Store managers see some funny things. For every customer that has saved up for six months to afford his first pair of luxury shoes, there is one that orders three more pairs of the black oxfords he already owns. The first will take half an hour of advice and reassurance. The second wants to be in and out in 10 minutes.
It is fair to say that the second group is also more likely to know less about their shoes, particularly as regards maintenance. Andreas Kuschel, store manager of John Lobb (Paris) on London’s Jermyn Street, has seen quite a few odd requests along these lines. But the best was probably the gentleman that brought in a pair of suede Lobbs that he had tried to polish. He looked bemused. Why wouldn’t you try and polish suede?
Kuschel deals with oily stains that customers get on their shoes all the time – salad dressing, ink, even oil itself. But this was something different. “I took them down to the repairs department and told them to try everything they could,” he says. “There was nothing to lose really, so they could really experiment.”
Eventually, the boffins found a solution. An oil-based eraser, much like the lighter one used to rub away scuffs or stains on Nubuck, was found to do the job. “I was amazed, they were pretty much as good as new,” says Kuschel.
Another discovery I made during a recent conversation with Andreas was that Lobb will insert tongue pads into your shoes for a charge of £30. As regular readers will be aware, I have a particular problem with shoes becoming too big over time as the leather stretches, as my low instep means that after a year or so the shoes completely lace-up and lose grip. Given that Lobb uses “one the best upper-repairers in the country” to unstitch the tongue, insert a pad and sew it back up again – so the addition is almost invisible – I think £30 is pretty good. It’s a much better solution than an insole.
In other Lobb-related developments, the company has just launched its new overshoes or galoshes, referred to as the Balmoral (traditionally a shoe that has that same long, horizontal stitch down the side of the shoe). Although many shops sell overshoes, and similar ones to these were previously available from Swims (which made the Lobb designs), this model is designed to particularly fit the Lobb lasts and comes in an attractive Lobb yellow.