I have a passion for quality leather shoes, but when I want expert advice, I look at Justin FitzPatrick’s blog The Shoe Snob. For those of you who frequent Savile Row, you will have seen his professional shoe shine stand in the prestigious London tailors Gieves & Hawkes. In this article you will get a great introduction to Justin and get inside information from The Shoe Snob in the form of an exclusive interview.
The Shoe Snob is dedicated to highlighting the very best in quality men’s shoes leather shoes, from how to care and polish them, to showcasing some of the very best of his client’s prized collections, which in itself is a real treat for shoe aficionados everywhere. It is here we discover Justin’s talent extends far beyond artisan polishing, he is also a talented shoe maker and designer who followed his dream when taking a shoe making apprenticeship in Italy. This makes him a genuine authority on all things shoes.
I was lucky enough to get this exclusive interview with Justin, to discover more about the man and to answer some of those key shoe questions.
Q: For those who haven’t read your blog or been to your stands, how do you describe the shoe snob?
It’s quite hard to describe “The Shoe Snob” as it has become so many more things than it was when it started. At first it was just the name of my blog, a blog that talked about the shoe industry and how I saw it. Form the blog, and the growing number of readers, it sort of then became a persona. As I found it to be a great and catchy name, I also name my limited company and shoe accessory range, The Shoe Snob as well. So if effect The Shoe Snob is a brand but it’s also a way of being. I may be considered, “The Shoe Snob,” but I want many men to become ‘Shoe Snobs’ and therefore start caring more about what they put on their feet and how they treat what they put on their feet, just like a good snob would!
Q: How many pairs of shoes should the average man own and why?
I think that every man should have at least 5 pairs of shoes: a black cap toe, a mid to dark brown full brogue, a brown suede chukka boot, a driving loafer (preferably blue suede) and a smart black trainer (something all black with leather in it). This presents a well-rounded shoe wardrobe. But if a man is a business professional that needs to dress smart to work, then that figures needs to add a burgundy dress shoe and quite possibly another black or brown dress shoe. Sure, some might call this a big investment or excessive, but I promise that the investment will cost you less in the long run than just having one at a time and buying new pairs every 6 months……..
As far as the ‘why’ to those 5, well for me they present the perfect balance to tackle every occasion the average man could find himself in. Most men don’t understand that they can’t wear the same shoe every single day. Not only does it look terrible, but it’s bad for the shoes and for the person wearing them. A shoe is like a person, it needs rest or it breaks down very fast. Part of that break down is in the support, which then correlates to the person not being properly supported, which can not only create back problems, but definitely affects posture, which affects appearance. Caring about one’s self-appearance, for me, is not vanity but rather a sign of respect, which is precisely why people treat you better when you are dressed in an elegant manner. Dressing poorly and not caring about oneself is a sign of lack of respect for oneself and if this is the case, why then should others respect you?
Q: How does the average man on the high street tell the difference between a good quality shoe and poor quality shoe?
The smell of the leather will always be a good and easy way to tell the difference between a crap shoe and one that is of good quality, especially for those that know nothing about shoes. This may be trivial, but a good shoemaker will never use cheap leather and crappy shoemakers always use cheap leather. If it smells of chemicals or artificiality then it’s a cheap shoe. If it smells of natural materials (i.e. actual leather) or wax polish, then more likely than not it will be a good shoe. The only other way will involve a bit of knowledge between the different constructions, of which in my opinion ‘the average high street man’ won’t have a clue about…..
Q: If you were to list your definitive shoe collection, what would be in it and why?
- A black cap toe – Can fit any business formal occasion. For formal occasion, just shine toe cap to military shine (glass like)
- A brown full brogue – Can be paired with literally everything
- A burgundy wholecut – An elegant shoe that goes well with many suits
- A wholecut loafer – Great for jean wear or smart casual, think trousers with sport coat
- A tan/mid-brown scoth grain chukka boot with rubber sole – Great jean boot for autumn/winter. Grain leather can easily withstand rain.
- A Balmoral boot – The most elegant boot that can be worn with suits to trousers to smart jeans
- A brown suede chukka with leather sole – Another smart boot for the Italian side of you…
- A driving loafer in blue suede – Great for casual wear and always comfortable
- A smart black trainer – For Sundays….
- A smart leather hiker boot, like the new fashion ones with red laces and metal triangular hooks – Great jean boot for crappy weather in the winter and still maintains smartness….
If I could only have 10 shoes, these would be it, as they cover every possible occasion that I could find myself in and would give me a well-rounded collection that provides options for mood and weather change.
Q: What are your top tips for easy shoe care?
- Using shoe trees and shoe horns regularly
- Brush down each time after wearing the shoes
- A good conditioner (preferably mink oil)
- A bi-monthly deep tissue polish (with a good wax polish, but condition first)
- Using galoshes……
if you do these things, your shoes will last a long time
Q: Why should someone visit a professional shoe shine?
There are many reasons that men should visit professional shoes shines. First and foremost, most men who actually wear nice shoes that deserve good treatment simply don’t have the time to maintain their shoes properly. That’s where a professional shiner can take the load off. Most professional shoe shiners can do a job that most regular men can’t i.e. like doing glass-like shines that take hours…. Most people unfortunately simply don’t know how to look after their shoes properly and simply don’t care enough to do so. Using a professional shoe shiner can help to make sure you don’t have to worry about it but are still able to get it done.
Q: What traditional shoe rules do you break and why?
If you look at a lot of the “great dressers” in history, a lot of them broke rules, or created their own which makes me believe that rules are there to provide guidance but not really there to strictly adhere to. Style is an expression of oneself and some people are blessed to have a greater understanding of themselves and therefore express it better. This is why I break the rules, because I am comfortable with expressing myself with the way that I see fit, not really caring too much about what everyone else thinks. I break all the shoe rules: no brown in town, certain styles with certain outfits/trousers, shoe colours outside of the normal spectrum etc…..
Q: How many pairs of shoes do you own?
This is hard to definitely answer as I have shoes that are still in storage in the States (and have been for 4 years), some that are in boxes in my closet and some that I frequently wear, all while I am constantly trying to get rid of the ones that I don’t wear anymore….Therefore, if I had to take an educated guess, I would say that I own around 40 smart (leather/dress-rubber soled) shoes and close to 100 total shoes.
Q: What does the future hold for the shoe snob?
The close future holds the release of my footwear range, J.FitzPatrick, to be launched at Gieves & Hawkes at their flagship store on Savile Row in February 2013. Other than that, I try to take one day at a time….but as a long term goal, I plan to become a world-recognised name synonymous with fine footwear and shoe accessories and a driving force in the shoe industry that attempts to educate men on the reasons why we should all appreciate our footwear.
Video below brought to you by MR. PORTER, created by their video style editor, Mr. Aaron Christian from Individualism fame. Individualism were featured in my article top style resources because of their quality videos.
Justin has recently announced he is extending his services to producing a new range of exclusive, quality shoe care products from beeswax polish, to shoe renovator cream. You can buy from his online eBay store here: http://stores.ebay.co.uk/The-Shoe-Snob-Store
You can follow Justin in the following ways: