, frustratingly, in the wrong place. I found two size 10s and one size 8 of a brogue in the section labelled 9.
After half an hour I literally stumbled across a Richard James chocolate-brown derby. Half off, an unusual two-eyelet design and, amazingly, size 9.
But that was where my luck ended. I quickly noticed the queue of people standing behind a black rope, as if trying to get into a club. They were waiting to get the matching shoe for their selection from the stock cupboard. And some had been there hours.
I was given a ticket. Number 34. I began to get worried when the first number read out by a member of staff was 11. I got even more worried, an hour later, when the numbers being read out were 45 and 46. A man standing next to me (with number 32) received the bad news that there was in fact no right shoe for the left one in his hand. “I’m terribly sorry,” said the ruffled employee. “Sometimes this does happen in the sales.” I was about to ask how on earth it happened – did someone buy an odd pair? Or three shoes? Or one shoe!? – but she was gone.
I eventually got my shoes after three hours (including half an hour in the queue to pay). When I came out, I remembered a friend’s recommendation for John Rushton shoes, on Wimpole Street. Although just off Oxford Street, it is in the lesser known area (at least to tourists) north of the main road, up towards Marylebone.
There were three men in the shop. All were middle-aged and all, it seemed, knew each other. One it turned out was John, and the other two were long-time customers. The conversation concerned how a particular suede boot had worn through over time, and the best way to have them refurbished or resoled. It showed knowledge of how the boot was put together, the craftsman that would repair it and the customer’s history of purchases.
It was an impressive contrast to the consumerist chaos in Selfridge’s. When I was in the department store I overheard one Japanese man saying he was buying five pairs, which he would try on at home and probably keep two. In John Rushton, the air was of select items bought with consideration and intended to last.
John Rushton stocks only British shoes benchmade in Northampton. The shop features six brands, of which the largest range is in Cheaney and Alfred Sargent. This year sees the launch of designs with John’s particular design and colour treatments. It is located at 93 Wimpole Street, and johnrushtonshoes.com.
I have only been there twice, and have yet to be familiar with John or his team. But I hope to be.