Best Foot Forward: The World’s Leading Luxury Shoe Brands
Menswear legend Hardy Amies once said, “it’s totally impossible to be well dressed in cheap shoes”. A bold claim, perhaps, but there’s certainly a degree of truth to it.
Quality footwear doesn’t come cheap, but it’s something well worth investing in. Buy wisely and you’ll be rewarded with superior materials, high-end craftsmanship – perfected over centuries in many cases – and easily replaceable parts for maximum longevity.
And that’s before we even get onto looks. The difference between a pair of cheap high-street shoes and their high-end counterparts is instantly apparent. And although the price differential is often considerable, the latter will always work out to be more cost-effective in the long run.
If you’re in the market for some premium footwear, it helps to know where to start looking. There are a variety of luxury shoe brands out there, each with its own unique heritage, key styles and aesthetic. To pick the right pair of shoes for you, it’s worth getting to know them all.
So, from traditional Northamptonshire shoemakers to high-fashion powerhouses, these are the premium shoe brands every man should know.
Operating out of the same red-brick factory in Northamptonshire since the late 1800s, Cheaney is a classic British brand steeped in shoemaking heritage.
Now owned by John and William Church of fellow English shoemakers Church’s, the brand continues to craft some of the finest shoes in the world and has even earned a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for International Trade.
Now under its fifth generation, John Lobb is a family-run business specialising in high-end, bespoke footwear. Each pair of shoes is uniquely fitted to the customer and designed according to their exact specifications and requirements.
In the 1970s, the French arm of the company was purchased by Hermes and continues to sell premium, ready-to-wear footwear under the John Lobb family name.
Founded by shoemaker Thomas Church and his three sons in 1873, Church’s is an iconic Northamptonshire footwear brand specialising in Goodyear-welted shoes.
Since the 1990s, 83% of the company has been owned by Prada, and although it has expanded since then, the quality and craftsmanship of the brand’s shoes is still of the highest standard. Check out iconic silhouettes like the Consul Oxford wingtip and the Shannon Derby to get a feel for what the label is all about.
Founded in 1829, Tricker’s is one of the oldest shoemakers in Great Britain. The brand’s intricately perforated brogue boots were a staple of the landed gentry in the UK, who favoured them for their robust yet meticulous construction. Elegant, but capable of standing up to the rigours of country life.
More recently, Trickers has become a favourite brand among some of menswear’s coolest tastemakers. The last decade has seen the label working with the likes of Norse Projects, END., Engineered Garments and Junya Watanabe. All of whom have put their stamp on Tricker’s iconic boots and shoes.
Founded in 1985 by Yuki Matsuda, Yuketen is a Japanese brand known for its hand-sewn footwear and wabi-sabi aesthetic.
The shoes are often modern reworks of classic American casual styles like boat shoes, moccasins and work boots. Native American design motifs characterise the shoes while unique materials from around the world bring them to life.
With a list of customers that spans everyone from Winston Churchill to Alexander McQueen, George Cleverley is certainly a brand that knows how to appeal to the most discerning dressers.
Boasting a workshop on London’s Royal Arcade, the label offers both ready-to-wear styles and a bespoke fitting service. Made-to-order shoes can take up to six months to create, but the likes of David Beckham, Tim Cook and Ralph Lauren have all deemed them to be worth the wait.
Famed for its iconic brogue designs, Grenson is a heritage shoemaker that fuses traditional manufacture with modern techniques and materials.
Classic styles still make up a large part of the label’s output, but Grenson doesn’t shy away from incorporating contemporary elements and even working with the odd sneaker silhouette. The theme that ties it all together is quality and craftsmanship. In fact, the brand’s shoes are all produced in the UK and have been for more than 150 years.
Christian Louboutin may be best known for women’s stilettos, but the label’s range of luxurious men’s footwear shouldn’t be overlooked.
Styles range from sleek Oxford and Derby shoes featuring the iconic red sole, through to more adventurous options, often with unconventional design quirks like studs and straps. We tend to lean more towards the former, but we’ll leave the decision up to you.
There are many strings to Gucci’s bow, but footwear is the one that resonates loudest with us.
The Italian fashion house’s horsebit loafers are nothing short of iconic – prized by those who own a pair and lusted after by those who don’t.
That’s the main attraction, but don’t forget about Gucci’s other footwear offerings. Look past the loafers and you’ll also find sleek Derbies, elegant Oxfords and plenty of trainers to boot.
Those Italians really know their way around a good piece of leather, that’s for sure. And nowhere is this more evident than in the lavish footwear offered by century-old shoemaker, Tod’s.
The label’s Gommino driving shoe is perhaps its best-known style and was the first iconic design of many for the luxury brand. It features a rubber pebble sole, decorative laces and looks the part with white jeans and an unstructured sports jacket.