Gaziano & Girling St. James II Review: Very Well Red
There's a conspicuous and frankly saddening lack of Gaziano & Girling on my shoe rack since selling my Wigmore boots and Deco Hayes last year. Beautiful pairs both, but a bit unusual and formal to get a lot of pandemic wear.
G&G shoes fill a very specific stylistic niche, and it's one that has probably taken a real hit with the decline of office-based working - I doubt I'm the only person who has found 90% of their shoe needs met by a single pair of trainers during peak-pandemic. The company itself still appears to be going strong, although has painted itself into a bit of a corner with a long-running 20% off offer that runs the risk of devaluing their regular RRP a bit.
The G&G style I've coveted for the longest has been the St James II in vintage cherry - probably one of the brand's most iconic model and colourway combinations. A pair appeared on eBay recently - expensive, but in brand new condition and including matching shoe trees which is rare, so I jumped on them.
They are size UK 9.5 width F on the TG73 last. I'd found the TG73 last a bit of a squeeze before - comfortable enough but pretty skintight - so figured the F width would provide a bit of breathing room.
This was nearly but not quite a good guess - they turned out to have a bit too much volume overall, so I've experimented with insoles to modify the fit a bit. This takes out some of the excess instep room and ended with a comfortable but not constrictive fit, but there is still a bit more wiggle-room around the heel than I'm happy with. They may have to go to a new home in the not-too-distant future.
The St James II is an Adelaide brogued captoe. The Adelaide refers to the facing section around the laces, which curves alongside the eyelets and spreads out along the top of the instep, parallel to the toecap. It's an effective way of punching up the impact of an otherwise quite straightforward design.
The most distinctive design detail of the St James II is the scalloped backstay at the heel, shown below. It's surprising how such a minor change to the norm can have such a strong impact, but it works to create a bit of visual harmony with the additional detail of the Adelaide facing and the pointed tip mirrors the sawtooth broguing edges.
The TG73 is a G&G's classic square-toe last. It's a dressy last clearly, with a somewhat elongated toecap that some may find a bit much. I'm going to look in a future post in more detail at what effect captoe length can have on a shoe's overall look, but I would say that that the overall effect is less intense in the F width.
Vintage cherry is a really understated shoe colour - it works with greys, blues, browns, olives. You can see at the toe and heel G&Gs rather nice burnishing work, (although some slight cracking to the mirror shine is visible on the toe). For those with a good rotation of brown shoes, red is well worth considering.
Enough has been written about G&Gs sole work that I won't labour the point, but the single oak leather sole is very fine indeed. The heel stack is neatly accomplished, though straighter than you may expect in comparison to, say, TLB Mallorca's Artista line. The channeled sole is neatly concealed - so beautiful, in fact, that it feels almost a shame to walk in them, but what are shoes for if not walking?
As mentioned in a previous review of some John Lobb bespoke captoe brogues, it's a welcome touch when the brogue-hole is punched fully through the material of the tongue. This is not always the case, and it provides a nice sense of continuity in design.
A special mention to G&Gs wooden shoetrees, which are beautiful artifacts in their own right. It's rather hard to explain the unusual sense of satisfaction derived from a well-made pair of trees, particularly to a non-enthusiast. The subtle whoosh of air as they slip perfectly into the shoe - it's weirdly intoxicating, and frankly becomes a bit creepy if discussed in too much detail, so I'll move on.
The polish of the wood and metal nameplate does put them a step above the competition. If one is going to spend such sums on shoes, it's a welcome extra indulgence.
Also, a brief summary of some of the extras included with a G&G shoe purchase - spare laces, two rather heavy and substantial bags, cleaning cloth, a bit of blurb from the brand and a strange but welcome marble patterned pad to protect the shoes from the base of the box in transit. The experience is overall a rather premium one.
So there we go - a beautiful pair all things considered, though potentially a poor gamble on my part in terms of sizing - but we live and learn. An excellent choice if you get the chance though.