Ultimate Cars, Watches & Hi Fi S02 ep11 : John Lobb , Lobb Shoes, [???]
Interview with John Lobb
The current Lobb premises at number 9 is on the very spot once occupied by Lord Byron's bachelor establishment. The firm today proudly Lastmaker holds three Royal Warrants to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. These have always been a recognition of personal service of a high order. For more information see The Royal Warrant Holders Association website at www.royalwarrant.org
Lobb: This shoe is made by hand to measure. Bespoke. I'm always asked what is so special about it
compared to a ready made shoe it's different as chalk and cheese. If you can't get shoes that fit you
properly if they are made by hand to measure, chances are they will.
Lobb: My great grandfather was an ambitious Cornishman, he would have been a farmer but he
fell off a donkey, hurt himself and was crippled in fact and so he was apprenticed to the local boot-
maker, down in Cornwall. In those days every little village had it's local cobbler or shoemaker.
Lobb: And he learnt the craft and obviously was very good at it and he was also ambitious, so he
took his walking stick and walked to London and in those days it was, most people went by boat if
they came from Cornwall to London. He had to struggle through the rough lands and avoid the
highwaymen and everything else and come to London to try and find a job. And we were told he
came to this part of London maybe, walked into one of the best boot-makers at the time and in
those days there were masses of boot makers in London and he went in to try and get a job and the
owner took one look at this country bumpkin and kicked him out, so he shook his fists at him and
said I will come back and knock you for six.
Lobb: He then as a matter of fact went to Australia. He followed his brother because it was the
time of the gold rush in Australia and he went first apparently to the gold mines and rather than
look for gold he found it more profitable to make boots for the miners which he did and then he
found his way to Sydney and opened up a shop in Sydney and successfully made boots and shoes
for no doubt miners and everybody else who could afford it and even married the Harbour Master's
daughter which seemed to be a good move at that time and after a few years of course he hankered
to come back to England.
Lobb: One of the first things he was able to do, and we're not quite sure how, it seemed to be a foot
print, he made the Prince of Wales a pair of boots and the Prince of Wales was pleased with them
and granted him the Royal Warrant. So this he had an enormous great Royal Warrant put over the
top of his shop.
Lobb: He was a very strict Victorian kind of boss running his shop but at the same time he was
very ambitious and this is shown by the numerous medals that he won in the next twenty or thirty
years while he was successfully running this shop. Now obviously he must have been a craftsman,
most Lobbs in the, down through our generations have actually been fairly practical with their
hands and actually worked at the business, so he must have stuck to his last.
Lobb: The West End of London of course at this time was refining itself to produce beautiful
shoes, beautiful clothes, you had a few people who were Dons and they would be employed, if you
wanted to win a competition, they will be employed perhaps for three weeks to make one pair of
shoes whereas they would normally make three pairs in a week. They would put that extra bit of
time, long time to produce something that was absolutely immaculate. And there were not many of
them but there were a few and even today we have some who would compare very favourably with
the Dons of old.
Lobb: When I first was coming near to joining the firm, they had a celebration for three members
of the firm who had been with them for 60 years. I went through this procedure that most Lobbs
have done which is to be, spend time with the craftsmen so I spent three months with a closure.
What's a closure?
Lobb: Who makes the uppers, … top part of the shoe and then I later on spent six months with a
maker who puts the soles on. I became involved with customers and seeing them.
Did you actually make shoes yourself?
Lobb: Oh, yes.
Lobb: Fortunately and that's why we are carrying on is because there are people who want to do
the work. If there weren't we would simply have to stop and think again but there are people who
actually like working with their hands, cutting leather, shaping it and at the end of the day
producing something that they have made with their hands and which they're proud of.
Lobb: I have got two sons working with me and they really take a very keen interest in the craft
side of the work. They're both working and making lasts and working with leather and doing that
kind of work which is what I have done most of my life.
Lobb: I have been brought up with a certain pride in this business and keeping it in a sort of state
of almost an acronism you know the way it was done a hundred thousand years ago, without
changing things at all but I am personally I'm not wedded to that.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: John Lobb, Lobb Shoes, ???