How's it going folks? Hopefully all good...
So, last night we had the pleasure of having the Managing Director from Trickers in the 10@10 chair and tonight we are on the other side of the looking glass as we have Rob, Trickers enthusiast, reviewing them as an ode to Trickers.
Me and Rob sat down last Saturday, in store, to shoot the shit over a cup of Yorkshire and we mainly stayed within the lines but artistic license and all that, sometimes in life you have to go outside the lines to paint a masterpiece!
1. So, why shoes and boots?
I thought about this in detail. When I was a kid, on a Sunday night, my Dad used to get the newspaper out and he'd make me polish my shoes for school, on a Monday morning. Not much was said, I just sat with my Dad and used to polish my shoes, he used to be in the RAF so he used to want a shine on his shoes. He used to think that it was important for you to look smart, on an unconscious level I’d forgotten about that but strangely I found cleaning shoes and looking after my shoes to be quite relaxing so I think it was a bit of a Father-Son ritual that kind of, I remember, and it gives me a certain comfort and affinity.
I find looking after shoes and boots to be quite meditative, it’s a bit of a break, I can focus on the shoe and cleaning it, the process but strangely I find it quite a relaxing process. I’ve worked on my feet most of my life, as a hairdresser, so I need good footwear and it has to be smart. I worked for Vidal Sassoon and one of the directors was a stickler for clean shoes so whenever he used to come to the shop, we would all manically polish our shoes because we knew he would check out our footwear. He ended up being an investor in Jimmy Choo, he was THAT passionate about shoes.
A good haircut and a good pair of shoes always seem to work for me, and people tend to notice those details. I suppose over time I became invested in the shoes that I bought because I knew they’d pay dividends by looking smart. I also, by being a bit of a craftsman, appreciate the work, the detail and the fact that people have made them by hand. When I think of Trickers, there’s 250-260 different operations that go into one shoe and those people have been doing those shoes for years, maybe even their Fathers & possibly their Grandfathers. There’s something invested in that product that give me a confidence in it.
That’s where it all started for me, that schoolboy looking up to his Dad. When I think back I probably saw it as more of a chore at the time but as an adult it’s that one little ritual I remember we did so when I clean shoes it’s maybe a homage to those life skills that my Father taught me.
Cal ~ My Dad’s nickname at various establishments, he’s worked, has been “shiny shoes” stemming from his ritual of polishing his shoes to the point you could see your face in them, every Sunday. I believe my desire to look immaculately dressed, even if not in formal attire like a suit or a pair of derbys every day, is an extension of observing my Dad conduct this process every Sunday.
That’s a great example, it’s how you take on some of those qualities, characteristics and values that you admired and remembered from your youth. I’m glad I learnt that respect for the items I own and taking care of them. I’m slightly older so my Father was from that war generation where they tended to have to make the most of what they had. I feel my Dad showing me how to clean shoes, my auntie showing me how to hem, stuff that was practical so if I didn’t have much cash I could always fix up what I already owned.
To recover a pair of shoes from the abyss by putting some TLC back into them is a nice feeling of rejuvenation. It’s kind of “up-cycling” and not throwing them away as I see so many good pair of shoes flung out just because someone doesn’t want to look after them and I see myself as a bit of a rescuer. Pick the lame duck out, fix it’s wings and make it fly again! Hopefully giving them a few more years.
Cal ~ You’ve already touched on how much work goes into these shoes, what 260 different operations working on one shoe? When someone throws that pair away thinking they’re past their sell-by date it’s a real shame and a, kind of, insult to all 260 of said operations/workers/crafts.
2. Why the love for Trickers?
I’ve got a range of shoes, I confess, I’m loyal to brands if I like them but at the same time I’m curious about other brands. For me, Trickers are the shoe I aspired to. Obviously they started in 1829 and when you’ve been making shoes, those levels of expertise going into this product, for that long it’s a sort of “if it’s not broken, why fix it?” sort of ideal. These guys have worked on shoes and there’s something about them.
The first time I put a pair of Trickers on they just seemed to fit my foot with no effort! Despite them being incredibly sturdy and hard wearing the actual feel of putting them on, I’ll never forget. In a way, there was a moment where they just felt right.
I’m used to a wide range of shoes but the first pair of Trickers I bought looked like a Farmer had trodden them through a field, scarred & battered but they were all I could afford and I felt that I could breathe some life back into them and give them a second lease of life. I spent an amount of time cleaning them and spoke to a cobbler about how I could get them looking back to their best. It took me a while, a couple of tries at it but I got them clean. Then I started nourishing them, starting to feed the leather with nutrient to make the leather supple. It’s a skin and it needs to be nourished & moisturised so I was starting to know these Trickers quite intimately. Now, when I wear this pair, I feel good in them but other people notice too. I’ve had people offer me money for them in the street which is bizarre, from where they came from. I’m taking pride in them personally but other people see this and the age & patina, 15-20 years of age yet still hold the quality & gravitas of Trickers.
People talk about the heritage but, for me, it’s about the care that goes into making something with longevity and they’ve definitely perfected it. They’re the archetype of a good shoe, and there are other good shoe companies out there but Trickers are the one for me, in many ways. I just like the fact that they’ve not got too faddy or fashionable. They know what works and they’ve stuck by their guns and kept on going through the ages and that history is put into the shoes and that’s what I really love about them! I’m quite a stocky bloke so for me they give me a good shape, they balance up quite well, there are slimmer Trickers but I go for the slightly sturdier country shoe as they work with my build & aesthetic. I need a heavy stout shoe to counteract the heavy denim I wear (Rob’s wearing his 25oz Iron Hearts).
Cal ~ Would that be more from the shape/style or from the sole?
I believe that’s a combination of both, the shape through the toe looks not too bold and rounded but it’s not pointy either. I can’t be doing with pointy shoes, I feel a bit clown-like, they’ve got just the right amount of curvature but the thickness of the base & mid sole takes a little time to give. You will need to re-sole every 5-10 years but that’s pretty good considering. I think it’s a combination of the weightiness of the sole with the classic lines around the front plus the brogueing is a mixture of heavy & fine brogue. If you have a heavy shoe with fine brogue detailing I personally don’t think it looks right. What I really like are the eyelets and the chunky laces as they’re proportionate throughout. On an unconscious level you just know that they work, there’s no aspect on them that looks odd. As they’ve done them for so long, they’ve sort of being seared into our psyche…”this is what a good shoe looks like!”
3. Tell us about the pairs that you've brought with you today?
The first pair, I still love, I look at them and love the patina. I find that the fit is perfect for me so I thought a few colour variations of that model would suit me fine. The Bourton model. I’ve got the Bourton in black with the steel heel-tip to give it a bit of extra durability and that pair is for the more formal occasions.
I love a bit of oxblood. When you’re wearing denim against the oxblood it just pops so I got a pair of Bourtons in oxblood and those two pairs along with my other two Bourtons are my go-to pairs.
I like the idea of having a slightly summery model so I’ve gone with a tan, suede, unbrogued Derby shoe. Slightly slimmer sole than the Bourton, more a Summer shoe, a bit lighter. Still a country shoe in it’s colour.
Another pride & joy, can’t date them exactly but from the logo I’d say they were late 60’s/early 70’s, is a slip-on with a brogue toe in cognac, absolutely mint condition. Think they’ve been left and not worn much. When they’re on they’re incredibly smart but I feel, for the age, they’re quite contemporary. They don’t look out of place in modern society.
Cal ~ They’ve got that slight nod to the mod look haven’t they? What would you wear the two “Summer” shoes with?
I’d probably wear some classic, smart chino with a bit of a turn-up. A bit of a preppy, Ivy League look. One thing I would say that’s important with a shoe is the sock you pair with them. That nice little break you get between the denim, turn-up, hem and the shoe is a nice opportunity for a flourish of colour that makes everything around it pop!
Looking at them all it’s evident that none of the styles have really changed because they haven’t needed to, in 100-odd years. The thing about Trickers is it works, it’s classic but it still lends itself to a contemporary setting. I think in recent years with the credit crunch etc people have become a lot more aware of the value of things. In the 80’s when I was young, credit was available and people were buying throwaway fashion. It was like being on a treadmill constantly trying to keep up. Since people acquired the awareness people have started to appreciate what they’ve got a lot more. People are looking for pieces that will stand the test of time. I think functionality is at the base of it, it has to do it’s job! I can’t do with too much frippery or excessive detail, if the detail’s there then it needs to have a purpose.
Cal ~ Obviously one of the big things in store for us is a lot of what we stock and the brands we have, they all have a reasoning behind every detail. A lot of what you’ve touched on with this is “what’s not broken, why fix it?” and it’s “style over fashion”. You're not doing something just because, that’s why a company like Trickers is still going strong!
I think it’s that Bauhaus thing of “form follows function”, so what function do you need it to perform and how can you pair it down. What’s there that performs the function without any surplus and I really buy into that and I like that ethos. It serves me well…
Cal ~ It’s funny that as it’s one of my main ethos as a designer, “form follows function”
That’s what Sassoon was about in the 60’s. He was inspired by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and all the architects, all the Bauhaus set.
4. Let's talk about aftercare and the upkeep on your Trickers?
Firstly, Trickers do the work, they make the shoe pretty solid. They’re going to hold together so that aspect is pretty straightforward. How I go about it is that they need to be given some TLC, some looking after. I’m not talking about every single day as that’d be excessive.
Buy natural, quality products without silicone as a lot of the cheaper products contain silicone to fill them out, to look shinier. The stuff Trickers and other brands use is based on a few certain ingredients from a natural source, certain waxes etc. They all have different combinations but they all allow the shoes to breathe.
My key points on aftercare are to firstly use a shoe horn, don’t just slide the feet in bending the backs and cracking the leather. They’re a snug fitting article so you just need to undo your laces and ease your foot in using a classic shoe horn.
Another thing, leave them, give them a breather for a day or too. Allow them to dry out, imagine you’ve had your feet in there for 10-12 hours, it gets a little damp in there and anything that’s damp constantly, breaks down a lot faster. That’s the reason I have a few pairs so that I don’t over-wear one pair and I can swap them over and give the others a holiday. I use a cedarwood shoe tree, a universal last if you will. I slide that in because the cedarwood draws out some of the moisture and I believe it has antiseptic qualities, quite healthy for the shoe. It also helps to ease out the creases and stops them getting deformed. Plus, they’re great for when cleaning as they offer resistance for you to clean against.
If I wear the pair a lot I usually clean the dust off, the dust sticks to waxes and can become abrasive. You usually get a buildup around the welt and the dust can become a grinding paste so I take out the dust from the welt with a toothbrush. Anything that’s left on the surface is going to be abrasive. It’s like brushing your teeth, takes two minutes. It’s like a valet used to do for the lord of the manor, bit old school but it’s how things were cared for when they were items of value.
I’d say, once a year, I use a cleaner that will strip away the excess waxes. Won’t dry it out but will take off the waxes, old polish. Let it dry out and then put a cream in that nourishes the leather and use that as a base. I don’t just stick polish onto raw leather, nourish it first. Leave that over night to seep in and soften, it’ll add a bit of moisture and suppleness to the leather. Next morning I’ll buff it and clean the excess off, if the colour needs a bit of refreshing I might use a coloured cream to give it a blush. Not heavy though as I don’t want it to take away the natural colouring and patina from the leather. I see that as removing part of the shoe/boot’s story. It’s those little imperfections that make them perfect to the person that adorns them. I see patina on a pair of shoes is equal to fades on denim, it shows that this person has walked a few miles in these and where have those miles taken them.
I don’t use heavy wax, just a nice quality wax. Light coat, circular motion, old tee wrapped around my fingers, polish with a brush and repeat 2-3 times. Do that once a year! I wouldn’t clean them excessively but would definitely brush them often to take the dust out. It’s all about letting them breathe hence why I only do the main process yearly, as not to put too many coats of wax on and clog the shoe’s pores.
Sometimes I even use a bit of conditioner on the soles, to give them a bit of protection. Nothing fancy, even a bit of vegetable oil rubbed into the soles. Another product is shoe balm which is, to a hairdresser like me, is like shoe moisturiser.
Cal ~ It’s funny you say that as I was going to touch on, with my beard I follow a similar process where once a week I put an exfoliator through it to get rid of the “dust”, then I clean it with shampoo and then I apply a moisturiser/beard oil with a comb which is like the conditioner.
I think that’s a great simile as these days guys have got a sharp fade, handsome beard and they’re cleaning it, oiling it, moisturising it, taking a real pride over their facial hair and care for it. Shoes deserve the same respect as they’re representing you, they give you your sense of style, character and integrity.
5. What's the story around the pair you're wearing today?
It’s another pair of Bourtons (10 years old), but this pair is a cognac colour with a commando sole. In Winter time I find that I need something that doesn’t absorb water as readily and something that’s more durable. I’d much prefer to wear a leather sole but needs must. A leather sole, when wet takes a lot of time to dry out as you should never put them near heat as the leather may crack and distort.
It’s hard to describe what I like about every shoe I’ve brought in as, I live in them. What they represent to me is that I feel I can tackle anything i.e if I need to walk miles, off road etc I just feel I’m prepared as these have been made to fit the anatomical design of a foot. It’s that sense of security, of being backed up by the history, they’ll outlive me!
Cal ~ Just to go back to something from earlier, when we discussed socks, I like to match my socks to some other element of my outfit. I mainly do this through colour but how do you decide the socks you wear with your Trickers?
I try not to make it really obvious but if there’s a touch of red in my outfit I’ll go with a red sock. I don’t like to look too “obvious”, like I’ve got quality clothing that I’ve just thrown on. Although, I used to have to co-ordinate in my old job…you could guess a hairdresser in the 80’s, in that, they wore all black. So now, I am trying to implement colour into my wardrobe and the sock seems like the perfect entry point for that. A little flash of canary yellow maybe? Although, still exploring my sock potential…
…but do recognise that it’s an opportunity to add an element of individuality into what could be viewed as a mundane colour organisation, especially when you’re wearing functional gear. Although when I feel that I’m getting too precious, I give myself a slap. I don’t want to be worn by my clothes!
6. Tell us about your involvement in our Trickers event, this Friday?
Well, on the day, my mentor in terms of shoe care is a guy called Daniel Summers. He was formerly an engineer, his uncle is a well known shoemaker which developed his love of shoes to the point where he finished working as an engineer to start work as a shoemaker. He’s got an incredible eye for detail and he’s passionate about shoes.
I had this interest in shoes but it was really unspecified. After I got a bit of advice from Daniel, when he was fixing MY shoes, I realised about better products, better techniques and we became mates. Shoes are my hobby, a sort of healthy obsession, some might say unhealthy.
Me and Dan have been chatting shoes, watching a bit of shoe porn here and there, even the World Championship Shoe Shine Championships. Ben asked me who I used to work with shoes and when I mentioned Dan, Ben was interested in someone who sounded like he really cared about his craft. When I got my Trickers heeled, Dan was wondering on what surfaces I’d be working on, how I’d be using them so he could decide what density of rubber he’d use on the sole…a kind of consultation on what you really want from your shoes.
Cal ~ That’s got to be the engineering background right?
Exactly, his eye for detail and the mechanics of it all is incredible!
Basically, on the Trickers event, me and Daniel are offering for anyone bringing their Trickers in we’ll give them a bit of cleaning and talk through some of the products. We haven’t got the time to do a full service but we’ll do our best to get a really nice, healthy shoe from it. We won’t be doing any fancy techniques i.e. there’s a fancy shoe shine culture at the minute around burnishing, airbrushing the soles and adding colour etc. For us, Trickers are a lifetime shoe so it’s about sharing some advice around how a person can look after their shoes, told in a down-to-earth manner. There’ll be no flipping brushes in the air and spinning with a tin of polish, let’s say…just, hopefully, giving back a pair of shoes that look like they’ve been given some TLC!
We’ll also be on hand for any advice, questions or just to chat. I’m no expert, just an enthusiastic learner but Dan’s worked on Trickers, fixed them, re-soled them and he knows them inside out. He’s the expert, I’m the apprentice. Still learning…
…one thing I’ve pretty much sussed though is, with Trickers I’ve been spoilt. Now, when trying on a lesser pair of shoes I can’t get excited by them. The thinness of the leather, the stitching’s a bit off, a bit wispy but once you’ve tried on a better quality item I’d rather stick with that. Less but better quality!
You try on a pair of Trickers and you can’t help but see the quality, it doesn’t hide itself, it’s quite evident that quality. I would advise anybody to try the same, try a pair on with your favourite jeans and ask yourself how they feel, for yourselves?
~ Rob 31-3-18