This week our Menswear Dialogue Series highlights our personal friend and fellow menswear enthusiast Mr. Justin FitzPatrick of The Shoe Snob. Normally in our series we introduce brands and entrepreneurs you most likely are not familiar with. If you're a regular reader of this blog you're well aware of his work. However, with Justin's recent and future success we felt it was time to dig deeper into the mind of a genuine footwear aficionado. Enjoy.
Image Granted - What is your title/profession/craft? How did you get into the business of shoes? What is it about footwear that makes you get up every day?
Justin FitzPatrick - I don’t really have a title per se, as I do so many different things. I guess my title is The Shoe Snob and within that, I blog, I shine shoes in an artisinal way and I design shoes. But I guess that you could call me a shoe designer, as I am coming out with my own collection, and that is where my heart lays.
I got into the business by deciding that I was going to be a shoe designer. I just made my mind up and went for it. I put a plan together and followed the steps until I got to where I am now, obviously with a bit of help along the way from lovely people who were willing to connect me to other’s that could help in progressing my goals.
The idea of seeing men wearing my shoes someday soon makes me go for it every day. But in reality, just the idea that through my blog, I have the ability to educate into hopefully seeing more men appreciate their footwear and make better and more thoughtful decisions in their purchasing. Also, I find it terribly insulting that so many people either label or wrongly say that their footwear is handmade, when the only hand that touched it was the factory worker passing it from machine to machine. This does not count has ‘handmade’ and I am tired of seeing it. This idea drives me as I want more men to truly know what ‘handmade’ means as it’s important to understand the blood/sweat/tears that true bespoke (handmade) shoemakers go through in order to produce a pair of shoes.
IG - You have a reputation of being the best shoe polisher on Savile Row. How did your relationship with Gieves and Hawkes come about? While you may be the best on the Row, we're sure there is healthy competition. Are there other shiners in London who you respect and recommend?
JF - I would hope that I was the best shoe polisher on Savile Row, as I am the only one…..I believe you mean London in general.
My relationship with G&H started because I was referred to the CEO by the in-house shoemakers, Carreducker, who knew of me and my abilities through reading my blog. We met and they told me that G&H was looking for someone who could produce shines to a military standard, and as I was looking for work, I went for it, even though (if I am going to be honest) it was not really what I had in mind in further my aspiration of becoming a shoe designer. But let me tell you, that shining shoes at G&H was the ABSOLUTE best thing that could have happened to me, as in 3 months’ time I will be launching my shoe brand, J.FitzPatrick, there.
I am the only polisher on Savile Row, but in London there are a few others. I mean, at each bespoke firm there is a good shoe shiner who can do what I do, but the difference is that they will only shine their brand’s shoes, where as I will shine any shoe the customer brings in. So in reality I don’t have any competition, not at least for the average man who doesn’t have bespoke shoes.
IG - We hear your private shoe collection, J. FitzPatrick is currently under construction. When did the idea to create your own line come about? What is the provenance of your first collection? Where do you draw your inspiration? What can footwear aficionados expect from the J. FitzPatrick line?
JF - The idea to be my own shoe designer came about in university when I was deciding who I wanted to become and what path to take. I always believed that if someone enjoyed what they did, then they were successful. Plus I wanted to be my own boss. So since I had always loved shoes and wanted to make a mark on the world (in some form or another), I decided that I was going to start my own footwear collection.
The provenance of my collection is classic with my own personal twist. As a shoe designer, you are always going to want to produce things that you like, but as a legend in the shoe industry once told me ‘you have to make what the customer wants’, I have tried my absolute hardest to design fundamental basics, but add minute detail changes that separate them from the rest…..
My inspiration comes from everywhere really. I am a very observant person and I am always taking everything in. Not only have I lived in Italy and in England, but have also admired the French’s sense of style and color, so I have tried to take an aesthetic from each in order to blend them all together to create my line.
Footwear aficionados can expect a great shoe at a good price that is going to fit well, be comfortable and supportive, but most importantly allow them to differentiate themselves from everyone else in the street by wearing a shoe that is not going to be too bold, but rather, elegantly different.
IG - We know shoe trees and rotating your footwear between wears will extend their life. What is one thing that even those who know more than a little bit about shoes can do to extend the life of their footwear? What do you recommend to your personal clients?
JF - Outside of what you said, the only other thing is to keep them well nourished and polished. There are three components to your shoes: the sole, in the insole and liner, and the upper leather. With rotation, you preserve the life of the sole, with shoe trees you preserve the life of the insole and liner and with polishing and conditioning, you preserve the life of the upper. You can replace the sole, time again, but you can’t replace the upper leather if it cracks….so you have to be sure and protect it, clean it and restore it when necessary.
IG - What can we expect next from the Shoe Snob brand?
JF - I have expanded my shoe accessory range, which you can find on my eBay store, but in the coming months, I will be creating a full-on webstore where I will be offering: shoe polish, shoe conditioner, shoe laces, two types of shoe trees and several shoe brushes…..And probably sooner than not, I will start offering colourful socks to go along with it all!! So be on the look-out early 2013!