cleverley, and priced from £3,000. The company, which was founded in 1958, is one of London’s premier bespoke shoemakers, specialising in especially fine, hand-sewn shoes made to the precise fit of an individual’s foot.
Although Cleverley now also offers ready-made shoes (two ranges, £475 and £995), it is the bespoke operation that it is best known for, and its reputation now has a global reach. The process of making a wooden last for a customer, then fitting and making the shoe, can take months. So not only has Glasgow convinced the stars to eschew more high-profile fashion brands, he has persuaded them to up their spend and wait as long as a year to have them made.
A handful in Hollywood have, in fact, been Cleverley customers for years, as George’s father (Glasgow Sr) used to come to LA twice a year to see clients, take orders and conduct fittings. Michael Chow – owner of the Mr Chow restaurants – is one such client, as is Gary Sacks, vice president of basketball team the Los Angeles Clippers. But it was when George Glasgow Jr moved to LA that things accelerated. Customers could call and make appointments any time they wanted, and word spread. Chow recommended Brett Ratner; Terence Stamp recommended Kenneth Branagh.
Personal endorsements are all the more important because Glasgow, who is the company’s CEO and creative director, is a visiting craftsman and doesn’t have a shop. He takes orders based on leather samples and shoe models, then conducts fittings when they are sent over from the workshop in London. For those outside the UK who appreciate the finest bespoke British craftsmanship, this service is a godsend.
Many Savile Row tailors reap significant rewards by having a US client base. By being on the ground, Glasgow is a local who can expand the clientele without having to move production out of England. Few other tailors, shoemakers or shirtmakers operate this model. Given Glasgow’s experience, perhaps they should.