John Lobb. Makers of fine English shoes since 1866, connoisseurs of classic styling and quality craftsmanship and owners of probably the best shoe factory shop in Northampton.
OK, I've not visited them all yet but my first impressions of the John Lobb shoe factory shop is one of pleasant surprise. The last time I visited the shop was a couple of years ago and it was above the main factory itself, and it felt as though I'd stepped back in time to the 1950s. That's not to say that stepping back to the 1950s is completely a bad thing but, whilst the quality of the John Lobb shoes on show was first class, I felt as though I was about 30 years too young and not quite the clientele they were looking to attract.
The John Lobb factory shop
A couple of years later and the factory shop has moved 130 metres down the road to the end of the factory and feels like a very different place. It's only a small shop about a mile from the Northampton town centre in Oliver Street but it's packed full of a superb range of John Lobb gentleman's shoes at up to 40% less than their retail price.
I went in with no real plan of attack in terms of what I was looking for and before I knew it I'd tried on around half a dozen pairs of prestige handmade John Lobb shoes from dark brown suede Loxton boots through to classic Derby shoes in iris purple, a very modern and very British collaboration with Paul Smith.
Exclusive bespoke and ready-to-wear English shoes
Prices ranged from £100 for classic driving shoes through to £3,000+ for an amazing pair of medium brown glazed crocodile loafers. The craftsmanship on all of the shoes is second to none and is why the John Lobb brand is so sought after abroad and, in particular, Japan.
Before I round up, a quick thanks to Valerie who looked after me and re-introduced me to the John Lobb brand and shoe collections. She was incredibly helpful and this shoe factory shop visit was a world away from my first one in lots of ways.
Aside from the warmer welcome I was struck by the range of John Lobb shoes and boots now available, all at hugely discounted prices. Yes, they still craft the finest classic gentlemen's shoes but the collaborations with contemporary British designers such as Paul Smith have given the John Lobb brand a very modern twist.
Walking in to the John Lobb shop thinking classic Oxfords or Derbys I left wanting the Aston Martin x John Lobb driving shoes in aurora blue with a racy fire red rubber sole. Bond would love them.