Sling on your satchels, dust off your elbow patches and prep your preppiest get-ups; because Ivy League style is back in session this semester. From haute couture to the high street, we’ve seen academic influences crop up across modern menswear — with the collegiate aesthetic sewn into blazers, knitwear and shirting alike.
Not to mention shoes. Crockett & Jones’ latest launch has stepped squarely into this fantastic scholastic space; with the British brand’s sporty, plain front Derby shoe, the ‘Cornell’, passing the Ivy League style test with flying, carefully-crafted colours.
But this isn’t the Northampton-based shoemaker’s first venture into the world of preppy style. With over 140 years of craftsmanship under its finely-stitched soles, Crockett & Jones has manufactured footwear for some of the greatest retail brands in the world — helping and humbling many of history’s brightest design minds with top-tier, time-tested techniques. And, chief among those brands is perhaps the preppiest name in menswear; Ralph Lauren.
Back in the late 1970s, among racks and rails of bell-bottom jeans and turtleneck sweaters, Ralph Lauren launched its inimitable ‘Polo for Men’ label. By the next decade, the American institution had opened its first retail store outside the US; choosing to land in London.
And, such was venerable founder Ralph Lauren’s interest in classic English style that the ‘Polo for Men’ sub-brand soon began selling a collection of quintessential loafers, saddle Oxfords and Derby shoes — the latter dubbed ‘Bluchers’ by the American market. And, because Lauren wanted his footwear collection to be the very best, he called on none other than Crockett & Jones to create the shoes — which sold for decades.
So, for the royal-warranted brand’s latest collection, Crockett & Jones is looking back to these preppy shoes for inspiration. Relaunching its own ‘Blucher’, the ‘Cornell’ style makes the Ivy League grade — whilst also learning lessons from those old school Ralph Lauren designs.
Because, back in the early 1980s, when a design meeting took place between Crockett & Jones’ American agents and the Ralph Lauren design team, the British brand was introduced to a key element of the Ivy League look: a brick red sole. This signature, statement element of the design was said to be a non-negotiable part of the ‘Polo for Men’ design — and that put the heritage shoemaker on a learning curve.
But the brand — which has resurrected the same bold red sole for its new ‘Cornell’ design — stepped up. Then-managing director Richard Jones worked closely with the Harboro Rubber Co. to create a firm foundation for the shoes, funding new moulds to do the style justice. And the brand has turned to the same manufacturer for this latest launch, recreating the original soles’ sturdy treads and horizontal grips.
Atop that iconic, Ivy League sole — crafted using the highest quality rubber — sits a shoe as eminent and illustrious as the institution from which it takes its name. A plain front, five-eyelet Derby, the ‘Cornell’ is broad in the toe and features a natural welt. The suede is strong, durable and both water and stain repellent due to the leather’s special tonnage.
Available in three colours (blue ‘Ocean’ suede, verdant ‘Earth Green’ suede and classic ‘Khaki’ suede), the shoes are built on Crockett & Jones’ Last No. 378 — a template that offers plenty of room in the fore-part fitting, but also benefits from increased toe depth and an almost oversized silhouette.
So, if you’ve already added a touch of tartan to your wardrobe, buttoned down your collar and tied a sweater around your shoulders, perhaps it’s also time to lace up a pair of Ivy League shoes? And, with Crockett & Jones’ credentials — partnering with ‘Polo for Men’ and refining those iconic red soles for a new generation — we can think of few better brands to buy from…
Want more from the Great British brand? We ask; is there nothing Crockett & Jones’ new sole can’t do?
Become a Gentleman’s Journal member. Find out more here.