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London shopping, Alfred Sargent factory trip and custom last at Springline


Distinguished Member
Jul 18, 2008
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Hi Guys,

Just got back from a few days in London which was fantastic as expected. It's been a few years since I've been to London and my last trip was one of the times that helped jumpstart my sartorial journey. Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: London is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I can't understand why it's architecture and charm aren't mentioned as often in the same breath as Paris and Florence. Words like "cosmopolitan" and "hub" seem to be frequently used to describe the city when it should also be "beautiful" and "gorgeous."



Of course, men's style there is also so much more prevalent than anywhere in the US. The suits across the board fit so much better and little touches of dandy-ism can be seen everywhere in things like suit linings, chesterfield coats, colorful socks, etc. Anyway, let's get on with the specific reports.

John Rushton Shoes - a friendly neighborhood shop on Wimpole St. which is just off Wigmore St. I remember buying one of my favorite pairs of shoes here a few years ago - Alfred Sargent Gatcombe in dark brown suede - so I wanted to pay another visit. Prices are very fair as a lot of the shoes are seconds or discontinued models, but he does have most of the current lines in from AS, Church's and others. John is a great guy and very knowledgeable. A recommended visit next time you're around the area.


Jermyn Street - dozens of shops that seem both traditional and modern still line this famous street. It makes for a nice stroll and one can spend as much or little time as you'd like. The majority of the shops seem to revolve around shoes and shirtings with other accessories dispersed throughout. Personally, I was a bit disappointed window shopping as things definitely seem to be more in the Brooks Brothers-esque vibe than traditional haberdasheries. The big exception is Bates for hats which is unfortunately closing it's doors and soon will be sharing space with Hilditch and Key shirtmakers. They had some lovely hats and I wish I could have found a preferred style that fit. If you bring in your own fabric they can make you a custom cap which is good to know. Edward Green was an excellent visit as well. Valerie was very nice and it's always great to see all the models out in one place. I was also able to make better sense of my sizing on various lasts. Definitely a plus! I also stopped into Budd in Piccadilly Arcade per whnay's suggestion. An excellent place for accessories and I picked up a sumptuous pair of tan lambskin gloves lined with lambswool. Their gloves are made by Chester Jeffries according to the proprietor.

This photo of John Lobb St. James and Lock reminds me of a Magritte painting.

Lock & Co. Hatters - always a fun visit to try on the various style hats and see what works and what doesn't. My wife found a lovely navy blue felt hat and I purchased an elegant burnt red tie. A big find there was an outstanding Gun Club check made by Teviotex that is quite similar to the original LL Gun Club. I contacted Teviotex and have a sample on the way for a possible jacket!


John Lobb St. James - this historic shop did not disappoint and was a fascinating stop. Even my wife thought it was cool! All the old shoes are laid out like museum pieces in the front area. They are comprised of shoes where the making went a bit array or where customers simply never picked them up. After looking around we were greeted by one of the shoe makers and we started up a conversation. After a few minutes he asked us if we wanted a tour of the downstairs. Who were we to deny! It was quite special to see all vintage ledgers and "lasts from famous people" (as the cabinet was called) and from royals. There was also a 15+ foot high room which stored aisles and aisles of lasts for past and current customers. There were a few shoemakers hard at work downstairs and apparently JLSJ also outsources a lot of their labor to makers formerly trained in house. Glad to see the place full of so much charm.









Rubinacci - I couldn't pass up this detour from all the British shops. Luca's sister runs the shop and was very helpful in answering any questions. The shop seemed to have a more formal vibe to it than a lot of the other British ones. The ties were exquisite and after going back and forth on two 7 folds I decided to splurge and get them both! A navy cashmere with white florals truncated by a dot of green in the center and a rough silk green and navy criss-cross pattern. I also saw a RTW women's jacket with fabric very similar to one I've been searching for for ages: a light/sky blue donegal with colored speckles of various blue shades. The fabric felt Italian as it was a very soft wool (possible with cashmere) and not too "tweedy" looking. I asked who the maker was, but they weren't sure. Aargh! The search continues!


Savile Row - a similar vibe to Jermyn St., but certainly more interesting peering into all the old school tailor shops. I liked how the top floor consisted of the showroom and the downstairs held the workshop which you could see into. I forgot about that from my last visit a few years ago. There were also a bunch of much more modern looking shops throughout the street full of glass and purple and pink colored shirts inside. I must say though, anything on the row paled in comparison to A&S around the corner.

Anderson & Sheppard - two words that immediately came to mind when I walked into this establishment were reverance and awe. Truly a cut (no pun intended) above the other houses I observed. While some of the others felt a bit contrived, this felt natural while embracing its tradition. There was wood everywhere with leather chairs and a gas fireplace in the main entry room. Somewhat pretentious? Possibly. Somewhat comforting? Definitely. A few things really struck me: The first was that as I walked towards the back to glance in the cutting room, John Hitchcock was right there writing notes in a ledger of some sort. He wasn't marketing or giving sales pitches, he was working. The second thing was that the half dozen or so employees were IMMACUATELY dressed. I'm talking some of the best suits I've encountered in-real-life. I believe they were all wearing gray or navy pinstripes and the majority wore double breasteds. Karl Matthews had far and away the best (a navy DB) and looked absolutely smashing. Not only did the staff look great, but they were all very busy bustling all around the shop at all times. One customer was measured personally by John in the time I was there. Question for the A&S experts: does the house style build out/extend the shoulders a touch or did all the guys working there have natural hourglass builds? All in all, an excellent visit and one of these days I hope to be able to afford a suit from them.

W. Bill - perhaps the highlight of London. I had read all these mixed reports that one can and cannot walk into the outlet on New Burlington St. right of Savile Row. I figured it couldn't hurt to inquire so I rang the bell, asked for Ray Hammett and was immediately buzzed in and greeted with a smile. Mr. Hammett could not have been friendlier and showed me around a bit before letting me wander along the aisles of tweed bolts that all looked stunning. The colors really do appear so much more vibrant on the bolt than on the swatch. I grabbed a few samples that I definitely plan to have made up at some point. I also lucked into finding a perfect tweed cap among the boxes of them in the back. Yay! Funny how I came across one here when Bates and Lock didn't have anything too compelling. I HIGHLY recommend any tweed fan make a point of stopping in here. The old saying "they don't make them like they used to" certainly rings true here.



Springline - now this was fun! I've been thinking for a while now about a custom last for my awkwardly shaped feet and the visit did not disappoint. A Springline last while working with Alfred Sargent is simply too good an opportunity to pass up. Chay Cooper and Paul Sargent accompanied me which was very gracious of them. We met with Michael who got right to work measuring my feet from all angles. I mentioned some things in terms of fit issues I often have with RTW and he fully agreed spotting them right away. He was wonderful to work with and very understanding when I mentioned details like the chisel toe shape, how I like to see curves around all sides of the shoe and how while I measure a B width I like a bit of room to wiggle my toes and I don't want the shoes to visually appear too narrow while looking at them from above. I can't wait to see the finished product! I can't say enough good things about the team at Springline.



Alfred Sargent Factory - if one visit was "the main event" it might have been this. Chay and Paul took more than half their day showing me around the factory, discussing the new line and MTO program and chatting about shoes in general. Chay really has his eyes on the future and I think we can expect some great things from AS. What's been discussed with the Handgrades is all true and they look gorgeous in person. The new lasts that they will be on have that nice balance of classic and contemporary. This and the fact one can do MTO's from their RTW line and even use their own last if they'd like is a winning combo in my book!

Onto more details about the factory which is just outside Northampton in Rushden and has been around for more than 100 years. After receiving the full factory tour, I completely understand why well made English shoes aren't the cheapest things in the world! The time, dedication and number of workers involved in a single pair is astounding. I counted at least 20 people that touch each pair of shoes. I was amazed at the speed which everyone worked while keeping everything aligned and elegant. That's what years of expertise will get you! As you can see below, there are lots of photos from the factory and I've written captions below each one. You'll see a lot of machines here. Keep in mind they only have one or maybe two of these in the factory. Each pair of shoes has to be go through the entire process so heaven forbid just one machine breaks down! A very interesting and insightful day all around. Special thanks to Chay and Paul for such a wonderful time!

A full hide with only a bit already cut out waiting for more carving! Only around 1/4 of the hide is used for shoes.

An oxford pattern on paper and mock up shoes surrounding it.

Leathers ready to be lasted.

The stitching team.

A shoe starts to get lasted.

This machine was used by G&G when they rented out space in the AS factory and now AS is using it for all Handgrade shoes. I forget the exact name of the last machine, but Hilary Freeman of EG mentions it in the video recently put up here. She says EG has one and the only other one is in a museum. Chay joked that AS must be the museum! It essentially places a wire along the underside of the front half of the shoe to keep the last on extra tight.


The wet cork being placed onto the inner parts of the sole.

Cork drying.

A sole being put into place after the cork has dried.

The classic Goodyear welt curved needle at work.

Watch out!!!

The edge of the soles being formed and trimmed.

Models of the new Handgrade line.

Wes Bourne

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Sep 18, 2008
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You. Lucky. Bastard.


Sep 22, 2007
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Wow. I'm jealous! Some of the AS handgrade shoes (on the right) look to me like the Vass F last. Would you say they look like that in person?


Distinguished Member
Jul 18, 2008
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Thanks guys! Glad the spirit of the trip came through in the write-up and photos.

emptym - I think that's a fair assessment. I don't have too much experience with the F last, but these AS's definitely seemed like a nice, rounder version of the EG 82 which is often what I think of with the F last.


Distinguished Member
Dubiously Honored
Jun 1, 2006
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David it sounds like a good trip, looking forward to hearing more about it all when you are next in town, BTW i have another bottle of Chinese red from 1995 for you to try


Distinguished Member
Feb 3, 2007
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Very well done, David. I am even more eagerly awaiting my meeting with Chay now.


Kent Wang

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Affiliate Vendor
Dubiously Honored
May 5, 2005
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Could you use the Springline last at other shoemakers?


Distinguished Member
Jul 30, 2007
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From my understanding, there is no problem on the springline side. The question is whether the shoemaker is willing to work with them.

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