George Cleverley probably needs no introduction. I've come to know the brand a few years back when I first got into fine leather shoes and have always wanted to have a pair.
Last month I had the chance to visit Cleverley's shop at the Royal Arcade and even though I did not plan for it, I hit a milestone I've been longing: I acquired my first pair of Cleverley shoes. Here's my review.
The shoe in question is the Adam. It's Cleverley's adelaide captoe oxford model with broguing. This one in particular comes in a dark brown scotch grain leather.
Cleverley sources most of their calf leather from Weinheimer as they say "it is regarded as the best". The particular scotch grain leather used seems to be the "Scotchgrain Soft" in the classic high grade shoes collection at Weinheimer's website (https://weinheimer-leder.com/en/products/classic/scotchgrain-soft/). While the colour is different, the texture looks to be almost identical. As expected, the upper is very consistent throughout with no loose grain. The stitching and broguing are very neat and consistent.
The upper has a seam down the middle of the heel and a dog tail. I would of course prefer a seamless heel, but to be fair it seems that other English shoemakers from my observation also do the same (e.g., Crockett & Jones, Edward Green, John Lobb). Nevertheless, the heel is finished superbly.
The upper doesn't crease quite as much. Firstly, it's due to the fact that the shoes fit very well (discussed in part B. below). Secondly, the scotch grain also helps in hiding the creases along the vamp (see creases in part D. below).
The uppers are well polished out of the box as I note I still get brown saturation on my cotton chamois even after using Saphir's Renovateur a few times. I should note the shoes do not come with a high gloss on the toe out of the box; I did it myself with Saphir's wax polish.
B. Last and Fit
The last is elongated but not sharp; it has somewhat of an almond-shaped toe. The shape of the last goes really well with the whole shoe, which is not too formal given the texture of the upper and the broguing.
I bought went with size 8.5UK, which is a half size smaller than my usual size. These shoes made me realise the importance of proper dress socks, which I never really paid attention to. When I went to the shop, I was wearing rather thin socks and when I tried my usual size on (9UK) my heel slipped as I walked. Size 8.5UK fits really snug. So snug in fact that if I don't wear thin dress socks, my toes would hurt. Thus, I only wear these shoes with thin dress socks (which is also an excuse for me to up my sock game).
The heel cup is nicely curved and really hugs my heel, preventing any slippage. The vamp area also fits my feet really well without any wiggle room, which results in not too much creasing showing. The instep is also just right with just enough lace opening to accommodate any stretching. (see creases and lace opening in part D. below)
C. Construction and Soles
The shoes are 270° goodyear welted with a closed channel. The waist is not too narrow but is very well proportioned with the rest of the shoe. The edges of the waist are nicely beveled. If you want a narrower waist with a fiddle back, you have to go with their Anthony Cleverley line, which comes in at around GBP1100 (around USD1400).
The soles are finished to a really high level. The channel closing is very clean with almost no trace of the split leather. The transition into the bevelling of the edge of the waist is also very neat.
The same goes for the transition from the welt to the heel; it's very neat. The heel block is cut quite close to the upper, giving the whole back of the shoe a more refined look.
The heels are secured by 14 brass nails and feature the "gentleman's notch." The heel stack is of course made of real leather throughout and is polished up quite nicely.
One thing that is not immediately obvious is that the soles towards the toe area are slightly more squared off than the shape of the last. This gives the illusion that the whole toe area is squarer, which is something that Cleverley is known for.
One note on the soles is that I find the toe area to wear out more rapidly than the rest of the sole, which mainly comes down to the length of the last as discussed above (and of course the fact that I walk a lot in London). I might install some metal toe tips in the future, which Cleverley can do for GBP30 (around USD40) with a lead time of three days. Once the soles are worn through, Cleverley can do a full resole for GBP175 (around USD230) with a lead time of two to three weeks.
D. How it Fits in One’s Wardrobe
The shoes are very versatile. While I mostly wear them with odd trousers (as below), they also work great with dark suits, such as navy and charcoal, given the dark colour. I even wear them with dark denim and button down oxford shirt to smarten the whole outfit. Even though the colour (dark brown) and model (oxford) are quire formal, the texture and broguing in the upper brings the formality down a notch, hence why I also wear them with denim. As with any brown shoes, they won't work with black suits.
The buying experience was one of the best I have experienced in any shoe shop. The shop is a charming little place at the Royal Arcade. The bespoke workshop is right on top of the shop and you can hear the craftsmen work on the bespoke shoes from below.
I was welcomed in after ringing the bell and was greeted by very friendly and knowledgable staff. The staff that assisted me went down to the basement at least five times to fetch different models and sizes for me to try on, every time with a smile as she handed me the shoes. And while I was there, I met the owners themselves, George Glasgow Sr. and Jr. They were very friendly and made sure I was really taken care of. George Glasgow Jr. and I got to talking, which was how he ultimately invited me to their event with IWC Schaffhausen and The Rake (coverage of the event on the blog), which was a huge honour for me.
After purchasing the shoes, I also contacted Cleverley via email to enquire about the shoes and Cleverley in general (for this review). The email was replied well within a few hours and, to my surprise, was replied by George Glasgow Jr. himself.
In all, I could really feel that Cleverley as a company really cares about their customers, whether you buy their ready-to-wear line or bespoke. If you are ever in London you should definitely stop by their shop. Even if you don't end up buying anything, just being there and looking at the shoes and conversing with the people there is an experience very much worth having.
III. Price and Closing
The shoes retail at GBP525 (around USD680). I bought them during their year-end sale and paid GBP325 (around USD425). Some ready-to-wear models go down to GBP295 (around USD385). I fully accept that this is quite a sum of money for shoes. But the price is quite reasonable if you consider the level of finishing and attention to detail and compare the price against other English shoemakers of this calibre (e.g., Crockett & Jones Handgrade, Edward Green, John Lobb). Of course at this price point the law of diminishing returns kicks in, so a shoe costing twice as much is no longer twice as good.
In conclusion, the shoes are very special indeed. They're special to me not only because of the milestone I hit with it, but also because of the quality. And on top of getting a very special pair of shoes, I also had the pleasure of starting a good relationship with Cleverley, which hopefully translates to even more Cleverley shoes in my collection and drinks at the Royal Arcade.
Written by: Nikki Krisadtyo