Near perfect
Lasting Impressions: Crockett & Jones
By Charlie Thomas
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Crockett & Jones has the kind of heritage most brands can only dream of. But until relatively recently you’d only know that through word of mouth, or if you happened to stumble across one of its stores. The brand, one of England’s oldest and most prestigious shoemakers, avoided the internet for as long as it could, reluctantly joining Instagram and only starting to sell shoes online two years ago.

Hundreds of thousands of followers later, and with retail profits doubled thanks to its e-commerce platform, the firm likely wonders why it didn’t digitise sooner. Much of this success can be attributed to James Fox, brand director and head of marketing, who has managed the near-impossible task of modernising Crockett & Jones, while ensuring it stays true to the past. We sat down with Fox at the company’s Edwardian redbrick factory in Northampton to discuss his approach, what it’s like being part of the Jones family and why there’ll always be a market for Goodyear Welted shoes.

Ive worked at the company for 13 years now. As a family business job titles aren’t hugely important to us, but if I was to work for another brand, I’d be classed as a brand director. Really, I started the marketing department at Crockett & Jones – it’s just not something we had a decade ago. And I now look after and manage all of our e-commerce as well as advertising, PR, promotion, brand protection and so on.

Most of our marketing over the years really has been word of mouth. So to say that the success of recent times is on my shoulders isn’t really the case. We have this amazing product, this incredible brand, and also – my number one selling tool – our factory. We had all of this at our fingertips and we weren’t really talking about it. So, when I first joined the company that was kind of what I was interested in; it was really passing that message on to our customers and giving them an insight into what Crockett & Jones is beyond our retail stores in London.

We are a heritage English manufacturer, first and foremost. We’ve been the producer of fine English shoes since 1879. Today, I believe that means something slightly different to what it did in my father-in-law’s early days. We aren’t just the producer of formal Oxfords and Penny Loafers anymore and we appeal to a far wider audience. But we don’t forget our roots. That’s why you can still buy a number of products from Crockett & Jones that you could before I was born, which is extremely rare in today’s throwaway society. It’s something we hold on to really tightly.

When I first joined the company, we were still very, very traditional. We very much shunned the internet, for example. The world has been a fast changing environment over the last five years and now we’re out of the period where you only come to us for a business shoe. Today our product mix is anything above a trainer or a sports shoe. We have no interest in producing trainers.

The goal is ultimately to remain family owned and to continue producing shoes in the UK, as well as to pass the company down to the next generations. I have young children. My brother-in-law has young children and their cousin has young children, and we’re all involved in the business. One day we hope our children will be involved too, although I keep telling my six year old she’ll make more money as a corporate lawyer…

We believe there will always be longevity in the type of footwear we produce. A few years ago, people thought that if you’re a traditional shoe manufacturer, you’ll be out of business, but we’ve proven that’s not the case. I think there’ll always be an appetite for even the most traditional of our shoes.

When I first started at Crockett Jones, we had almost no presence online. We already had a great product but in utilising social media and developing our website, we’ve been able to take it to that next level. I started our Instagram account, and today we’ve got 340,000 followers. None of it’s paid for. Our e-commerce platform online has doubled our retail profit. I think that shows the interest that so many of our consumers have in our product.

All family businesses have their challenges. Sometimes the business can be resistant to change. But you only need to look at the success of the company since my father-in-law has been in charge. Often businesses that are not family owned, they are dictated to by shareholders or profit driven CEOs. We don’t have that pressure. If we like a shoe and we want to produce it, we’ll produce it. It might be a flop and we’ve had plenty of products that have flopped over the years, but we’ve had way more successes.

The 007 connection was purely organic. It dates back more than 10 years with Daniel Craig being a customer of Crockett & Jones. It came about essentially because he wanted to wear our shoes in the film. For the first two films, there was no written agreement to be involved or anything like that. It was just organic. But then with No Time To Die, we became an official partner and everybody is unbelievably proud of that. We hope that that can continue now Mr. Craig’s not part of the franchise and we’ve certainly enjoyed working with the Broccoli family.

Were continuing to slowly expand our collection. We’ve got another leather coming in that’s similar to our rough out suede, which in his early days Jonathan helped develop with Ralph Lauren. It’s a smooth hide. But without question, it’s a casual leather. That’s where we’re going as a company, but we’re not taking our eye off our classics. Our Oxfords, penny loafers, tassel loafers, they’ll be in the collection until I die. And that’s really important. When you look at the collection, I certainly think there’s not too many shoemakers you need outside of Crockett & Jones.


Explore Crockett & Jones’s collection at


Photography by Tom Bunning

Video by Matthieu Livingston

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