1. And... we're back. You'll notice that all of your images are back as well, as are our beloved emoticons, including the infamous :foo: We have also worked with our server folks and developers to fix the issues that were slowing down the site.

    There is still work to be done - the images in existing sigs are not yet linked, for example, and we are working on a way to get the images to load faster - which will improve the performance of the site, especially on the pages with a ton of images, and we will continue to work diligently on that and keep you updated.

    Cheers,

    Fok on behalf of the entire Styleforum team
    Dismiss Notice

A visit with Justin FitzPatrick

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by unbelragazzo, Jul 19, 2013.

  1. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    8,355
    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2011
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Three months ago I had a love of men's shoes, a one-time reader's familiarity with the Vass book, and an assignment to learn everything I could about English shoemaking in the two days I would spend in Northampton. In the online shoe research I did in the subsequent weeks, the most informative site I found was Justin FitzPatrick's Shoe Snob blog. Fitting, then, that I began my tour through England by meeting Justin.

    Five years ago, Justin was in a similar position as I was when I set out: he loved men's shoes (I think even more than I do), and wanted to know more. “When I started, there just weren't very many resources on the Internet to learn about quality men's footwear,” he told me. Justin was selling shoes at Nordstrom when he met someone whose father was a friend of the late famed Florentine shoemaker Stefano Bremer. Justin liquidated his entire life in the US and turned that small connection into a spot in Stefano's workshop.

    A year later, Justin had exhausted his finances and his Italian visa. He spent another year working back at Nordstrom for a few months at a time, saving up enough money to return to Italy and visit his then girlfriend, now wife. Justin was restless. “I hate feeling like I'm not moving forward,” he said. So he married his Italian girlfriend, which allowed him to move to London, where he set up a shoe shine stand at Gieves and Hawkes. He also started the Shoe Snob blog to share his knowledge of the industry and gather a following, so that when he had something to sell, he'd have some potential customers.

    Now he has his product: J. Fitzpatrick Footwear, which are sold both at Gieves and Hawkes and online (currently you can buy using PayPal by emailing Justin as indicated on the linked page; within the next few months there will be a proper e-commerce site). The line uses two lasts, both bespoke lasts made for Justin's foot – one (JKF) that he made for himself while at Stefano Bremer's workshop, and another (TMG), less pointed in the toe, that Justin's friend Tony Gaziano of Gaziano and Girling made for him.

    The lasts, since they come from bespoke lasts, are more closely shaped than typical RTW lasts, giving the shoe a nice profile. For instance, note how Justin's wholecut closes just right over my foot – many oxfords that I try will have too much room above my foot, so that they need additional padding under the tongue in order to close without crumpling against each other.

    Both last have rounded toes. “I like soft curves,” Justin told me – and you can see it in his designs as well. On the Phinney wingtip, for instance, the lines of the toe design fold in gently towards the lacing rather than a sharp and deep point as you might see on other models. A lot of the designs I'd describe as whimsical and playful, with enough self-awareness to not veer into fancy-dress Tumblrism. For instance, the Wedgwood balmoral boot with a denim shaft, the bouncing-ball motif on the Tony wholecut, or the suggestively low-cut loafers (more on those later).

    “When I first started researching factories,” he said, “somebody gave me some great advice: Don't use an English factory. They'll be too expensive for you, and they won't make what you want. So I went to Spain.” At just over £300, the shoes are cheaper than most of what you can buy from Northampton. They also adopt the Mediterranean softness of construction – they are Goodyear welted, but don't have that heavy, stiff feeling that often comes with a Goodyear welted shoe. The use of French calf gives the uppers a softer feel as well. They have closed-channeled soles and beveled waists, features that are rare to find on a shoe at this price range.

    There is of course no comparison with, for instance, a Gaziano and Girling shoe. At that level, the beveling of the waist is much nicer, the sole trimming much finer, the lasting better, along with many other construction details. Justin told me that what he struggles with most is getting consistency out of the factory, as he holds shoes to a high standard and notices every defect.

    As a parting gift, Justin graciously offered me a pair of the burgundy loafers (the model is the Laurelhurst). Among the many compliments I've gotten on them, in the one day I wore these in Northampton, the guides at both shoe factories I visited asked me if they were G&G (the fact that I told them I had just visited G&G the day before might have nudged them). They are a striking color and finish. It's not a flat burgundy – not “plasticky” as many burgundy leathers seem. It's got a lot of black in it to give life. I also like the low cut, and I'm a sucker for a floating medallion. These features together make for a unique shoe with a lot of character.

    The suede used inside the heel to prevent slippage is a bit rougher than the suede usually used on slip-ons, so around the third day of wearing or so my heel started to get irritated. I wore them again today with no issues, so I think it was simply due to having worn them three days in a row out of the box, and the extra roughness seems more successful in preventing heel slippage. There is also some evidence of the struggles to get a consistent product that Justin mentioned – there's a bit of edge dressing gone astray that I probably wouldn't have noticed had Justin not pointed out to me when he gave them to me, the stitching on one of the heel counters isn't straight, and the extra piece of leather on the heel has wrinkled a bit. These quibbles aside, I like the design and color of the shoes enough that should they somehow die in a grease fire tonight, I'd buy a replacement pair tomorrow.

    Justin's most important project of 2013 however, is his newborn son, born this past Monday. I'm glad that he will grow up in a world where quality information on shoemaking, as well as quality shoes, aren't so difficult to acquire as they were when Justin made his first voyage to Italy.

    [​IMG]
    The Tony wholecut.

    [​IMG]
    A pair of Tonys on my feet - the lacing comes together naturally and easily.

    [​IMG]
    My burgundy Laurelhurst loafers.

    [​IMG]
    Justin and his shoes.

    [​IMG]
    Justin and his stand.
     
    9 people like this.
  2. bourbonbasted

    bourbonbasted Senior member

    Messages:
    4,024
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2011
    Justin seems like a great guy and he runs a fantastic blog. I wish him the best in the future. Looks like he has some tremendous offerings.
     
    3 people like this.
  3. Eustace

    Eustace Senior member

    Messages:
    1,003
    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2008
    Damn. I saw him while I was in London at his shoe station a few months ago. I wish I had known about Justin's story beforehand. I certainly would have said hello and talked shoes and the states for a bit. Good stuff, Unbrelgrazzo.
     
  4. archibaldleach

    archibaldleach Senior member

    Messages:
    5,225
    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2006
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Great stuff. Those loafers are stunning (and I don't normally like burgundy shoes).
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2013
  5. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

    Messages:
    575
    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2012
    Location:
    Saint Louis, MO
    Nice post, Un Bellissimo Regazzo. Hope things are well for you in NoVa.
     
  6. grendel

    grendel Senior member

    Messages:
    2,672
    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2011
    Location:
    Upstate NY
    These are very nice. I'll be interested to see how they wear over time.
     
  7. RogerP

    RogerP Senior member

    Messages:
    8,333
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2012
    Location:
    Oakville, Ontario, CANADA
    Beautiful shoes -congrats!
     
  8. Monkeyface

    Monkeyface Senior member

    Messages:
    3,885
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2013
    I can concur, Justin is a great guy (very helpful), and his shoes are great for their price. Unfortunately, his captoes didn't quite fit me right, but I'll certainly go back to try the loafers.
     
  9. w.o.e.is.me.

    w.o.e.is.me. Senior member

    Messages:
    1,710
    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2009
    Thanks for the review. Justin seems like a great guy. I'm rooting for him to continue to do well.
     
  10. wurger

    wurger Senior member

    Messages:
    2,887
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2011
    Location:
    Sydney
    Great review, Justin is a great guy who has answer my questions before, and his blog is top notch.
     
  11. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    8,355
    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2011
    Location:
    Washington, DC
  12. clee1982

    clee1982 Senior member

    Messages:
    7,958
    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2009
    Location:
    New York City, NY, USA
    When did he start the stand in Gives and Hawks, I think I saw then as early as late 2010? Great story, wish him the best.

    by the way, is it usual for bespoke client to actually walk away with the last? Or Justin built his model from lasted shoe tree instead
     
  13. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    8,355
    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2011
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Not common at all for a normal bespoke client. This was a result of Justin knowing Tony personally - I'm sure Justin wouldn't use the last without Tony's approval
     
  14. Concordia

    Concordia Senior member Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    5,776
    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2004
    Nice looking loafers, if that's what you're into.

    Now the really important question-- is there anyone good still shining shoes in London?
     
  15. UrbanComposition

    UrbanComposition Senior member

    Messages:
    3,251
    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2010
    Location:
    San Francisco
    Great write-up. Wish we had something like that in SF.
     
  16. Fiddler

    Fiddler Senior member

    Messages:
    757
    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2011
    Wore my laurelhursts yesterday....great shoe at a pretty awesome price.


    [​IMG]
     
  17. PointDexter2014

    PointDexter2014 Senior member

    Messages:
    163
    Joined:
    May 4, 2013
    This is an amazing story of pursuing a dream and never giving up. Continued success.
     
  18. e8487

    e8487 Member

    Messages:
    23
    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2013
    Location:
    Madrid, Spain
    Great thread! I've been visiting Justin's blog the last months and I've learned tons of stuff and of fine taste for shoes from Justin's passion and love for details.
     
  19. Verrihappy

    Verrihappy Senior member

    Messages:
    236
    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    I was told that JF's shoes are made in China by Meermin. True?
     
  20. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    8,355
    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2011
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    They're made in Spain.
     

Share This Page

Styleforum is proudly sponsored by