Paraboot Michael – 1945 to 2011

In the mid to late 80s one of the Weejun’s younger siblings ran shoe stores in Paris, specifically for Paraboot and then for Bowen, whose business was built on copies the very expensive classic JM Weston models – the Chasses, Moccasin and the Golf as well as Paraboot models and classic Sebago.

Paraboot Michael Marche II

I had a couple of pairs of Paraboot back then, the chasses model called Avignon (still available) and a pair of the Golf with a leather sole and heavy norwegian welt (not a current model). All these models were before Paraboot started to put a label tag on them – not something I particularly like but understandable when in circa 1989 almost every sho retailer in France, Italy & Spain had their own stitch for stitch copies on sale. Despite loving the Paraboots I had back then, I never did own a pair of Paraboot’s classic 1945 design called Michael.

Some time around 1983/4 I remember John Simons showing me a shoe he’d picked up in Italy (at the Milan mens trade fair I think) and wanted to know what I thought of it. To me it made perfect sense – I’d previously owned a copy of these shoes made by Loake for a French customer a few years before with a Dr Martens sole. I’d thought those shoes were amazing and I’d also noticed French actors wearing them in both Jean Coctueau’s Orphee (1950) and various police thrillers with the likes of Jean Gabin. Now, here was John showing me what turned out to be the original, or at least the refined version of earlier 1930s styles, crystalised into a shoe with a soft rubber sole made from Brazilian Para rubber (hence Paraboot). (By the way for those who want to try them on, John Simons sells them in his new Chiltern St store, too.)

Being hand made they were always pretty expensive and I just never got around to buying a pair of them. Years passed and many other classic shoes came and went into the Weejun’s shoe cupboard.

Soles Made From Brazilian Para Rubber

But then recently I’d started to think they were looking really good again. You almost never see them being worn anymore. I saw a guy in Tokyo a couple of years back with a pair and they looked great. Like everything there’s also a cycle of fashion with classic style. It’s no accident that the 1980s revival should also include a revival of the French BCBG, the Italian Paninaro and US preppy styles along with the more obvious appalling Flock Of Seagulls ‘ironic’ look.

My good friend in LA, Fred swore by his pairs of Michael and this got me thinking again about finally buying a pair of these iconic shoes.

This was compounded after a trip to John Rushton’s store with Herb Lester one day last year when John asked if I wanted to buy a pair of Heschung chasses that he’d bought for his own use from media commentator and social historian Jonathan Meades. I bought them from him but they were really a little too long. However, the rubber sole and heavy norwegian stitch welting reminded me again to search out  some Michaels.

That search eventually took me to an online store I’ve not bought from before, Pritchards of Herefordshire. They had the Michaels on sale with an excellent discount.  The problem I had was sizing. These are shoes that don’t look good or feel comfortable if they’re too big. The French wear their shoes with their toes right up against the ends (which may well be from the fact that many of their classic models have a very deep toebox) so I thought I’d drop down a half size to a UK 9 to get that slightly short look.

Pritchards’ online support guy, Murray, was very helpful in ensuring that the shoes were delivered on a day when I was at home and the shoes arrived on the day he said they would. They were really much nicer than I remembered and still handmade and sewn in France. Sure enough my toes touched the ends but because these are pasty-shaped shoes (not unlike the Wallabee) they’re also quite wide.

I was a little uncertain though, but Murray suggested he could send me a 43.5 to try which he did as soon as they came into stock, with no reminder needed. The larger size were a little longer but also big around the heel and not really any wider. After some careful trying on, I decided to stick to the 9s. They looked better and felt more comfortable overall.

Pritchards were so helpful that I have no reservation in recommending them, and despite the fact that I bought the first pair in their sale, they were happy to swap sizes. It’s also worth noting that unlike Oi Polloi and Stuarts who also stock them, Pritchards hold the continental half sizes which makes a big difference.

When I mentioned to Pops Weejun that I’d bought some Paraboots he told me that a friend of his that I also know is the UK agent. I hadn’t realised otherwise I would have gone direct, but it would not have been good form to return the shoes to Pritchards after their great service simply because I could have got them from the agent.

Quite a few people emailed me after I published that Paraboot poster a few weeks back saying how much they loved theirs. I’m sure like the Playboys post from the other day, some clever dick will post a comment about how expensive they are and how you can get  Ben Sherman copies in TK Maxx or something (I don’t know, I’m making that up), but these shoes are the business.

If you can, buy the real thing.

Levis Sta-Prest Cords

No reason for publishing this today except that it’s a freezing cold Friday and corduroy and suede kind of weather. Even in the 60s it seems that decent Levis Sta-Prest cords weren’t easy to find!

Match with a navy/cream gingham BD. Great for that James Coburn look

Found on Ebay – Deadstock Grey Ivy Suit NWT!

Deadstock early 60s Donegal style tweed Ivy League suit with original tags!

I found this extraordinary suit on ebay UK recently from a fellow Ivy fan in Norfolk. I didn’t think the trousers would fit me, but I thought it was worth bidding for the jacket alone as it could be the long sought after template for other jackets to be made to measure.

I put a really high bid in and at the last minute it sold for a serious sum, a lot for ebay, but little when you compare how much a new ‘vintage-style’ jacket would cost in the UK, let alone a suit, or a deadstock suit with all it’s tags!

The suit arrived quickly but it was also pretty obvious to me that the jacket was too small, even in a currently trendy Thom Browne style. The middle button being too high to look as if I had had it made that size. More 1980s Alexei Sayle than cool Ivy dude.

For some reason although the seller did give all the right measurements he didn’t mention that the sales ticket label clearly says its a 39 32W. I take this to mean the jacket is a 39 and trousers 32. Seems straightforward enough and I probably wouldn’t have bid on it labelled a 39 but that label wasn’t shown in any of the images.

Anyway, regardless of the sad fact that it’s too small for me, it really is a miraculous find.

An Ivy Style suit with all the right details:

3 button with slight roll to the first button
narrow lapels
2 button cuffs
lapped seams / raised seams
hook vent
high waist trousers tapered to bottom

Anyway now that it’s been featured on The Weejun, it’s time to go back into the great sea of ebay vintage to find a new home on someone who’s the right size.

I’ll add the ebay link when it’s listed. Just looking for what I paid for it back!

Here’s the link to ebay listing

Click on the images below for to expand them

Sea of Sand Playboy Chukkas (Updated 18-01-11)

I love movies from the 50s and 60s and will watch almost anything if the period is right and there is some style and clothing on display. One of the films that I can watch over and over again is the classic British war movie called Sea of Sand featuring Michael Craig and John Gregson as members of the Desert Long Range Patrol Group who operated in a fairly unofficial commando capacity deep behind enemy lines in North Africa.

One thing that I thought I spotted when I watched the movie again last year was Michael Craig appeared to be wearing suede playboy chukkas. Usually films are shot to quite rightly emphasise such things as actors’ expression or action and not to show off footwear but later in the movie it becomes clear that all the officers are indeed wearing playboy boots instead of army issue or the usual desert boots.

Trickers 'Tracker' Boot from 1970 - Made by Allinson Footwear

It’s entirely possible of course that as the movie was made in the late 50s a time when the Hutton Playboy chukka was at it’s zenith in England (long before its 1960s heyday with Steve McQueen). Popular amongst a certain sort of louche actor (think Bryan Forbes in corduroy) it could be that when the film called for desert boots they simply substituted the normal ones with Huttons for the filming, after all 1958 was not so long after the war ended and correct period details may not have been paramount.

There’s a scene where about halfway through the film where John Gregson and Barry Foster are crawling over a minefield and Gregson’s foot touches a mine behind him. Here’s it very clear (as the main photo shows) that Gregson is indeed wearing playboys and from the details they look like Hutton Original Playboys with their rolled leather edges on the lace facings.

However, the fact that is that playboy chukkas had been around since the 1930s and the LRDPG was a non-comformist outfit (with R&R in Cairo – from which source Nathan Clark ‘borrowed’ his seminal desert boot design) and officers would have bought and paid for their own uniforms and worn whatever was comfortable and useful for desert patrol.

It’s possible therefore that these guys wore the playboy boots as the most comfortable option working in sand and heat. I doubt that any ex-LRDPG will be out there reading this but you never know, so please get in touch if you know something about this admittedly lightweight part of history.

Last year I found a pair of vintage Trickers on Ebay (sold by a monosyllabic seller who insisted in his description that they were made by Paul Smith – don’t you just love ebay sellers?).

When the boots arrived it was evident from the script in the insole that they were at least 40 years old and the crepe was pretty rigid.

Unfortunately I hadn’t known about the necessity of putting the boots in an oven to soften up the crepe and stop it from cracking after many years of not being worn and so they cracked across the soles. Mr 1966 at FNB gave me the full gen on how to do this so after the event I gave it a whirl.  I have also managed to repair them with crepe cement but they are old and still pretty delicate.

A couple of months back I took them ‘home’ to the Trickers factory in Northampton and David who runs the shop there asked the factory manager if there was anyone left there who could work with goodyear welted playboys and repair the foxing and perhaps replace the soles. The factory manager was adamant that the boots I had were not made by Trickers as they featured a serial number starting with the letter A and not the number 9.

A search on the shop PC by David brought up a catalogue from 1970-71 autumn/winter season and sure enough there was the Trickers ‘Tracker’ boot along with another really nice desert boot chukka also with an A prefix.

In about 1979 Pops Weejun gave me an already vintage pair of Allinson suede chukkas with a crepe sole that were a beautiful taupe greeny tan suede. I wore them into the ground as you do when you’re 14 and eventually they wore out beyond repair. I didn’t realise then that Allinson had long gone bust. If they’d stayed the course the would have undoubtedly been one of England’s premier exporters of classic suede chukkas and shoes.

When I spoke to Pops Weejun about the Tracker boots he confirmed that he was aware that Allinson made boots for Trickers as far back as the late 60s. The sheer quality of making evident in these shoes and the antelope buckskin leather along with the prefix “A” means we’re certain as we can be that these Trickers were made by Allinson too.

Mint Vintage Trickers 'Tracker' Boots before the soles cracked...

Current options for lovers of the classic Playboy chukka are somewhat limited.

Either shell out the €220 odd for a pair of made in Spain goodyear welted Playboy Originals in Sweden (no chukkas in the range though, only shoes for some reason) or the now ubiquitous but nevertheless excellent Sanders version.

I’ve got three pairs of the Sanders, a knockabout reject pair that I picked up in the East End and an unworn pair from John Rushton (your best bet for the rare snuff suede version outside of Japan) as well as a 3 eyelet gibson from Oi Polloi – all of them in my preferred snuff suede (the standard is dark brown superbuck). I have to admit that I find the boot more comfortable than the shoe which has a very stiff heel counter.

An interesting footnote is that there are still some current model Trickers branded playboys out there in the online world, mainly in obscure Japanese webstores but these are not made by Trickers but by Sanders. Sanders being the last company (apart from Geo Cox with their uglier shape and unattractive uppers) to really specialise in this type of crepe sole.

The Sanders sole unit is not goodyear welted, but that does have a benefit as they don’t feature the separate crepe ‘curtain’ (called foxing) which always seems to come away at the heel after driving. Rather, the Sanders soles are a clever one piece unit.

John Simons, purveyor of many models over the years told me recently that the Sanders were the only ones he’d never had returns on for the foxing coming away. I told him how easy it is to fix with a hot knife or crepe cement and they’re glued back for life but neither of us knew that when it was relevant to the goodyear welted models.

My current 'knockabout' Sanders Playboys rejects in Snuff Suede. Great in snow and ice!

John Rushton also could have benefited from 1966’s sage advice about ovens and crepe as about 10 years ago he bought a huge stock of playboys from Edward Green during one of their ‘about to go bust’ periods. They’d been in storage in very cold temperatures and the crepe soles were rigid. Nearly every single pair got returned to him by customers after the soles cracked in half. If only he’d known about the oven trick the crepe would have been as good as new.

Thanks to David at Trickers for the scan of the old catalogue and 1966 for the tips
Post script:

Professor Kelp from over on Film Noir Buff kindly sent me this photo of 1950s teddy boys with one of them wearing the Hutton Playboys. From the 3 eyelets it looks to be the shoe version rather than the chukkas. It’s worth remembering that the earliest crepe soled ‘brothel creepers’ were more like playboys than the outrageous monsters they became.

I have seen an episode of Bootsy & Smudge from about 1960 where Teddy Boys threaten the family. The main Ted, the one and only Derren Nesbitt, is wearing playboys, possibly Eaton Clubmans.

Here’s a pair of possible Clubmans that reader Andy B sent me a photo of – he’d come across this post looking for help on damaged and split crepe. Think I will post a future  ‘how to’ on reviving crepe and use crepe cement etc.

The Bass Weejun Sportocasin

Along with the iconic Weejuns, the Bass Sportocasin was always a cult shoe. I remember seeing my first pair in John Simon store in around 1986, when Bass were reissuing a lot of their old designs. They were also a bit more expensive than the Weejun and back then I couldn’t quite stretch to a pair.

Early last year I found a pair on Ebay in excellent condition but when they arrived they really were way too small to wear. I ended up trading them with 1966 over on FNB for a pair of Eaton Clubman Playboys.

Almost the same day someone called Riley Dee (where are you Riley?) contacted me from Oklahoma City and offered me a pair on extremely generous terms. I jumped and whilst not as mint as the previous pair, they fit perfectly and were the originals from the late 50s or early 60s.

Original 1950s Bass Sportocasins in Scotch Grain

Patina antiqued from age

The thing is once they arrived I got them out many times to wear them but always ended up putting them back. They seemed too small and dainty looking amongst the Florsheim Imperials and Playboys. Funny enough 1966 recently posted that he thought the same thing. Anyway, I thought maybe digging them out and cleaning them up for a photo might make me start wearing them properly. Weather permitting of course.

Nice Dark Brown Grain Bass Sportocasin Seen Recently on Ebay

Lee Riders 101z 1966 Japanese Edition

Lee Riders Japan 101z 1966 Ltd Edition Presentation Box

Recently I’ve been concerned that my LVC 1955s are still massive despite being 34/34 and theoritically shrinking down to 33/31. They’ve shown no signs of shrinkage and consequently are a little bit Chaplinesque.

It seems to be a constant issue with LVC models of different years (not to mention the non-selvedge cheaper PWR models) that sizing is a minefield.

Rather than buy yet another pair in another size (there’s no 33 W these days anyway) and shell out a whopping £215 (not long ago they were £110 at Cinch) I thought I’d look around at alternatives.

White Selvedge

Normally I have a big psychological problem with jeans that are not Levis. I can’t be doing with all these brands that have overkill stitching or paint on the back pockets. By the same token jeans with no stitching on the back pockets are IMHO naked and missing something.

The obvious place to look was Lee. Huge in Japan, from where I’ve bought Lee Japan replica chambrays before, for a long time the Lee back issues available in the UK were really naff also rans (check out the 101z on Oi Polloi currently with a black and silver patch!). I’d seen the Beatles replica 101z 1966 model online a lot over the last few years but when I decided to find some almost everywhere was sold out.

The Beatles connection was played down outside of Japan for obvious licensing reasons but anyone who’s seen Help! will know that it’s the closest the fab four got to wearing American ivy based clothes – button downs and jeans abound, especially in the sections shot in the Caribbean.

This post over at denim psychopath MHP’s Denim Projects convinced me that the shrinkage and fit should be somewhat slimmer than even the 1966 LVCs.

The only place I could find them was at Aero Leather in Scotland, where I’d been browsing recently looking to order a 1938 A2 replica for that Robert Cummings in The Saboteur look.

At £120 they were nearly half price of current LVC models and the attention to detail up there with the best. The jeans arrived in a presentation box with tissue wrapping showing the history of Lee Jeans and with even a price tag blank that looks liked a deadstock one. The fit is great, the colour too, and the Lee dry denim (13.5oz Left Hand Twill) is more iron-like than the fluffier Levis 1955s (more like the 1967 505).


Eagle-eyed observers may have noticed that these are not quite what they seemed (or indeed were described as on Aero Clothing’s website). I was just checking them out again and noticed on the inner tag it says Made In Poland. So, these are not Lee Japan after all. Very naughty Aero. I’ve sent them an email asking why they are selling them as

“Lee 101Z Jeans 1966 – Dry

Lee Riders 101z 1966 Model by Lee Japan.

13½ oz left hand twill selvedge denim.

Limited Edition of 1001.”

Interesting to see what their response will be. I’ll keep the jeans as they’re still very nice but can’t say I’m too happy about the mis-described sale. I have read only good things about Aero customer service, so let’s see.

Lee Jeans History

Two Color Cotton Stitch

Vintage Stock Ticket

Correct Lee Label and Bar Tacked Corners

George Hamilton Boom Years Ivy Icon?

Many years ago I caught this strange gem on TV. A low budget reworking of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment set in Los Angeles starring a youthful George Hamilton.

In Crime and Punishment USA (Dir Denis Sanders), I was struck by the great Ivy style of the main protaganist, Robert Cole (Raskolnikov, geddit?). This guy was wearing East Coast boom years Ivy but in LA, amongst the more traditional Hollywood styled actors. The West Coast jazz look of open necked loop collared shirts and lightweight baggy pants took some shifting as the Ivy League mania spread from the East Coast down to the South and across to the Pacific.

San Francisco of course had a climate that favoured such clothes, but it’s odd to see George Hamilton wandering around LA in his buckle back chinos and 3/2 roll cord jacket. (Although we know that a certain ‘Fred’ currently carries the Ivy torch in the City of Angels, even though he’s often mistaken for an airline pilot!). It’s only 1959 so the clothes George was wearing were very hip – it would be some time before ‘the look’ came to dominate the dress of American males and so young George must be up there as an early Ivy icon.

The movie has some of the usual low budget haminess but there are some great scenes between Hamilton and the police lieutenant played with real skill by Jamaican born actor Frank Silvera (no mention is made to his race, which was daring at the time) and almost a role model for the later Columbo.

Ivy Clad Robert Cole helps a dying drunk ins sockless loafers!

The soundtrack is also completely bonkers featuring a mix of great west coast jazz sound with some truly mad distorted troll like mutterings (like Finnish Matti Oiling’s Oiling Boiling track)

The DVD is deleted and was only available in the US and because of that the fascists that determine such things have decreed that I can’t play a disk I’ve bought and paid for on my UK Mac (even though the set top DVD box doesn’t care), I’ve had to take photos from the TV screen, so apologies for murky quality. The movie copy itself is fine and well worth seeking out before it disappears once more into total obscurity.

Click on the images to enlarge them…

Clarks Caravans – The Ultimate Playboys?

Surely a hit if Clarks dug into their back catalogue? After all they could also make some “fantastically hip” ones out of union jacks or someone’s old carpet, to justify putting some nice snuff suede ones on the market.

Seems they like that to do that with the desert boots.