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Crockett & Jones Handgrade Water Bison Derby - Vintage NOS review



A successful eBay gamble, this one since I don't buy a lot of exotic leathers or obviously vintage shoes. In the case of the former, I just don't have a lot of knowledge (or patience) on how to care for them; in the latter case, I think they can frequently veer into looking costumey rather than anything that works in the modern-day. The only exotic that really has a big appeal for me is alligator, and it's generally too expensive for the brands I'm typically buying.


This pair were very competitively priced - the seller agreed to a £150 offer - and they are in genuinely, fresh out of the box brand new condition. The leather is as yet uncreased, and the soles are clearly immaculate (a benefit of the logo print on the base is being able to identify this). A charming extra inclusion was the original material tag marking them as genuine water bison - I've since added this to my keyring.



They were made by Crockett & Jones, and they were made some time ago. This is an old shoe - the font of the C&J logo on the footbed has been replaced by a new one for a while My estimate is they date from the 70s (the overall aesthetic certainly hints to that) - I would be surprised if they are any later than the 1980s in origin. Of course, the age makes the condition all the more impressive. As with all NOS, the idea of them quietly hiding away in their box as the decades pass by adds a certain mystique to wearing them now.




This is the Windsor Handgrade model - a plain toe, 3 tie Derby. The size is 9.5 E, my usual C&J size.


An immediate observation in trying them on was how slim the overall fit felt compared to a modern C&J shoe. The last is about 1.5cm shorter, making them an extremely tight fit for any of my usual shoe trees. This is probably due to the toe shape - this is manifestly more old-fashioned looking than a modern shoe - rather square, though not unpleasantly so. The instep is also visibly lower, especially over the large toe. They really are just much smaller in all their dimensions.



Having got a bit of wear on them since taking the photos, I can say the comfort is good. While slimmer than a modern equivalent size, the pliability of the leather makes them easy-wearing. See the below photos in the wild.




The star attraction is clearly the leather - mid-brown water bison uppers are not something you see every day on a dress shoe from a traditional British maker. This is a distinctive material with a pronounced, criss-crossing grain. I've read it has impressive water-resistance and durability characteristics, though time will tell on that too. It's somewhat pliable compared to calf leather, even never having had any wear.


The most polarising design details, and the ones that look most obviously vintage, are the rope-like stitches running along the quarters to the back, which seem to have been slightly burnished for a darker appearance. This isn't really to my taste - it rather reminds me of the ruffled silk of an old-fashion tuxedo dress shirt.


The finishing is good, though less refined than a modern model. The sole is flat rather than having any bezel, with a Crockett & Jones medallion logo and Handgrade logo as well. The heel stack is extremely neatly finished - better than a modern model.



I'll need it to give it some time to see if I keep them around - I'm sure a lot of people would find them pretty unappealing visually, but there is something really appealing in the heritage and rarity of them.

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9 Comments


gerry.gallagher52
Oct 23, 2022

Hi Sam, have just found the post after a little search on the exact same shoe, I seen a lighty used pair on ebay starting at £25 with £3.35 to post, not really needing another pair of shoes I thought I try £26.65 best-offer. Lol I now own the shoes I have bought a few items from this seller who sells fantastic products at £30 total am not that bothered, however you post did really help, I will more likely wear more casual clothing with them because of the texture, thank you for sharing. P. S sorry what date was this posted cheers Gerry

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Sam
Nov 01, 2022
Replying to

Hi Gerry,


Sorry for the delay replying. This post was originally 4th Jan 2022.


I don't think you can really go wrong at that price. Weirdly I have seen this exact style on eBay a surprising number of times, often in NOS condition. I wonder if there was a stock cupboard somewhere that somebody discovered?


Hope you enjoy wearing them!

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sdgssg
Apr 01, 2022

Do you think if you were to take them to C&J they would be able to resole them? They probably still have the original last i imagine?

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Sam
Apr 03, 2022
Replying to

I suppose they probably would, but it wrenches me a bit to spend a lot of money on resoling unless the original sole is reaching the end of its life. I've actually hardly worn them since this post, truth be told! Will give them some more outings and see if my view changes.

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stevensfo
Jan 04, 2022

I understand your comment about them being rather old-fashioned, but it's not the first thing that would cross my mind if I saw you wearing them. They look great, and that's it! I've always been a bit wary of the way we have 'fashion' thrust upon us and remember living in London when those awful Barbour coats and then Paisley ties became 'fashionable', looking around me on the London underground, thinking 'What a load of sheep!' :-) I think there are a lot of these unworn items around. People buy them for special occasions, then hardly wear them. The same with expensive designer clothes. People wear them once, keep them for the next special occasion, put on weight..etc. Char…

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lizardking80
lizardking80
Jan 04, 2022

It's amazing to think that at any point within my life, those were sat in a box waiting to be worn.

You certainly don't hesitate to hit the pavement in them. I would be very reluctant to mark them at all, because that's what I'm like.

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Sam
Apr 03, 2022
Replying to

Yeah, it's definitely one of the aspects of the hobby I lack the requisite patience for. @bespokeaddict on instagram does a lot of modifications of fit for his pairs since he mostly wears second-hand bespoke pairs, and the stretching takes him months in multiple stages.

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