Who are you Mr. FitzPatrick?
My name is Justin FitzPatrick, AKA “The ShoeSnob”, and I am a 28 year old American male, who lives in London, UK. I am a shoe blogger, an artisan shoe polish expert, an amateur bespoke shoemaker and a shoe designer who is about to release his first collection to the world within the next 6-8 months. I grew up all around Seattle, Washington, USA. I lived there until I was 24 of which I then moved to Florence, Italy to study shoemaking and now find myself for the past year and a half in London.
The social environment that you live in influence you in developing your passion for shoes?
My passion for shoes began at a young age. In America, we are very much judged by our appearance and shoes was one of those things that separated you categorically from cool to uncool. Because of that, I always wanted to have the cool shoes and each time I got a new pair of shoes, there was no better feeling, as I knew deep down that people were going to praise me, even if only for a moment. More and more, this need for recognition became a creature of habit and before I knew it, I was a shoe freak who wanted all of the latest and greatest, and got them. I was always a person who observed everything around me and certain individuals that I hung around with treated shoes as something to take care of and make sure that they were always neat and clean looking. Through all of my observations, plus my own interpretations I began to create a true appreciation for footwear and a strong passion for having them, as many of them that I could.
I now that presently you do first class shine service at Gieves&Hawkes. Please tell me more about your work there.
At Gieves & Hawkes, at No.1 Savile Row, I offer an artisan shoe polishing service where I offer several different levels of shine ranging from a 5-10 minute express shine to a 2-3 hour full “military” shine, where I leave the shoes looking as close to glass as they can get. As well as shine the customers shoes, I also polish the boots for the Queen of England’s Royal Bodyguards otherwise known as The Gentleman at Arms. On occasion these gentleman will have events to attend to, of which I must prepare their boots to prodigiously glass like shines.
When did you start to make shoes and what are your plans in this direction?
I learned how to make shoes in Florence, Italy, where I undertook an apprenticeship with bespoke shoemaker, Stefano Bemer. I was there for a total of 10 months and in that time, made 5 pairs of shoes for myself. I did this apprenticeship so that I could learn everything that I could about shoe construction, in order to become a better businessman that truly understood shoes and why they are worth the price that you are paying. As I wanted to start my own RTW shoe line, I knew that I would set myself apart from others if I had a complete background in shoes by absorbing every facet of the industry. I really have no intentions of becoming a bespoke shoemaker, but it could be something that I do utilize in the future, possibly adding that service to my existing line. Who knows really? But it certainly helped me in understanding more about men’s shoes and what separates certain models from others.
What are you preferences regarding clothes and shoes?
It’s hard for me to give you anything concrete about my appreciation for clothing makers, as I am still so amateur in this section of the style industry. Obviously I work at Gieves & Hawkes and therefore wear a lot of their clothing and have relationships with the people who make the clothes, but if I had to say who my favorite was based on aesthetics and quality of knowledge and skill, it would be Chittleborough & Morgan, who used to be the cutters that worked under legendary designer, Tommy Nutter. They have made some of the most beautiful pieces of clothing that I have ever seen.
For suit styles, I prefer a 3 piece suit. My number two option is a double breasted suit. The reason that I prefer these is that I like to be covered high up on the chest with only a little bit of my tie showing so that it always stays straight and in the same place. And for me, these two options have an elegance about them that I don’t think other suits can match.
As far as shoes go, that’s a tough one. I have so many favourites, as my style is so diverse and has been created by meshing together the ideals of the English, Italians and the French, with a hint of my own American personality. But to be completely honest, I would have to say that Gaziano& Girling have been my biggest influences throughout the years. They are the company that I always wanted to model myself after as they have shown that with a bit of passion, knowledge and integrity, a young company can come into the industry and contend with others that have been around for hundreds of years.
For shoe styles, as you may know, I prefer a saddle shoe and any kind of lovely brogue, especially a spectator (or co-respondent). In the boot region, there is nothing better for me than a lovely balmoral boot. However this is only because my true favorite (the spat boot) is so hard to find. But I would rather wear a spat boot any day of the week, quite possibly over everything else, even my saddle shoe.
If you have to advise guy starting to build a wardrobe what is the minimum number a shoes for him ?
This is tough to say, as I would need to know a budget, but I guess if I were to think of bare minimums, I would have to say 3.
1. Medium Brown to Dark Brown Full brogue – To me this is the most versatile shoe in the world. Depending on the cut and styling of it, it can be a shoe that could be worn with literally everything.
2. Black whole cut (or any clean looking black dress shoe) – The black whole cut shoe is one of the most elegant options out there. Not only does it go with your suits, but can also work for formal occasion with a bit of polishing. This shoe is essential for any man that wears suits.
3. Brown suede loafer – This would be the best shoe for the warmer months, something that can go well with jeans but also be a bit dressed up in a smart casual sort of way.