We were recently invited down to Northampton for a tour round the historic Tricker’s shoe factory to see how these British Heritage shoes are made and to learn a little more about what makes this brand so unique.
The brand was founded in 1829 by Joseph Tricker and has been family owned ever since, spanning 5 generations. This is one of the unique things about the business, that it hasn’t changed hands or been sold off meaning that the ethos and philosophy of the brand has remained intact throughout the past 190 years. The current factory was opened in 1904 and currently they have 90 skilled shoemakers creating the collections, with each pair of shoes taking around 8 weeks to make.
In 1989, Tricker’s were awarded a Royal Warrant to The Prince of Wales and have been creating bespoke shoes for him ever since. As a brand they have a thriving bespoke business with the likes of David Beckham, Daniel Craig and more getting brilliantly hand crafted shoes. The bespoke moulds are kept for returning customers, meaning that they are able to create the shoes without hesitation, therefore offering the best possible service. Naturally the bespoke side of the business has a somewhat slower time-frame as the shoes are crafted and finished by hand.
The idea behind a pair of Tricker’s is that they are a shoe or boot that will be around for a lifetime and you are able to return the shoes for repairs or adjustments with a 10 day turn around.
As I alluded to before, the time process for each pair of shoes is around 8 weeks, this is due to the hand crafting of each pair using techniques that haven’t changed in decades. Every pair of shoes is hand crafted, with the help of some pretty spectacular machines, following the same process for each pair. The factory churns out around 1200 pairs each week, with orders of seasonal products made to order.
The start of the process is to select the leather, whilst this may sound fairly straight forward we quickly found out that was not the case. Each hide will be suited to a specific shoe or boot, with some more malleable or hard wearing than others. Tricker’s are also very conscious of ethically farmed leather and with some of their shoes you can track and trace where the leather came from, another thing that makes the brand unique.
Once the leather is allocated to a style it is then passed on to the factory for the ‘clicking’ process. The ‘clicking’ process is where the leather is cut and fashioned into the various pieces that create the upper. This is a process that takes years to gain the experience of how best to cut and even longer to master.
Something that is a hallmark of a Tricker’s shoes or boots is the brogue, this pattern is then pressed in to the cuts of leather, as the next part of the process, to give the upper that decorative pattern. Once the leather is pressed with the brogue pattern it is then ‘skivied’, a process of thinning the leather, this is done so that when the upper is closed the individual cuts of leather fit together. The final part of this process is one that doesn’t happen in any other shoe factory, each pair is penned with the size, style name and number by hand. Once the upper is closed it is then hung in a steam room for 1-3 days, this may seem odd but it helps the leather remain supple and avoids any cracks in later processes.
Once the upper is complete you start to see the shape of the shoe unfold and the next process is the ‘lasting’. The individual moulds, know as ‘lasts’ are then used to hold the insole and the upper together, this process is one that requires a real eye for detail as well as the occasional use of brute force to fix it everything together. The purpose of the last is to keep the shoe fixed until the welt is joined to the insole, at which point the shoes’ skeleton is ready for the sole to be added. The welt is stitched to the sole to allow repairs later in life simply by un-stitching the two.
At this point the shoe is really starting to take shape and it is now that the final parts are added before the shoe is past through to the finishing team. The Welting stage where the final part of the composition is done, firstly by adding a wooden wedge to the sole giving the shoe more stability and durability. Once the welts is fully in place the cavity is filled with a layer of cork, this is not only to fill the void but also to offer insulation and comfort. The beauty of using cork is that it moulds to the wearer’s foot overtime so that the shoe become comfier and comfier over time. Once the cork is in it is left to sit for a couple of hours before the sole is added, this is either leather or rubber depending on the shoe. The sole is then rounded off, the process of removing any excess material, then lock-stitched to the welt, left to set fully then the heel is added and you have a shoe!
Once all the different stages of crafting the shoe are complete the shoes and bots are then finished. This is so the shoes, which can look a little rough around the edges, are given their final touches to make them the brilliantly beautiful shoes you expect from Tricker’s. The finishing process is arguably the most important, one slip and you have undone weeks of work, so the team who work on this are highly skilled. Any last bits of trimming are done and edges are buffed out to give a smooth finish. This is all done by hand so requires an immense amount of skill and attention to detail. A polish and wax is then required to the leather upper, removing and imperfections in the material.
Now complete the shoe is handed over to the ‘Shoe Room’, the place where the shoes are inspected and a sock liner is added for that extra comfort. The shoes is then cleaned and polished again, laces are fitted then it is boxed up along with their shoe bags and cloth. The shoes are now ready for shipping, which we have been reliability informed is not done in the same way as it was 90 years ago like most other parts of the process.
The collections that Tricker’s offer are a core range that is the same season on season, some of the lines you are going to find in this collection are the Stow Boot, a classic brogue Derby boot featuring a Dainite sole with studding making them a great all weather boot and the Bourton Shoe, another brogue style and again features the Dainite sole. These are the timeless classics of the Tricker’s collection and form the backbone of their business. These shoes and boots are the only ones that they make and store, safe in the knowledge they will be picked up by one of their stockists.
The seasonal selections often share some similarities with the core collections but are catered more to the seasonal trends. You will tend to dins more seasonal colours, differing materials and patterns. This season there is a range of Chelsea Boots, Loafers and Desert Boots in a variety of colourways.
In a nutshell the whole Tricker’s experience was mind-blowing, the skill of the crafts men and women was incredible and they were more than happy to explain to us what they were doing. We gained an unbelievable insight into the brand and it’s history, making us realise why these are such a standout part of our collection and giving us the understanding that we are lucky to be able to stock this amazing brand.
You can shop our full collection of Tricker’s here.