“007 might be a man on a mission but he also has immaculate taste,” says Jonathan Jones, Managing Director of luxury shoemakers Crockett & Jones. We are sat in Jones’ office, directly above the main production line within their factory chatting about how this venerated English cobbler came to be Bond’s shoemaker of choice.
The Northampton-based family run firm (whose owners still oversee everything that happens on the factory floor) was founded in 1879 and have been crafting shoes for 142 years in the heart of England’s most famous shoemaking town. The family’s knowledge and wealth of experience makes their shoes almost unique; they’ve manufactured boots and shoes for the Shackleton Endurance Expedition, the British Army during World War I and II and even hold a current Royal Warrant to supply footwear to HRH The Prince of Wales. “The way we make our shoes, we don’t make any concessions,” says Jones. “The company is over 140 years-old so we evolve and update processes but we only do so if it is to maintain or improve the standards. We want to give the best quality in every aspect within our shoes.”
A further chapter of their storied lineage came in 2012 when Daniel Craig wanted to use their classic and elegant styles in his portrayal of 007 in Skyfall. “Fans of the James Bond films may already know of the other shoes we have created,” explains Jones. “Our Highbury also appears in Skyfall and Spectre.” The Highbury is a plain black, derby shoe with an elegant chisel toe which Bond has sported throughout Daniel Craig’s tenure. Their Molton Chukka Boot was introduced for No Time To Die.
Almost ten years on from their first successful pairing, this most quintessentially British of brands is set to release a new 007 related shoe their first 007 limited edition ‘James’ to celebrate the launch of No Time To Die. For each pair of their shoes there are over 200 steps across seven stages of production, performed by the staff of around 300 workers across the entire factory. ‘James’ is made from the finest selection of materials, hand polished and sustainable. Each shoe is hand cut and crafted from one piece of leather and attention to detail is uncompromisingly high. We see this across the production line on our visit where almost imperceivable defects (to us, at least) results in shoes being rejected during the selection process. There are quality control checks on each of the seven stages of production, meaning the shoe has been examined at least two dozen times to ensure only the highest grade shoe makes its way into the hands of the customers. There are fantastic shoes everywhere you turn at Crockett & Jones’s HQ but ‘James’ stands out even here. “Given the techniques involved,” says Jones, “they are a bit special.”
The factory’s craftsmen, who have continued to produce fine footwear throughout the global pandemic, are obviously thrilled to be kitting out 007. “There was a lot of excitement in the first instance here at the factory when our staff found out,” Jones explains. “Nick, my brother, runs the factory so he ensures that everyone knows what is required to make things look brilliant and when their work will be on screen with 007.”
Opening the special (and locally produced) box that houses ‘James’ you’ll find a shoe horn, polish and a 007 logo embossed shoe brush – all packed away like the most delicate of Christmas presents alongside a message from Jonathan Jones himself, noting the extensive eight week process of creating this footwear. “This is a limited production because of the details and processes involved. We have also included a unique shoe tree for ‘James’, made by a company nearby who make our lasts (a last is the mold of a foot upon which a shoe is constructed and is the starting point of every shoe design) so that it fits the shoe’s exact model of the last and has bespoke 007 branding. We grouped our local suppliers together in our process which has been nice and keeps everything British.”
While production takes place in England, Jones is keenly aware of the appeal of Crockett & Jones footwear to Bond fans across the globe. “It has been fascinating how much interest there has been around the whole of the world for our James Bond products,” he says, smiling. “The response has been very strong and isn’t just within the UK, it is around the world. It is a nice association because James Bond is quintessentially British and we like to think of ourselves as authentically British and it is very nice that people see the link now between our shoes and James Bond everywhere. We look forward to fans enjoying Crockett & Jones and the release of No Time To Die.”
You can buy ‘James’ now via Crockett & Jones.