A walk around London's St. James is one of the few occasions that a man can see more than an occasional well dressed contemporary on the streets around him. That's because, along with the neighboring Savile Row area of Mayfair, St. James is still the home of the greatest concentration of clothing craftsmen (and clothing customers) in the world.
The best known shopping area, Jermyn Street, has always been principally about shirts, but that seems to be changing lately. Most of the shirtmakers, except for Turnbull, New & Lingwood and Budd (all 10' by 10' of it), look rather down at the heels. Even Turnbull's windows were dominated by tacky signs offering end of run neckties for £10 ($20).
It's the shoemakers that look to have all the momentum on the street. RTW makers John Lobb, Edward Green, Trickers, and Foster look relatively healthy, perhaps because quality shoes are more important than ever when a man's dress is simplified.
Around the corner and down a block stands Lobb, which metaphorically towers over the other shoemakers. Lobb is exclusively bespoke, of course, and the company's history and reputation give it the market power to set the rates paid to the small community of outworkers used by all the bespoke makers. Quite an achievement for a company offering less than elegant lasts and a fitting process that is more hit and miss than some of the others.
And after you've bought your shoes, there are few finer ways to break them in than a walk about St. James. Check out the dotted silk neckerchiefs at New & Lingwood (in the counter by the register) for £75 ($150).