British shoes handmade in Northampton, UK with careful attention and craft have become a staple of men's wardrobe the world over. However, if you don't happen to be in the UK, a good pair of English shoes can be difficult to find online. Herring shoes established in 1966 has taken a leading role retailing classic English brands including: Church's, Loake, Alfred Sargent, Barker, Jeffrey West, Cheaney, Tricker's, and Sebago (an Italian brand we know). Herring also has partnered with its various partners including Loake and Alfred Sargent in producing its own distinctive shoes under its "Herring" line of shoes.
In short Herring combines exceptional customer service, with quality English shoes, and a savvynes for the internet which is often missing with other traditional men's clothing brands and companies. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Adrian Herring who now runs the Herring.
LC: Adrian your father started Herring in 1966. How much has changed since you began running the business?
AH: I bought part of the business in 2000, taking 3 shops. I started the internet part of the business at the same time, focussing on a couple of key brands such as Church’s. It became clear after a couple of years that there was huge potential in online sales so I started adding more of our own brand shoes to the site. Eventually I realised that the internet was going to outgrow the shop side of the business and relocated to Kingsbridge in Devon.
LC: You have a very strong online business, while most traditional mens' UK brands. What led you to focus on the internet as a sales channel?
The Herring brand has always been based on the traditional mens factories of Northamptonshire, but I have always been passionate about wanting as many people as possible to get the benefit of welted shoes so the internet made sense to me. I can show what I do to a worldwide audience and that helps me get bigger and better relationships with the factories and create more interesting styles.
LC: When did you decide to start producing shoes under your own brand?
AH: Herring has had its own shoes made since my father’s time. We used to talk to the factories about what spare leathers they had to use up and choose designs. My first shoe was a black and burgundy two-tone so you can see that I have always been interested in mixing textures and colours. It sold out very fast!
LC: What makes a Herring shoe distinctive in your opinion?
AH: My main aim in design is to make teh shoes interesting. Sometimes it is a last shape that excites me, sometimes a new leather colour, or even a new sole unit. When you start mixing all the options you can get some great styles. That is what Herring is about.
LC: What is your favorite shoe in the Herring collection?
AH: Fencote in chestnut calf and navy suede. It looks great with a suit or jeans, looks stylish and is also our number two shoe after a plain black toe cap oxford. I am proud of the fact that hundreds, even thousands of men, are now wearing a stylish shoe that makes them feel a little less ordinary.
LC:What are the latest trends in mens' shoes that you find interesting?
AH: There seems to be a slight move away from white soles towards the blues and reds. I also expect the french toe to make a bit of a splash. But really I make shoes that I would like to wear, rather than chasing any particular fashion trends.
LC: Where do you see Herring growing over the next 3-5 years?
AH: We want to continue to grow and help as many of our customers choose great footwear as we can. Our customer service guys try really hard to make sure that every customer is delighted with their shoes and gets all the information they need.
LC: Which shoe makers do you admire?
AH: There are many brands that I like. Jeffery West have some nice styling, Loake make fantastic shoes that are hard to beat for value, Cheaney are superb at hand-finishing and burnishing and Alfred Sargent are probably the best top-end shoe makers out side of the bespoke makers.
LC: What brands and products inspire?
AH: I love the fact that we support British manufacturing. That is why we are getting our trousers, scarves, jumpers and socks all made by UK craftsmen. So the British Aston Martin vantage is certainly on my list!