Clarks Desert Boots

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The Fast Show – a UK TV show from the mid-1990’s  – had a wealth of characters created by Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse – amongs others. One particular favourite was “Louis Balfour” – played by John Thomson – who was the oh so slightly pretentious presenter of “Jazz Club” with a catchphrase – when all else failed – of “Nice!”. You rarely got to see his feet but my bet is that he would’ve worn Clarks Desert Boots

See here a sample of Jazz Club The Best of Louis Balfour’s Jazz Club

Now you have to follow this, Louis was cut from a very similar cloth to a couple of Art Masters at my last school. They insisted on being called “Chris” and “Steve” as indeed I suspect they were their real names and as 6th Formers it seemed odd to continue with “Sir”. They wore corduroy jackets – in brown and country green – one with contrasting leather elbow patches – they had a penchant for practical Farah Hopsack trousers – don’t ask – and each had several pairs of iconic Clarks Desert Boots.

Quite what desert there were planning to cross in leafy Cheshire was uncertain but none the less these two were simply the coolest guys in the school.  “Steve” with his long hair even drove a late reg VW Beetle – click here to our previous post Volkswagen Beetle – an icon re-imagined – you can imagine he was already ice cool to me.

Assured not to be bitten by scorpions nor rattle snakes, Clarks Desert Boots to this day are an iconic and a highly flexible wardrobe essential that you can wear with jeans, moleskins or chinos and they will always look the part. Just avoid wearing in the rain – they are suede and, after all, are intended for deserts!

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C. & J. Clark International Ltd, (“Clarks”) was founded in 1825 by Quaker brothers Cyrus and James Clark in Street, (Somerset, England) where its HQ is still based – although manufacturing is now predominantly undertaken in Asia. Clark’s continues to be 84% family owned.

Since 1879 the Clark’s trade mark has been the distinctive Glastonbury Tor with the St Michael’s tower.

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The Desert Boot was launched in 1950 having been designed by the co-founders, James’, great-grandson, Nathan Clark, a serving British Army Officer based in Burma. It is said that the Desert Boot was based on the unlined boots made in the bazaar’s of Cairo for returning British Army Officers during the Second World War.

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Post War the Desert Boot saw adoption by the Mod Culture in UK, the Beatnik Culture in the US and were known to be a favourite of the Student anit-capitalist demonstrations in Paris in May 1968.

Why not be like Steve McQueen or Liam Gallagher and get a pair of Clarks original Desert Boots – please click the links below the images below to be directed to AMAZON – the two links show the full colour range available.

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Clarks Desert Boot, Men’s Derby, Braun (Cola Suede), 10 UK

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Clarks Originals Desert Boot, Men’s Derby Lace-Up, Brown (Brown Sde), 9 UK 43 EU)

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Images courtesy of C & J Clark International Limited

Brompton Bicycles

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I really like to cycle. There’s a “wind in your hair” moment – obviously beneath your safety helmet – when you appreciate the liberty of your pace but also the penny drops that you are actually doing yourself some good. Stamina and a general feeling of wellbeing improve immensely from bike riding.

If you are a City commuter then the idea of riding to work may be somewhat daunting. Aside from the perils of other road users, including the crazy antics of cycle messengers/couriers – who are very time poor – and the inconsideration often shown to pedal power by motorists there are distinct health and wealth benefits. Provided the weather holds, many Cities now have dedicated bike routes offering the cyclists a reasonably direct line between home, through parks and tunnels to emerge close to their work place.

Once you arrive at work – what on earth do you do with your prized bike? You can park it in a designated cycle rack with all manner of heavy “U” locks or chains seeking to prevent theft or why not carry it and place it under your desk!

Yes, armed with an engineering degree from Cambridge University and a somewhat thwarted career in computer science, Andrew Richie’s City Analysist father introduced him to those seeking to commercialize the Bickerton Bike. A patented model of collapseable bike produced entirely from aluminum profiles with no welding and reasonably light.

After extensive modification of the earlier idea to ensure that the dirtiest parts of the bike – primarily the chain – were central to the folded vehicle and named after the Brompton Oratory that could be seen from his flat, in Egerton Gardens, where he developed the first prototypes, James filed his second patent in 1979 for his folding bike. The Patent was granted on the 30th May 1984.

I am very relieved to hear that James Ritchie appears to be in that rare group of perhaps eccentric British inventors, that would logically include James Dyson and Clive Sinclair and Trevor Baylis, that are truely obsessed by their design and live and breath the prospect for their invention. Mr Richie certainly believed in his invention and spent an inordinate amount of time bringing it to market. He readily admits to being a perfectionist for whom all the design and manufacturing details needed to be just right. His belief has proved to be correct.

The Brompton is an iconic and memorable site on the street of London, New York and San Francisco.

His modesty as to his design talents is disarming. He quite rightly notes that he combined the elements of a bicycle that have been around since the Victorian era. He credits Alex Moulton – who we first heard of in relation to his design work on the suspension of Sir Alec Issigonnis’ Mini – see our pervious post here – Mini – the best selling car in Britain  who popularized the smaller wheeled bicycle and without this Mr Richie believes that he would not have conceived the idea of the Brompton.

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It appears that a favourite pastime for the legions of fans of the Brompton folding bike – aside from selecting your preferred vehicle from the company’s wide range of options, alternative parts and accessories that may be tailored to your individual needs – is to add a Brooks saddle, perhaps giving the bike a slightly more noble look. We have celebrated the iconic saddles made by Brooks in Smethwick (West Midlands) – please see our earlier post here – Brooks bicycle saddle

The cleaver team at Brompton based at their production facility in West London have devised and recently launched a Brompton bike that is powered by human and battery! See their video here Brompton’s First Electric Bike

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Can I interest you in a Brompton? The ever popular M6L model is available in either blue or black – please click on the Amazon link below the image of each bike

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BROMPTON M6L 2017 Tempest Blue Folding Bike

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BROMPTON M6L 2017 Black Folding Bike

Or perhaps you’d prefer the same look in a lighter Brompton bike – the H6L – please click the link below the image

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Brompton H6L Superlight 2017 Folding Bike Black Titanium

STOP PRESS

The Independent, one of the UK’s more objective newspapers, in June 2018, carried a very well reasoned piece concerning electric bikes – including Brompton’s very own version. Read the piece By David Phelan here Best Electric Bikes

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Image Credits – with grateful thanks Brompton Bicycles and James Richie

Brooks Brothers Shirts

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There is every possibility that it’s a sin. Not one of the Seven Deadly – the major ones – but a guilty pleasure that I, and I am certain many other men, equally enjoy…..wow where’s this going? Pull yourself together. I am talking about the sensual feel of a box fresh/pins still in or freshly laundered/well ironed, one hundred cotton shirt. Bliss!

In my view, the shirts made by Brooks Brothers are not only iconic, given their extensive heritage including the Original Polo Shirt – my very own is our featured image – but their fabrics are simply beautiful and each shirt is a complete joy to wear. 2018 see the 200th anniversary of the launch of this US style icon – some classic Americana – but what’s the story behind these remarkable products?

On 7th April 1818 Henry Sands Brooks, aged 45, opens H. & D. H. Brooks & Co. on the corner of Catherine and Cherry Streets in New York City as both shirt makers and merchants. By 1833 Henry Sands Brooks called upon his sons to assist him with the business. His eldest son, Henry, Jr. took the helm upon his father’s passing a year later. Heny is in charge until 1850, when younger brothers Daniel, John, Elisha, and Edward, assume leadership and change the firm’s name to Brooks Brothers.

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In 1849, Brooks Brother’s scored a first with the introduction of  Ready-Made clothing – a modestly priced alternative to made to measure tailored suits.

In 1850, Brooks Borthers adopted the Golden Fleece, the historical symbol of wool merchants, as their trademark which has remained their distinctive logo ever since.

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In 1865 a regular, Abraham Lincoln, was presented with a Brooks jacket with an embroidered lining bearing the words “One Country One Destiny” below a spread eagle. He wore the jacket at his second inauguration as President. He wore the same jacket two weeks later, on 14th April 1865, to the Washington’s Ford’s Theatre where he was fatally shot by, actor and pro-slavary activists, John Wilkes Booth.

In 1896 John E. Brooks the founder’s grandson was at a polo match in the UK when he saw that the polo players wearing shirts with disctivtive buttoned down collars. He told his colleagues in New York and the Button-Down shirt, a Brooks classic was born. To this day the Brook’s Polo Shirt includes the expression “The Original Polo Shirt” on its label.

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In 1915 Brooks Brothers relocatesd to 346 Madison Avenue – see below including a list of earlier locations prior to arriving on Madison – set in the heart of New York’s Universities and social clubs.

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Madison Avenue in the decades to come became the corporate homes to the advertising, illustration and marketing communities. It’s no surprise that Brooks Borthers have acted as costume advisors on and made suits for the “Mad Men” TV series set in the late 1950’s early 1960’s.

F. Scott FitzGerald was a very keen Brooks customer and drew heavily of his favourite stores in his writing. In this way Brooks effectively created Jay Gatby’s style for “The Gatsby Gatsby”.  Indeed the 2013 remake of the movie featured a cast entirely dressed in Brooks.

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From the mid-1920’s the Halls of the Ivy League were being dressed with Brooks shirts, striped Repp ties, khaki trousers and blue blazers in the definitive preppie style that I really like to this today and continues yes to be hugely popular.

During a slightly earlier era, the Ivy League students local to Bridgeport CT were throwing Frisbie tins – see our earlier post here – Frisbee

In 1946, Winthrop Holley Brooks, the great-great grandson of the founder sold the business to Julius Garfinckel and Company of Washington DC. The business is now owned and managed by the Italian “Retail Brand Alliance”.

The breadth of customers is truely fascinating – talk about voting with their feet! Whilst John F Kennedy loved their slimmer fitting suits, Andy Warhol, Richard Nixon and Clark Gable, apparently, shopped for clothes no where else. It is said that 39 out of 44 Presendients have chose to wear Brooks clothing.

Would you like to know more about the fastinating story of this American style icon? If so please click on the link below the image

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Brooks Brothers: Two Hundred Years of American Style

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Images from Brooks Brothers with grateful thanks

Purdey Shotguns

James Purdey & Sons was founded in 1814 by James Purdey (known as “the Elder”) in London (England). Purdey was apprenticed in 1798 to Joseph Manton, a renowned gunsmith, and following Purdey’s establishment of his business in Princes Street, in 1826, he  moved to Manton’s former premises in Oxford Street.

In 1858 the Elder’s son, also James, took over the firm and presided over an era of great change in the design and manufacture of guns. Primarily this involved the means of loading and firing from muzzle loaded flintlocks to hammer centre firing and then to a hammerless self opening mechanism designed in 1880 by a Purdey  master gunsmith, Frederick Beesley.

Aside from minor design changes and refinement the iconic Purdey side-by-side shotguns, as sold today, are largely identical to those sold over hundred years ago.

In 1882 James Purdey &Sons Ltd relocated to the corner of South Audley Street and Mount Street – where it remains to this day – diagonally opposite St George’s Chapel (“the American Chapel”) where my wife and I got married nearly twenty two years ago.

In 1949, James Purdey & Sons Ltd purchased the business of J.Woodward & Sons and with it acquired the 1913 Patent for an “over & under” shotgun which Purdey’s have manufactured to great acclaim.

A highly distinctive element of the Purdey range of shotguns are the finishes used on the gun metal – including the very attractive Damascus effect that is often seen on very high quality knives and swords – and very fine and hugely artistic engraving depicting scenes of country or safari life.

Those lucky enough to afford a Purdey shotgun – with starting prices from around £89,000 – are treated to an experience that has been likened to the purchase of a Saville Row suit. Purdey’s shotguns are largely hand-made and the shotguns are made entirely “to measure”.  So the future owner’s “stock” measurements are often taken in the Long Room at the South Audley Street premises using an electric “try-gun” that was originally devised by Harry Lawrence, to aid the convalescence of King George V. At this stage the walnut bland for the stock of  your gun may also be selected. As part of this process it’s likely you will be invited to test shotguns at the shooting range of the newly renovated Purdey factory at “Felgate House” in Hammersmith (West London).

Naturally, Purdey’s shotguns comprise a range of different gauges from: 10, 12, 16, 20, 28 or .410 – the  smaller the gauge, the larger the size so a 12 gauge is a larger cartridge is larger than a 20 gauge. The other variable is barrel length depending upon the proposed sport that you are looking to pursue.

In 1994, the then Chairman, Richard Beaumont, sold James Purdey & Sons Ltd to Compagnie Financière Richemont SA the Swiss-based luxury goods holding company founded in 1988 by South African businessman Johann Rupert. In addition to Purdey,  Richemont’s brands include Cartier, Dunhill, Montblanc, and Van Cleef & Arpels. However, the Purdey dynasty’s involvement with the family firm didn’t end until 2007 when Richard Purdey, the sixth generation of the family from the founder, retired as Chairman.

RM Williams’ “Craftsman” Boot

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Reginald Murray (‘RM”) Williams was born into a pioneering settler family in 1908 at Belalie North about 200 miles from Adelaide, a horse trainer and bushman who rose to be a millionaire entrepreneur.  His adventures in the outback created a recognisable and iconic Australian style of bush-wear.

RM was taught leather working by a horseman, Dollar Mick, including making bridles, pack saddles and riding boots. In 1932, to fund the hospital care of his son, RM founded “RM Williams” and he began to sell saddles. In 1934, he established and rapidly expanded a small factory running in his father’s back shed at 5 Percy Street in the Adelaide suburb of Prospect.

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RM’s most iconic designs were his handcrafted riding boots. They are formed of a single piece of leather or suede and stitched at the rear with elasticated sides.  As of 2013, the company’s handcrafted riding boots comprises 70 hand processes and a single piece of leather.

RM sold the business in 1988 but sadly it entered receivership in 1993. The company was then taken under the control of RM’s long-time friend Ken Cowley who, with businessman Kerry Stokes, and Ken’s family ran R.M. Williams Ltd. for over twenty years.

RM died in November 2003. In March 2013, the Cowley family released a statement of an intention to sell the company to a new owner for AUS$100 million sum. In April 2013, R.M. Williams sold a 49.9% stake to L Capital, the private equity affiliate of LVMH.

These guys a wish list item for me. I have known of them for over twenty years as a friend from Sydney had the well known classic Craftsman boot which at that time he had owned for over fifteen years – they were pristine with minor tell-tale wear and a fabulous sheen.

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In July 2016 I was in London and went to the new Westfield Shopping Centre at Shepherd’s Bush. I walked into the newly opened RM Williams store to discover I was in fact the very first customer.

A charming girl who had been seconded from RM William’s office in Adelaide was so well informed and enthusiastic in her desire to impart details about the hand-made boots I felt almost rude leaving after the limited time I had ran out…only to be stung by the excessive parking charges at Westfield!

She explained that they would prefer – if I lived in the UK – that I should opt to have a rubber rather leather sole, as the leather is so thick it took a while to dry out and risked deteriorating if not totally dried before it got wet again. She explained the use of kangaroo hide – which caused my son some disquiet – but it was explained as a by-product of meat production.

I am determined to return to place an order in due course – but suspect I may go for a suede pair.

Stop Press: Since we became an Amazon Affiliate in December 2017 I have now discovered that I can get my favourite RM Williams chocolate brown suede Craftsman via this source – so the order is on its way! If you’d like to join me in this please click on the link below the following image 

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R.M. Williams Craftsman chocolate/suede, Größen:43

Images from RM Williams

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