Perfect Miniatures

100 year old samples

100 year old samples

Here are a pair of Foster shoes and Maxwell boots that show our craft at its finest. We don’t know for sure how old they are but, if pushed, would guess that they date from between 1910 and 1920.

The welt stitching has been done at 14 stitches to the inch. The closing is beautiful, the gimping is lovely and the sole work is exceptional. They are, in every sense, a match for our current bespoke work.

The catch is that they are travelling models! Perfect miniatures made to be taken around the country and on foreign trips to all corners of the world.

Small but perfectly formed

Small but perfectly formed

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Welcome to Foster & Son/Henry Maxwell

Some Foster and Son bespoke shoes
Some Foster and Son bespoke shoes

We are the oldest bespoke shoemaker in London; WS Foster & Son was founded in 1840, Henry Maxwell in 1750, and are known as “the shoemaker’s shoemaker” because of the quality of our work. All our bespoke shoes are made in our workshop at 83 Jermyn Street by our team of highly skilled craftspeople.

The firm is still in private English ownership and maintains its mission to sustain the highest standards of craftsmanship and personal service.

During the Second World War in 1941 Mr. Foster was killed by a bomb at Waterloo station, but coincidentally another shoemaker, Charles Chester, lost his premises in a direct hit from another bomb. Their leather merchant put them together and he moved in with Mrs. Foster at her 5 Eagle Place workshop, between Piccadilly and Jermyn Street. The firm soon moved to 5 Duke of York Street St. James’s and then to 83 Jermyn Street in 1966.

In 1965, our celebrated last maker Terry Moore, already a 15 year veteran in the trade, joined Foster & Son and helped to further refine our elegant designs and superb fit into the classic shapes we still make today.

By 1999 Foster & Son had been joined with Barrow and Hepburn Ltd. another well-known luxury leather goods maker and by Henry Maxwell the famous boot and shoe-makers as a sister company.

Today 83 Jermyn Street still has the feel of a family-owned business. We hope that here you will find the same welcoming environment and low-key, courteous and professional service that our discerning clients have come to expect over the generations.

In this blog we will tell you all about our bespoke shoe making process, talk to our shoemakers, show you lots of pictures of our shoes and explain why we believe that, in terms of refined elegance, Foster and Son make the most recognisably “English” shoes in the world.

That’s not to say that other makers aren’t very good. In fact English shoemaking is enjoying something of a renaissance, with more and more men appreciating the values of timeless footwear.

It’s just that a Foster and Son shoe is both instantly recognisable and quintessentially English.

The Foster & Son workshop at 83 Jermyn Street is a hive of activity. Our shoemakers make all of our bespoke shoes there in a way that hasn’t significantly changed since Foster & Son and Henry Maxwell were formed in 1840 and 1750 respectively. Indeed, it is only by remaining true to the traditions of over 430 years of bespoke shoe and bootmaking that we can do justice to those who preceeded us.

A visit to the shop will reveal lasts (the shoes are presumably still with the families of their owners) made for, amongst others, Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire and Cary Grant. Going back a little further we made hunting boots for Siegfried Sassoon, the First World War poet. He memorably described his visit to Henry Maxwell in his books the ‘Complete Memoirs of George Sherston’. We will write more about that soon.

(on a side-note, please read all three volumes of the memoirs. They are amongst the most beautiful and evocative works in English literature)

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The Shoe Shops of Jermyn Street

Jermyn Street is a globally important centre for men’s shoe shopping. If we include Prince’s Arcade and Piccadilly Arcade then we have 15 of the world’s best men’s shoe shops within a hundred and fifty yards of each other.

We’ve been out and about taking photographs of the shopfronts and present them here.

Shoe shops of Jermyn Street

Trickers

Shoe shops of Jermyn Street

JM Weston

Shoe shops of Jermyn Street

Crockett and Jones

Shoe shops of Jermyn Street

New and Lingwood

Shoe shops of Jermyn Street

Church’s

Shoe shops of Jermyn Street

Edward Green

Shoe shops of Jermyn Street

Cheaney

Shoe shops of Jermyn Street

Loake

Shoe shops of Jermyn Street

Barker

Shoe shops of Jermyn Street

John Lobb

and of course, our very own…

Foster & Son

Foster & Son

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Foster & Son – Emma Lakin

Emma Lakin:

What is your background and what brought you to Fosters?

I studied Textile & Fashion Design at Brighton University 12 years ago during which I did a placement in a shoemaker’s workshop. This helped me to realise that the making and practical side of things was what I enjoyed the most. I also enjoyed being in a workshop rather than a design studio. I then worked for 2 years with an orthopaedic shoemaker specifically making inserts for the shoes. It was after that I joined Fosters.

What is your role at Fosters?

I am the Pattern Cutter and Clicker for the bespoke team. I am also learning the shoe making part of the process slowly but surely!

Emma's bench in the Foster's workshop

Emma’s bench in the Foster’s workshop

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I am always in awe of the many varied (and very difficult to achieve) levels of skill involved in making a pair of shoes. I enjoy seeing particularly beautiful pairs of shoes and dreaming of one day being able to make them! It is not necessarily the shoes themselves but the ‘eye’ involved in the making process. I also particularly enjoy Lucy’s jokes.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Sometimes I have to cut difficult patterns which can be quite tough. Also trying to achieve the exact shoe the customer envisions when there are such a variety of processes and people involved with the making, things can often become ‘lost in translation’. Often trying to keep on top of the customers admin and paperwork can be quite time consuming too.

Finally, what is your favourite Foster’s shoe?

That depends! I don’t have an absolute favourite, for sheer genius, one of them would have to be Emiko’s white buckskin and burgundy calf correspondent.

An example of Emiko's work on display

An example of Emiko’s work on display

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Foster & Son – Gerry Holtz

Gerry Holtz:

What is your background and what brought you to Fosters?

I have spent the last 20 years working in retail including running my own business to working at Suit You – Moss Bros and Savoy Tailors Guild in their Senior Management. In 2008 I left STG in search of a new challenge. So I took on a role at Foster & Son. I am pleased to say whilst working with our Chairman, Richard Edgecliffe-Johnson we have achieved lots, but there is still much to accomplish to reach our full potential as a business. There is hopefully more to come in the future.

What is your role at Fosters?

I am the Managing Director of the business.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

We have lots of loyal customers to work with and the team and I try to deliver our best customer service on a constant basis. All of us at Fosters enjoy what we do, with a great atmosphere and camaraderie amongst the team.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Ensuring Foster & Son incorporating Henry Maxwell keep on track and strive to achieve our market share of customers.

Finally, what is your favourite shoe?

The new Keble Apron Derby on the new Foster & Son last- 13029.

The new Keble Derby

The new Keble Derby

A side view of the Keble on the new 13029. last

A side view of the Keble on the new 13029. last

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Foster & Son – Lucy Smith

Lucy Smith:

What is your background and what brought you to Fosters?

I graduated from Corwainers College in 2012 with the aim to finding a job where I would be working creatively with my hands.  I then took on a shoe closers job with Fosters. I had done closing before, but only womenswear which is very different in terms of the material construction. I came to Fosters and learnt to close bespoke footwear and I have been here now for 13 months.

What is your role at Fosters?

I close the uppers before they are given to the shoemaker for the next process of the bespoke manufacturing.

Lucy’s bench in the Foster’s workshop

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

The most enjoyable part of my job is working alongside the guys in the workshop. I learn so much from them on a daily basis. We work well as a team and help each other figure out problems when they arise as well as feeding ideas off each other in the process.

What is the most challenging aspect about your job?

Taking on a new pattern that I haven’t come across before is always difficult but that said, it does help me to develop new techniques for the future. On occasion the nature of punching brogue holes into the leather means things can become tiring and you can develop a bit of aches and pains.

Finally, what is your favourite Foster’s shoe?

My favourite in the bespoke collection is undoubtedly the Thomas Brogue; it’s a lovely well crafted shoe with a slender appearance.

The Thomas Brogue on the Bespoke collection.

The Thomas Brogue from the Bespoke collection

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Foster & Son – Richard Quelch

Richard Quelch:

What is your background and what brought you to Fosters?

I started my shoe adventure around 5 years ago with Crockett & Jones where I learnt a lot about the Northampton footwear industry and the shoe world in general. A few months ago a position opened up at Foster & Son and I decided to move down the road to work for the Sales Department there. This has enabled me to meet new customers and understand more about the leather goods industry.

What is your role at Fosters?

My role at Fosters is assisting in the management of the front of house. In short I keep the shop floor looking great, keep the stock room in good order whilst driving sales and building a good relationship with Foster’s customers.

The Foster & Son, Henry Maxwell shop floor

The Foster & Son, Henry Maxwell shop floor

What is the most enjoyable part of your job?

I love the atmosphere here at Fosters, it’s fantastic! It’s fair to say we work hard as a team and as a small business everyone has to chip in when required but we have a good time in the process.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is keeping all our customers happy and ensuring that they return. This involves constant effort to make sure the ‘3P’s’ of People, Presentation, Product are being looked at.

Finally, what is your favourite shoe?

I don’t have a favourite shoe in particular; however like George my favourite last is the 337. It is a really lovely shape and makes most men’s feet look elegant! I personally have what would be considered a very wide foot, however the last works very well once worn in.

A selection of black Oxfords on our 337. last

A selection of black Oxfords on our 337. last

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