The Northampton-based shoemaker Tricker’s has forever been a firm-favourite with us at Mason & Sons as its Bourton brogue and Stow boot are two of the most iconic men’s shoes ever designed. Adding to that, it’s also a family-run business, with the fifth generation currently at the helm, and has been the proud owner of a Royal Warrant since 1986. It is without a doubt a gem of a British company.
In 1904, Tricker's moved into this factory building in Northampton and it's still there today.
Last year, Tricker’s celebrated 190 years of business which is an astonishing accomplishment. It’s even more impressive, though, when you take into consideration that in the process it’s survived two world wars, the threat of globalisation and allure of overseas manufacturing, the emergence of the digital age and a devastating pandemic, all the while the quality of products and distinct identity of its offering has not changed one bit.
A lovely archive photograph kindly supplied by Tricker's showing the enjoyment and pride its staff take in making quality-made shoes.
Northampton has a long-standing history in producing men’s leather shoes that dates back to 1524. It was around then when tanning and leatherwork became the main forms of trade thanks to a charter introduced in the latter stages of Elizabeth I’s reign that encouraged fresh fairs of cattle trading. The region prospered quickly and there was even a saying back then that went: “You know when you are in a mile of Northampton by the smell of the leather and the noise of the lapstones.”
A former employee inspecting a pair of Tricker's that have come in for repair. Date sadly unknown.
The industry benefited hugely from easy access to oak and water via the River Nene. But, it was in 1642 when an entrepreneurial gentleman by the name of Thomas Pendleton changed the course of the town’s history forever. He won a contract from Parliament to produce 600 pairs of boots and 4,000 pairs of shoes for soldiers heading to Ireland to extinguish the Catholic uprising. Practically overnight, the town became the go-to for producing military boots and shoes, and this was the case up until the second world war.
Classic old-school advertising. If only men's shoes cost as little today as they did then!
In its remarkable history, there have been over 1,800 different shoemakers in the town. Today there are maybe a dozen notable makers left, and each one is known for one signature style of shoe. In regards to Tricker’s, though, “it’s rightly known as the perfecter of the English country boot, which is a classic and specific style characterised by a heavy build, strong welts, and intricate brogueing detail,” states Martin Mason, the heritage brand’s Managing Director.
The Bourton is Tricker's best-selling model that was introduced in 1937. It has remained unchanged ever since.
The company was founded in 1829 by Joseph Trickers and throughout the rest of the 19th century it was producing footwear for landed gentry and military officers. It wasn’t until 1904, when the company moved into its current factory, that it made significant strides in establishing itself a key player in the footwear industry.
A small portion of leather room within Tricker's factory, where it stores a wide-range of premium skins sourced from Europe's leading tanneries.
Tricker’s is best-known for two models, these being the Bourton shoe and the Stow boot and both these models have defining brogueing details all over the uppers which makes them instantly recognisable. This design trait dates back to “the turn of the 19th Century, when brogue perforations were being used by Irish and Scottish farmers who found themselves constantly needing to take off their boots and drain them of water. The name originates from the Gallic word, ‘brog’,” Mason adds.
Templates for all of the individual parts of the uppers before being used to inform the clickers.
The complete production of these two iconic models takes place within the four walls of the factory in Northampton, and they each undergo over 260 individual steps over the course of eight weeks.
The clicking room at Tricker's, where a small team of experienced craftspeople click out all of the individual parts of the uppers.
The process starts in the ‘clicking room’, which is where a small team of veteran leather experts survey a range of premium European leather skins looking for minuscule imperfections. They then work the best areas and cut (click) each individual part of the upper using a bespoke knife to them.
The closed uppers ready for lasting.
Each individual part then enters the ‘closing room’, which is mainly occupied by women with nimble hands and fingers to handle tricky ancient machinery. This is where all of the brogueing and other aesthetic details are performed before finally each individual part of the upper are sewn together with the linings.
Tricker's use machinery that requires a great deal of experience to handle. Here is the lasting machine, where the uppers are stretched onto the last.
Once the uppers have been sewn together, they’re stretched and pulled over the yellow last. It's at this stage when the shoe starts to take form. They usually rest upon the last for several days to ensure the correct shape and fit.
The inner rib is attached to the sole. This is a crucial step that allows your shoes to be repaired again and again.
Whilst the uppers are resting, the soles are then made. To attach the sole to the upper, a small rib is attached to the insole of the shoe. This then allows the welt to be attached which joins it to the upper. This is a key process as it allows your shoes to be repaired again and again once they’ve worn through. Then, the sole is built up with a filling of cork and the specific type of sole, be it rubber or leather. It’s then trimmed to size, the heel is attached before the entire shoe is polished, burnished and finished by hand using a range of different oils and waxes.
Hand-finishing before boxing and shipping, gives your shoes a unique personality that will only get better in time.
As the saying goes ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, this is easily applied to the Bourton brogue and Stow boot. These two iconic style have remained unchanged since their creation 1937 when the company introduced two lasts to celebrate the coronation of King George VI.
David and Elliot wearing their Bourton shoes with Scott Nichol socks and denim jeans.
The first last was the 4444, which is what Bourton brogue was first moulded on. “The Bourton’s relaxed countryside heritage can be seen in its rounded toe and wholesome feel. It is a comfortable, open-laced men's shoe in a classic short wing style with a very recognisable heavy brogue detail,” explains Mason. With a generous fit, warm winter socks are the perfect companion to wear with the Bourton. The second last produced by Tricker’s for the special occasion was the 4497s, which is what the Stow boot is shaped on. Both models have what’s called a Storm welt for better performance in incremental weather. The welt “comes up the side of the upper which gives superior water resistance than the flat, Goodyear welt and in turn gives it an aesthetically chunkier look,” explains Mason.
The Stow boot in black calf is a timeless and classic field boot.
While both the Bourton and Stow are classified as being chunky shoes, that doesn’t detract from their classical status one bit. “They go with everything,” says Mason. “From suits to jeans, you can now wear them to the office, or to a wedding, and of course in the country.” As you can see, David and Elliot have both paired their Tricker’s with denim, but you can easily see them worn with flannels or cords and now with winter now in full effect, they’re arguably the ultimate models of shoe to combat unruly weather.
Tricker's shoes and fish and chips on the south coast – you can't get more British than that.
“I believe that when you choose Tricker’s, you never have to choose between practicality, durability and style,” Mason leaves on. This is justifiably true, Tricker’s shoes, and specifically the Bourton and Stow, are sound investments for the future and even the next generation. From a style point of view, they’ve been fashionable for almost 100 years and we struggle to think of other articles of clothing, footwear and accessories, that also have that timeless alchemy of make.
Explore the Tricker's offering, here.