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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Just Sterling! Gaziano & Girling - English Quality Fused With European Design - Some Of The Best Shoes Around

Oppenheimer, my trusty covert internet trawling source, once said to me that a common friend of ours who belongs to a notable Italian fashion family, once said to him in conversation that there was no better shoe in the world than Edward Green.

Both Oppenheimer and I, amateur fashionable types stuck in the Antipodes, both found this intriguing because the Edward Green website gave very little away about the true scope of work they could make and, being Australian, we were very unlikely to fork out the big money you needed to join the EG Club nor did we travel often enough to the other side to get fitted for shoes.

That has partially changed since Double Monk emerged in Melbourne but needless to say that by the time Double Monk emerged both Oppenheimer and I were starting families and neither of us had spare coins lying around the house that our other halves didn’t have a greater purpose for. Our feet would have to wait until either we became extraordinarily successful financially or our wives left us so that we could pursue the life of a Yummy with gay abandon….

Recently, however, my interest in shoes has piqued again, due in part to an interview with Foster & Son and then later with my pursuit of an RM Williams patina. My attempts remind me of Samuel Beckett’s quote on failure “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better” . Had I known how difficult patina is in terms of man hours and dedication I might have given it the same attention I gave quilting after my first foray…. NONE!

But it was patina that spurred me on looking for shoe companies that could do that which I myself was not able to quite achieve. And that is what brings me to Gaziano & Girling.

Gaziano and Girling ( “GG” ) is a footwear company that was started in 2006 by Tony Gaziano and Dean Girling. Tony was the man behind the development of shoe ranges for a variety of quality brands, Dean was the shoe maker that had made shoes for some of London’s most prestigious bespoke houses. This is the foundation on which GG is built, design and craftsmanship.

Left: Shoe Maker Dean Girling - Right: Designer Tony Gaziano

For some GG will stray too far from an English aesthete for them to consider GG but for me they are so charming precisely because they take English craftsmanship and then throw into the mix a certain Italian style or flair that leaves the older styled English brands for dead. And where a shoe like Corthay can be too tricky, GG instead prefers to offer a charmingly classic sense of flair holding back from going too far in the perfect manner and proportions.

The other reason I have become smitten with GG is because of their bevelled fiddle-back waist with a stained V-styled design which gives the sole of the shoe that much more personality. And whilst I have been watching and admiring the loyal and loving enthusiasts of Edward Green on both Style Forum and Instagram, I must admit, I find the look of some of their shoes too ‘clunky’ for my liking and I am more inclined to veer towards GG because I am not looking to ‘look English’ and I don’t need to dress ‘heritage’. I understand that some men want the English look of soft muted colours and conservative tradition but that look does not work for everyone and I am more likely to want to try the new kid on the block than to pursue a company steeped in tradition rather than evolution.

Some of the other features I enjoyed reading about on GG is that on their leather soled shoes they only use English oak bark soles that have been procured from a tannery in Devon where the tanning pits that are used today are the same tanning pits used by the Romans over 2000 years ago. The reason English oak bark is selected, as Tony Gaziano tells me, is because the oak bark process protects the natural fibres of the leather but it takes up to 12 months for these properties to absorb. Further, their upper leathers are sourced from Swiss and French calf leather hides which are then sent to some of the finest Italian leather finishing houses to be treated. Some of the leathers are then sent half-finished to England and they are antiqued to order in the GG factory in Kettering in Northampton.

I do not normally get passionate about shoes these days because I’ve seen so many come past my computer screen that it’s much harder for me to get excited than it used to be. However the GG website is a refreshing and relaxed way to enjoy their art and craftsmanship and it’s not in the slightest bit stiff or intimidating. I recommend viewing their models Bates, Corniche, Antibes, Biarritz and Burnham as well as their Savoy Evening Wear range. And, if you can’t find anything you want on their site you can always go down their comprehensive MTO and bespoke service which by September will also include a patina service from their Savile Row store.

Finally, I would like to say, that, from my understanding, they are also offering a Chelsea with no side seams and a patina which might have to be my next indulgence since I am not sure I have the time to spend my weekends trying to do home-made patina, not when I envisage it might be ten years until I reach the quality of their Burnham model.

See their website:

Elegance and timelessness of English shoe making coupled with a European infusion. 

Gaziano and Girling's new Savile Row shop. If you are in London, take a visit. 

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