It’s time that I bring my passion and love for shining up a pair of shoes to my home city of Sydney. With that I am launching a side business of polishing leather shoes for any shoe enthusiast in the Sydney community with “Fox Shine”. The website can be found here: www.foxshine.com.au
In Sydney, I have seen many shoes look unloved and uncared for on the feet of strangers walking the streets. I’ve had friends and strangers alike talk to me about my shoes and how they look so well cared for. I’ve also heard these people talk about how they try to polish their shoes but the results are lacklustre to say the least.
I’ve seen leather shoes look scuffed and less than impressive even on the display shelves of fashion stockists like Tom Ford and Bally (never Double Monk though, they know what they’re doing). I’ve had conversations with people who wear suits and watches worth five digits each but their scuffed up shoes let down the whole look.
I guess, not many people actually have the skill of looking after their leathers and in Sydney, there’s really three options people currently have:
Trying to DIY with crappy (or even just wrong) products and poor technique. This almost always ends up with a shoe that looks even more distressed than it started with.
Going to the Sydney Shoe Shiners in The Strand Arcade and sit on a high chair and let them slather Kiwi polish all over the shoe. While this is a start to caring about shoes, the products aren’t the best and no mirror shine can be achieved properly this way. Not to mention the conditioners aren’t really given the proper time to bind with the leather for a deeply nourishing job.
Use Baxter and Black’s polishing service. He is my Senpai and I look up to him the most in the shoe business. I would recommend him for all repair and maintenance needs such as flush metal top tap installations.
This is where I come in.
I am aiming to cater for those who want better care for their shoes with the best French (Saphir) or Japanese (Boot Black) products, but cannot justify the cost of the polishing at Baxter’s.
I hope to see any interested Sydney-siders about their shoe care in the near future!
Other gentlemen style blogs have their own guides on where to buy quality shoes in Sydney, but I find that they also recommend some rubbish places and have no anecdotes of personal experiences. It’s also very concerning when they recommend two big names in the Australian retail space that sell cemented, sub-par shoes. Ergo, I have excluded them and have only recommended places that do properly constructed stuff.
Double Monk in The Strand Arcade sell four main brands of shoes amongst other gentlemen goods such as Abbeyhorn products, Saphir polishes, Fox Umbrellas and exquiste ties. These shoe brands are Crockett and Jones, Alden, Edward Green and John Lobb. They are considered top of the line quality shoes made in England and I am very thankful that this store is bringing them into Sydney.
Tom, James and Sascha are also the most chill and helpful people when it comes to style advice and general chats about men’s fashion and shoes. I’m looking forward to visiting their main shop in Melbourne the next time I fly there.
Here are some photographs of shoes that I have bought from them:
Here is a short video that I made about them:
Two doors next to Double Monk you’ll find Andrew McDonald, a local Sydney shoe maker who trained with John Lobb back in his younger days. He is always innovating new styles and spicing things up with his designs. I have actually written up a review already on his store and you can find it by clicking here.
In browsing through Janardana’s website at http://www.janardanashoemaker.com, he employs the usual methods of shoe construction including Blake stitched and Good Year Welted shoes. However, the one amazing thing that stands out the most to me is that he actually Handwelts some of his shoes! This is huge as that takes tremendous skill, time and effort to commit to.
You can find his studio and showroom at Fitzroy Place in Surry Hills.
I’ve written a review on Kazuna’s services and I rate the shoes very highly. He does two lines of shoes: a Made to Measure service by Miyagi-Kogyo in Japan and a Made to Order service by a shoemaker located in Spain. I only have shoes from Miyagi-Kogyo and I am pleased to say that I am very happy about them as well as impressed by his Japanese high standard of service to customers.
His offering of Spanish made to orders also look very promising. I had a flick through his material book and the choice of options and leathers are very extensive.
J. H. Cutler
By appointment only at 12-14 O’Connell Street in Manufacturer’s House, J. H. Cutler specialises in bespoke menswear but they also do ready to wear and made to order Stefano Bemer shoes. Stefano Bemer shoes are one of the greatest shoes that one can get in the world and it is a service to us Sydney dwellers that they are obtainable on our home soil without having to travel too far.
A tad expensive for my taste for mostly Blake stitched shoes, but they are undeniably very beautiful shoes with exquisite patinas and leather quality. It’s worth the experience of just looking and browsing through the store located in Pitt Street Westfield. If you’re lucky, you might even meet the store manager, Bastien Weill, who I can say is an intelligent man who holds a decent conversation. Or is that just me being seduced by his French accent?
At Oscar Hunt Tailors, you can buy a brand called Cordwainer. I don’t have personal experience with them but a colleague at work does. Here’s a pair that I shined up for him!
More out of necessity rather than recommendation, I guess it’d be wrong to leave out R.M. Williams from this list. There are stores everywhere over Sydney and it’s worth walking into a store and trying them on for fit before heading online to a wholesaler like http://www.nungar.com.au/catalog/ or https://portphillipshop.com.au/ to buy.
Always check out their outlets to see if there’s any factory seconds. Sometimes they’re just as good.
This shop in The Galeries next to The Grounds of the City stocks a variety of shoes. Most of the shoes employ the blake stitch or rapid blake stitch construction but are nevertheless good quality. It’s definitely worth checking out their stock for brands such as Preventi, Barker, Moreschi and Conflict For Interest amongst many others. There are some interesting fashion forward designs that you can find here with Made to Order options as well.
In my visits to this store, it was immediately clear that the staff are quite passionate about their products. However, their sales approach was to deliver a lecture about their shoes before they gauged what kind of customer I was and how much I knew about shoes too. As a result, it felt like they were preaching to the choir. I’d much rather be able to have a friendly chat to build a relationship rather than be treated as a sales opportunity; after all, any visitor is a potential customer in the future if not today.
At Brooks Brothers you can get a lot of fashionable items like suits, ties, jackets, and of course shoes. They use reputable shoemakers like Allen Edmonds to make their shoes and you can’t go wrong with them. Personally, I don’t favour Allen Edmonds lasts but they are still a brand worth trying and buying in the price range that they present themselves in.
I am aware that in other countries, Brooks Brothers partners with other shoemakers like Edward Green and Crockett and Jones to bring shoe stock into their stores. Might be worth checking them out overseas too if you ever get the chance.
Tom Ford & Harrolds
Located in Pitt Street Westfield, these stores have some nice looking shoes by Artioli, Magnanni, Tom Ford and others. I’ve been informed that the shoe maker for Tom Ford is located in Napoli, but I have yet to pinpoint exactly which factory or shoemaker supplies their goods… anyone got an idea?
The Tom Ford specialist there, Jonathan, is also a nice guy who is very helpful and open to chatting about shoes and suits. I found him to be super friendly and his service felt very welcoming. I mean, nothing can get better than complimentary coffee or whiskey each time I say hello! He also rocks a few pairs of Carmina and Meermin each time I see him, so he knows a bit about his shoe choices too. So shout out to my main man Jonathan, go hit him up.
I was considering pushing this into an honourable mentions list as they used to stock Joseph Cheaney shoes regularly, but not anymore. M.J. Bale has opted for their own line of shoes made in India. Not that they are bad quality, in fact they are better than some other shoe brands out there, but the Cheaney’s just offer so much more in terms of history, prestige and quality.
If you can still get your hands on a pair of Cheaney’s through M.J. Bale, you can probably get a nice discount on them while stocks last!
For entry level decent shoes, Joseph’s on the ground floor of The Strand Arcade stocks a couple of reasonable brands including their own line. I personally don’t go in here after spending much of my time in Double Monk instead and the reviews aren’t great for this place.
Want something uniquely Sydney Australian? Look no further than our very own Andrew McDonald in The Strand Arcade.
When you enter his shop, it is obvious that the focus is entirely on his creations. When talking to him, it is clear that he is very proud of his work and he is more than open to answering questions like where he sources his leather from, how he thinks he compares with other shoe makers and any other ideas that he has got in the works.
Shopping isn’t always about the product. It’s about the relationship with the creator and you, hopefully someone who can appreciate the hard work and effort in their craft. At its core, this shoe shop is about the relationship developed over time as you come back to just have a chat, bond over shoes and perhaps even try on a new shoe design.
The shoes are all designed by Andrew. The cheaper ones ($350 to $795) are then made in a factory and sent back to the workshop to be sold and the more expensive pairs ($1000+) are created by hand in the workshop in The Strand Arcade.
His shoes are very comfortable. Compared to Crockett and Jones bench grade shoes, I would say Andrew McDonald’s shoes are actually more comfortable. In terms of quality and construction, in my opinion, they are between the Crockett and Jones and Edward Green shoes.
His choice of shoe construction varies from design to design with a healthy mixture of blake stitched and Goodyear welted. I personally prefer Goodyear welt construction.
I love the sound of the leather soles as they strike the ground. There is just something unique in the timbre and sound of Andrew’s shoes that I don’t get with other brands. It sounds good. It feels good.
I haven’t tried his bespoke services yet, but he also offers this as an option for customers who really want that extra oomph. You get to work with Andrew in the design and creation of your shoe, catered to the shape of your foot, inclusive of all orthotic needs, with your own unique last and design specifications.
The Derby Boot
This was my first purchase from Andrew and is one of my favourite of his designs. It is a round toe, derby boot that is Goodyear welted and is super comfortable. I just love it.
This is Andrew’s take on the classic Goodyear welted, cap toe oxford. The shoe just fits perfectly with my feet and I feel like I am walking on clouds in these shoes. The clack of the leather soles hitting the ground just sounds executively superior.
The Sovereign Wingtips
Another classic style, the wingtip brogue. I love the look of these shoes and they share the same sound as the Beauford shoes as they hit the ground.
The Green Petrolio Foldover Shoe
Andrew loves to come up with unique and experimental designs that you will not get anywhere else. These shoes are special in every way. Not only are they green, but the laces wrap themselves around and under the shoe – what an eccentric and quirky look! The leather is also sourced from horse, but is not the same as cordovan.
Where To From Here
The last time I talked to Andrew, he told me about some designs that are in the works. I can’t wait to go back and check them out when they are ready!
Since my last purchase, he has put out a design of the classic quarter brogue, cap toe oxford with Goodyear welting as well as hidden channel stitching. I love how he continually innovates and designs new shoes that each year, you cannot possibly go into the shop and say you’ve seen it before.
I know a lot of people who have spoken to me about his shoes criticise the upward inflection of the sole, but be assured that over time it flattens out as the shoe shape conforms to your foot. Nothing to worry about.