Foster & Son Bespoke Single Strap Wingtip Brogues: chunky but charming vintage shoemaking
Regular readers will be familiar with my ongoing Sisyphean labour/hobby of buying second-hand bespoke shoes on eBay. This nearly always results in failure because bespoke shoe sizing is a real lottery - you can see the previous posts here:
The only pair I've ever kept in my wardrobe was second on the list, the John Lobb Black Derby shoes. Until now, with this interesting pair from Foster & Son. Let's review...
These were very much a speculative purchase as the eBay photos told the tale of a very old, tired and abused-looking pair of shoes. Stains were evident across the uppers, but from past experience high-quality leather can be relatively easily revitalised with some cleaning and conditioning. I put in an offer of £120 which was accepted.
On arrival, I went through the usual process - strip off old polish with Renomat, apply Renovateur, buff, apply coloured cream all over, then apply polish to toes and heels. The end results were, I feel, pretty good - nobody is going to confuse them with a brand new pair, but the colour of the leather has really come back to life.
Compare the eBay photo above with the one below after a bit of TLC - some of this is clearly better lighting and the insertion of shoe trees, but the leather is I feel in a much better place now.
Aesthetically these tend towards the chunky, which I increasingly like in my shoes. Maybe it's just a sympathetic response, in that lockdown has made me increasingly tend towards the chunky too, but slim and sexy shoes get less and less personal use as time goes on.
They could quite easily be confused for a pair of Tricker's, both in terms of the heft of design and construction and the colour of the leather, which looks not unlike Tricker's Marron shade and has a similar matte quality to it in terms of finish.
The fastening is a single buckle, rather more like a Florsheim buckle boot than a modern monkstrap which may aim for a bit more sweeping elegance. The strap is the only part that required some repair with some separation of the leather - this was easily rectified with some leather glue though.
The buckles are a nice brass colour, and luckily the straps and buckle aren't showing any obvious signs of tearing, which is a bit of a death sentence in a monk strap shoe and would require more repair cost investment than I would be keen on.
Beyond that, the styling is a fairly traditional wingtip brogue, with an unusual medallion at the toe. I like that the tongue extends up past the strap thanks to the squared corners of the tongue - most modern monkstraps would have a rounded tongue, which would only protrude at the middle of the strap.
The welt is very neatly worked - the SPI isn't unusually high, which does slightly put the lie to the notion that stitch density is a good measurement of shoe quality. The soles are heavy, with the original FOSTER stamp faintly visible so presumably the original leather soles. They are finished with toe and heel taps and some really substantial nail work at the heel.
Fit, which is nearly always where these reviews come a cropper, is actually pretty good. The buckle means the tightness of the fit can be tweaked, though I'm currently wearing them at maximum buckling. I've applied the shoe stretchers over a couple of days, and the fit is now a fairly straightforward and consistent UK 9.5.
One downside of a well-worn pair of shoes is the footbed has already been quite moulded to another wearer. There isn't a lot that can be done about this without some extensive refurbishment or wearing insoles, which would mess up the fit a bit. I know some people are squeamish about this from a hygiene perspective, but I've never really got this - I mean, I always wear socks with my shoes, so it's not like there is any direct contact. I've yet to contract anything fatal from my pre-owned footwear.
So, an enjoyable purchase and one that I've already got some good wear from. Once the soles start to go I'll probably get them resoled onto a big old Vibram sole to complete the chunky vibe.
A couple of miscellaneous photos to finish up.