Tim Little knows shoes. Leather uppers and rubber soles, blue suede boots and brogues, lasts and laces… As owner and head designer of Grenson, he has mastered modern footwear and then some. Back in the 1990s Tim was working in advertising, and made the transition to shoemaking slowly, going back and forth to Northamptonshire (home of Loake, Church’s and all that matters in British shoemaking) over a period of two years with individual designs until he had enough for the eight-piece collection with which he launched his own brand, Tim Little, in 1997. His aim was ‘English shoes without the cobwebs’ – modern footwear that united the best craftsmen with up-to-date design.
As well making shoes in the traditional way, Tim knows the tricks to keeping them sweet, so we asked him for his three top tips on brogue maintenance.
Tree of life
‘When leather gets damp or moist it shrinks as it dries, the stitching will tighten up and the sole will be effected. The different parts of the shoe will also dry at different rates but if you put in a shoe tree it will make sure that the shoe retains its proper shape.’ Absorbent trees of unvarnished are better than the highly polished kind and it’s important to do this all the time and not just after a downpour. ‘A big man in the summer loses up to two litres of water through his feet in a day, all the sweat runs off the body and into the shoe.’
Spit and Polish
If you really want to protect your shoes you should do them at least once a week. First run over the shoe (with its tree in it) with a damp cloth and then let them dry naturally at room temperature (never by a radiator or a fire). When they’re completely dry apply a good polish (with a brush – it gets in to the pores better), and then leave it overnight (if you brush straight off only 10 per cent will be absorbed). In the morning polish it off with a brush or a cloth and your shoe is ready.
Round the Horn
The heel of the shoe contains a leather stiffner – it forms the shape of the shoe. If you keep pushing it down with your foot the back of the shoe gets floppy. Using a shoe horn preserves the stiffner and keeps the shoes shape.