What’s The Weejun Buying on Ebay? Johnston & Murphy Deadstock Saddle Oxfords (Too Small – Now Back on eBay!)

| 18 Mar ’11 | 7 Comments

It’s no use denying it. Saddle shoes are on a comeback, whether it’s nasty fashion versions or the classic tan/white or tan/buck variants. I’ve always had a soft spot for them and for years I’ve kept a pair that I bought from Crockett & Jones factory made for Ralph Lauren Polo about 15 years ago.

J&M Vintage Saddle Shoes Tan / Dirty Buck

They were only £10, presumably because the number of people prepared to pay more for them in the backstreets of Northampton was extremely limited. They are really nice as you would expect from C&J but they are tan leather and bone colour leather. I’d always preferred the tan and dirty buck version as a more wearable daily shoe.

The great Walk-Over made a beautiful version (please don’t confuse them with the ridiculous clown shoes of the newly resurrected Walk-Over) but they are hard to find in good condition, so I was pretty pleased to find this version by Johnston & Murphy from the 1980s in deadstock condition on US eBay this week.

J&M used to be a a great shoemaker and even as late as the mid-90s were still producing variants of two tone ‘sports’ shoes harking back to the 40s and 50s. These days J&M has become a hideous off shore lifestyle brand specialising in atrocious looking ‘comfort’ shoes and cheaply sourced cashmere and silk blend zip cardigans and the like. But, it has heritage. This pair of shoes are most probably from the 1980s because they still bear the stamp ‘Unmistakeably Johnston & Murphy’ which they had since at least the 1940s and were still using as late as 1984 (see this NYT story).

J&M Vintage Saddle Shoes with Unusual Stacked Leather Heels

The unusual thing about these high end saddle oxfords is that they have a separate stacked leather heel with the Vibram sole being goodyear welted and using a red rubber top piece for the heel. Normally, dirty bucks and saddle oxfords have a moulded one piece unit. I also like the tassels on the rope laces, reminding me of one of the nice Grenson models from the 1980s that was a self coloured saddle shoe with a dainite golf sole in tan grain.

J&M Vintage Saddle Shoes - Umistakeably Johnston & Murphy

The saddle shoe was introduced in 1906 by the great Spalding sports manufacturer and was used for playing tennis, becoming popular as a resort shoe, an early precursor of sneakers and trainers. It has survived in the US (and post war in Japan) almost ever since as a true American classic.

I’ve sometime felt a bit self conscious wearing the tan/white Polo pair in London, but these dirty buck versions are think are much more wearable.

These days even Ralph Lauren versions are more likely to be made in Italy, not goodyear welted and the indisputable kings of the dirty bucks are now Brazil and China.

Bass models have nice uppers designs but the stuck on fake stitched soles have clumsy welts, Florsheim an odd toe shape, modern J&M nasty grey soles, Cole Haan a bit too fussy and cheap linings. Most others get too many details wrong, like the front vamp not being short enough etc. The only saddle oxford that I think looks classic is by David Spencer, which can be found online in the US from a few retailers, but John Rushton is talking to Sanders about making a goodyear welted version for his store in London.

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Category: Americana, Deadstock, Ivy League, Ivy Look, Ivy Style, Shoes, vintage

Comments (7)

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  1. John Gall says:

    If I may boast a little? Ordinarily I buy duds from ebay, but a few weeks back I managed to grab a pair of 1970s (or early 1980s) Walk-over saddle bucks in the classic buck/brown leather combo (the same as the ones JS sold). The price was marvellous, the condition excellent and the buyer now feels whole as a person. The secret to making ebay work for you of course is to go hunting where the buyer doesn’t not seem to appreciate what s/he is selling. It takes longer but when it works what a buzz… My seller didn’t even mention Walk-over but I could tell, oh yes the tell tale brass trim around the lace holes, the sturdiness of the whole construction. Fantastic shoes. Along with proper Bass Weejuns and Clarks DBs these, I feel, are truly THE SHOES.

    • The Weejun says:

      Boast away, John! Sound very cool. I too love it when you’re not competing against everyone else because knows the buzz words.

      Incidentally John Rushton called me today and said he’s looking to order some Made In England saddle shoes in dirty buck/tan and dirty buck/navy – the latter a rare combo these days.

  2. John Gall says:

    dirty buck and navy sounds irresistible. You don’t happen to know if the Lormoc beefroll is back in do you? He was short on sizes and I’ve decided I can’t live without them.

    • The Weejun says:

      Not sure about that, but he is on the case to get the penny strap Lormocs in stock soon as well as the usual beef roll…

  3. The Weejun says:

    This pair arrived in the post last week. Amazing shoes but way too narrow for my broad foot. So they’ll be on eBay later today Buy it Now for what they cost me.

  4. Woofboxer says:

    Johnson & Murphy are currently retailing a saddle buck that looks very much like the ones in your photos although I doubt the modern version would stand a side by side comparison in terms of quality. To me plain dirty bucks never look very far removed from desert boots, a purely casual item. The adornment of the leather trim on the saddle bucks seems to move them into a different bracket of dress, making the wearer look as though they have paid more attention to their look. It’s that slightly confusing mix of the casual and formal that we like.

    • The Weejun says:

      Indeed. I don’t think J&M makes any product in the USA anymore and as far as I’m aware the brand sold out some years back and was then reinvented as an ‘middle market’ comfort brand. They now sell all manner of Chinese cashmere zip cardigans and Dad’s style cross trainers meet loafers style shoes. The current saddle models (like most other brands) also feature single moulded sole unit. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever seen another pair that are sole/leather heel stack/heel top piece before. Built like a Crockett & Jones or JM Weston Dainite. Anyway, this pair are about to go to a good home I think!

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