As a functioning member of society you probably don’t spend your time thinking about the shape of a shoe’s last. You might go about your day happily unconcerned with the platonic ideal of the toe of a brogue. There are some among us, however, who not only obsess over such matters, but even have favourite last shapes. We’re devoted to the divine proportions that have been handed down from above, like the greatest gin martini ever stirred (yes: stirred).
Even as a teenager I was highly sensitive to what I perceived to be the correctness of the shape of a shoe. In the simplest terms, I didn’t like them too narrow, pointy or boxy. And I still don’t because that would be…well, incorrect. As I grew older I remember discovering that I had a specific favourite last, it was the basis of Crockett & Jones’s Chelsea 5 boot (last 335).
I bought a pair in London and then a few years later I was thrilled to see them again in New York, so I bought another pair (I still have them both). I thought I was lucky that they were still in production and only later realised that this sense of continuity is no accident. It’s the principle, followed far too rarely, that when something is good don’t meddle with it. That boot in the same shape is still available and still looks great today. Long live last 335!
Now, I’m open-minded (up to a point) and over the years I’ve admitted other lasts into my personal pantheon. Crockett & Jones has many good lasts, I don’t know who came up with them, and honestly I don’t need to know any more than I need to know who invented beer, but I know a good one when I sip it. Today my collection includes the Pembroke in Tan Scotch Grain (last 325) a wider, more gently sloping toe, which I think of as the perfect country shoe, worn in the elements on a weekend walk with corduroys. I’m also the proud owner of the Westfield in Tobacco Suede (last 341). It’s thin – not too thin – and wants to be worn with a narrow grey flannel trouser.
I’m always curious about what makes something look right, the delicate balance of reassurance and artfulness. Ultimately, we don’t have to know why it works, just that it does. We can put our trust in a good, timeless last that puts the best proportions first.
Then, we can focus on how much vermouth belongs in the perfect martini.