Thursday, December 08, 2011

John Lobb: Gentleman's shoes of distinction

In the 19th century John Lobb was a famous shoemaker. Born in Cornwall, he became an apprentice bootmaker in London before travelling to Australia to seek his destiny as a gold prospector. Instead he made his fortune by developing an ingenious hollow-heeled boot. Prospectors keen to hide their gold bought them up and Lobb made his first fortune. In 1858, he opened his first bespoke shoe shop, John Lobb, Bootmaker, in George Street, Sydney. In 1866 he moved back to London where he quickly established his famous boot and shoes makers and provided a bespoke service to the aristocracy, as well as the political and business elite. Later in 1902 he opened a second branch in Paris. Like today’s celebrity designers he was patronized by the rich and famous, including Katharine Hepburn and Edward VII. Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle and Alfred Hitchcock all owned John Lobb footwear, and there is reference to his shoes in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. Lobbs trademark was 'Lobb' stamped on the outsole and he continued to cut and stitched his shoes himself. Construction was completed by Italian artisans in Fiesso d'Artico, near Venice. The company name is now part of the Hermès Group and continues and maintains its bespoke shoe-making tradition in Paris. Only 100 pairs of John Lobb ready-to-wear shoes are finished in a working day. Hermès' John Lobb shoes are available in both ready-to-wear and made-to-measure. A pair of bespoke leather shoes costs over £2400.

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