Heading down to Melbourne a little while ago to try on and take home the bespoke Cleverley double monks, the shoes were more of an afterthought because I was most looking forward to seeing George and Teemu from Cleverley, and Chris, Nick, Kristy and the rest of the staff and friends of Double Monk. It wasn’t really until I got to the store that I remembered I was there to pick up shoes.
For those who have read the other posts in the series (part 1, part 2 and the separate post on their construction), you’ll have seen how the shoes have come together from concept to reality with a minimum of fuss. The shoes were largely in their finished form by the first fitting, with only one or two small changes being made to the fit and the sole needing to be welted on. It’s a credit to Teemu for being able to get the fit so close to the mark as quickly as he did, foregoing the need for a second fitting.
Trying the shoes on in the finished form for the first time, the small adjustments had been taken care of and the fit is accurate. The most notable difference being the lack of “breaking in” of the shoes that you’d expect from ready to wear or even made to order. They fit more like slippers straight out of the box and have softened up further over the following several weeks.
The waist nips in cleanly (the part of the shoe, just in front of the heel, where your foot narrows in the middle), impressive as there is only so much you can do with my feet, which are pretty flat and leave little room for creating a sculpted waist. The other surprise is their lightness. Cleverley are known for creating light shoes in comparison to other makers, no small achievement, given how much heavy leather goes in to the soles. They’re a fraction of the weight of my Lobb’s and that difference becomes more noticeable as the day wears on. The shoes trees, hand filed to fit the shoes are also lighter than any others I own, thanks in part to the thin construction and hollow centre channel which reduces weight and allows moisture to escape from the soles.
Once on, a quick walk around the store confirmed that the fit was right, so we all headed outside for a ceremonial first scuffing. Until the soles take a good beating on bitumen it’s like trying to walk around on ice skates. The coarseness of the bitumen rips in to the leather, allowing for some much needed traction. It’s an unholy feeling to intentionally damage a pair of £3,000 shoes, but unless you plan on mounting them as a permanent art installation then they’re going to get scuffed up at some point and it may as well be immediately. Life’s too short to be fussing over hurting a pair of shoes.
Another nice touch is the leather presentation box, lined with Alcantara and accompanied by a GJ Cleverley addition shoehorn from Abbeyhorn
The only issue which has popped up is that the linen thread which secures both front buckles to the shoes, has broken, with the strap and buckle free to move around. I messaged Teemu about it when it happened and he was pretty shocked that something like that had happened. He asked me to send the shoes back immediately so he could fix the issue quickly. He’s also going to install brass toe plates to help reduce wear on the tips of the soles.
I think one mistake people continually make about high end hand made products is thinking that they’re supposed to be faultless. It’s unreasonable to expect that nothing will ever go wrong. The nature of a handmade, bespoke product is that due to the customisation that every single commission requires, issues will occasionally occur. That’s not a problem in and of itself. What matters is how a maker responds and what they do to solve the problem. In Cleverley’s case, Teemu’s sincerity and desire to fix the issue immediately is the perfect response and he was more bothered by the issue than I was.
When the shoes return from London, I’ll be back to wearing them on a semi-regular basis for the next 50-ish years, with the shoes making a pilgrimage to London every several years or so for a new pair of soles and some TLC. Not a bad return on investment in the end.
Edit: 2018 – The two changes I’d now make, having had plenty of time to get used to the fit and design, would be to reduce the length of the toe-box by a good 2cm, as there’s too much extra room there, which unnecessarily lengthens the shoe. I’d also opt for a rounded toe, rather than Cleverley’s more iconic square toe. As my understanding of my own preferences has developed, I’ve realised that, whilst I like many square toed shoes, I don’t like them on myself so much. To do this requires, effectively, re-lasting the shoes and then making new soles. The cost for that is £1,250, not an insignificant amount. For that cost, you could have a new pair of Saint Crispin’s made on a custom last (which, when done well, I can’t distinguish from bespoke), so that’s something to consider when choosing your shoemaker.