The Shoe Snob Blog

April 25, 2012

Written by , Posted in News

The Downfall Of Church’s Shoes

Ever since the Prada group purchased English footwear brand, Church’s, there continuously seems to be a steady decline in quality, integrity and style, almost as if Prada is turning Church’s into a fashion company, much like Prada itself. I don’t understand this, as the old saying goes, “don’t fix something that isn’t broken,” and Church’s were not broken, at least not in integrity….They used to make a lovely shoe, one that used good leather, could last you nearly a lifetime, and held it’s classic yet fundamental values of making a great English-made shoe. These days, I just can’t seem to say that I feel that this is still the motto. Now, it’s like, ‘what trend can we tackle next?’ Sometimes it works, like this SS2012 collection with all of their colored suede loafers. That was a brilliant idea. Classic with a subtle twist. But camouflage on the soles? Really? That’s so in style with the fashion houses right now, but not something that I would expect to see being done by +100 year old classic shoe company. They are meant to live out style….not follow trends that won’t last. As stupid as it may sound, sometimes I actually feel sad that a company with such a great heritage, seems to be loosing all of its history, through bad decisions by people who don’t actually care about what it took to create this name, a name that was synonymous with good shoes, but only seem intent on tearing it down. What a shame….
 

Pictures Courtesy Of: The Shoe Buff

  • Prada is Italian for “overpriced and overrated”. Personally loath that brand. You have to be anorexic to fit in their clothes.

  • Peter – i know what you mean….

    -Justin

  • Anonymous

    Hi all,
    Strangely enough, since Prada took over Church I haven’t read a single sentence about the old English shoemaker that sounds reassuring. No matter what it is thought about Prada. More strangely, the guys out there seem not to bother at all. Adamantly, they stay their course! Presumably, they must have new customers who are found of their new products.

  • Snapper

    Justin,

    This is along the lines of A&F ruining Savile Row. Another nail in the coffin of ” Great Britain”

    Regards,
    Snapper

  • Justin,

    I concur, there is some good, but mostly bad. I believe the proper term for a few of the pictured shoes (camo soles and the multi color chunky ‘thing’) would be ‘rock bottom’…

  • Anon – You are right…but then again, most men aren’t that educated when it comes to shoes and will to continue to buy a brand because of the heritage no matter how much their quality declines…I have seen this in other industries as well…this is the power of branding…and the stupidity of people…

    Snapper – Too true…even as an American, I cringe at the thought of A&F on the Row and any other brand that could possibly tarnish such a great history and a street full of people that grafted for years to become who they are… such a shame….

    Justin – indeed….

    -Justin

  • Ari

    Justin, i understand what you’re saying but i don’t see the problem. Church’s are attempting to attract the ‘fashion’ crowd with their new designs.

    As long as they continue to produce classics along with the new ‘fashion’ shoes then what’s wrong with that?

    Can you qualify your statement about the decline in quality any further? I’m assuming you haven’t bought a pair of the ‘fashion’ shoes so isn’t that quite a broad stroke to make on them?

    @Snapper – i think you’re a tad over the top. If one store can nail the coffin in Great Britain then surely it wasn’t that great to begin with.

    Ari

  • Ari – I don’t know how much exposure you have to their shoes, but I see them almost everyday. Their classics are no longer what they used to be. They try to keep the design classic, but I have seen the shape of their new lasts, and they are trendy, using book binder (cheap & glossy) leather and are doing more than trying to attract the fashion crowd. They are turning it into a fashion brand. In the window of one of their stores here they have a full brogue that has spikes in each brogue….that’s excessive (and something that Prada does), and not something a “classic” brand would ever do. Also you forget that I am shining other peoples shoes all of the time, and yes while I have not purchased any of their shoes as of current, I am constantly being exposed to them, and the decline in quality that I see and touch…. I say these things because I used to be a big fan, as they made one of the nicest full brogues of all time (that they don’t do anymore) and i find it a shame to see where it has gone. I don’t take stabs just for the sake of it, and don’t say that someone’s brand has declined in quality unless i have seen it, felt it and experienced it.

    -Justin

  • Just wondering, what exactly is the drop in quality?
    I’m looking into buying a quality shoe and those with the extended toes just don’t do me well. Church’s is just so classic and functional.

  • Victorpo – mainly the excessive use of that glossy leather that in my humble opinion is just not good for high quality dress shoes….it cheapens them and does not age well. Also, the lasts….they have become increasingly unshaped and disproportionate….don’t get me wrong, they still make some nice classic shoes, but they are not focusing on those anymore…since Prada has taken over, for me it looks as if they are trying to fashion-ize the Church’s brand….

    -Justin

  • Anonymous

    If old cheap idiots like the less than gentleman who wrote this ridiculous series of paragraphs actually purchase more than a few pairs of shoes expecting them to last their ancient lifetimes, houses such as Church could remain in the black. Prada rescued this house from almost certain annihilation. I for one am very happy they did.

  • Anon – less than gentleman huh?

    That very well may be, but I hope that you know that with this comment left here, you fall into the same category….

    and even if what you said about Prada helping Church’s financially, it does not change the fact that they have started to change the integrity of the company by creating cheaper products that are higher in price, than is justifiable, as well as create shoes that I am positive that don’t fall into the category of classic shoes, as they were so known for…..

    Just because you seem to be a fan of Church’s, as I was too, doesn’t mean you have to take offense to what I write about with regards to the takeover….opinions my friend…we all have them

    -Justin

  • AdG

    I remember seing my best friend wearing his father’s Church’s Chelsea boots back when I was still going to College in the late eighties in Paris. Church’s was for me a symbol of quality, craftmanship and timeless style, last winter I finally purchased my first pair of Chelsea boots at the Madison Store in New York City, I was convinced that they would last me a lifetime.
    After four months of wearing them a couple of times a week to go to work, I noticed the heel of the left shoe starting to crack, all along the sole I noticed similar little crevices, after inspection the leather seemed to me really thin and I noticed two little rips on the front of one shoe. I deciced to put them away until I had time to take them to the Store, when I did a few months later they looked at the shoes and then simply told me “well looks like you worn them out”. The manager came out and confirmed their diagnostic. I would never get the chance to lend them one day to my childen, all it took was one New York winter!

  • Anonymous

    Looks like it is Alden or Allen Edmonds for business shoes now. I have had Testoni but they do not wear as well. I had had a pair of Church’s wingtips for 14 years but they finally wore out last year. Sad to see a classic British shoe bite the dust under the Prada stewardship.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Justin,

    It is just another brand living on reputation. This will work for a while but as others have found (Mercedes being a good example) once the drop in quality becomes well known, customers will go elsewhere.
    Had my first visit to Jermyn Street last summer and almost didn’t go into Church’s due to the poor display in the window. Nothing but heavy, clumpy and old-fashioned looking shoes (not the same as ‘classic’) on show. Further down the street, it was a different story at Crockett & Jones. Lovely window display and incredible shoes inside. Half an hour later, walked out with a pair of chestnut Finsbury brogues.
    Cheers
    Tony

  • AdG – That is too bad my friend….i am sorry to hear it…thanks for sharing though….

    Anon – it is sad to see it happen….they were once a great brand…

    Tony – C&J definitely take the cake or British makers at that price point….

    -Justin

  • AdG – That is too bad my friend….i am sorry to hear it…thanks for sharing though….

    Anon – it is sad to see it happen….they were once a great brand…

    Tony – C&J definitely take the cake or British makers at that price point….

    -Justin

  • Anonymous

    my reply to Church´s topic.
    It is true that ever since prada took over, things haven´t been looking to good.
    I work with church´s on a daily basis, and one thing i have learned is, that if you buy classic models, last 173, Consul, Chetwynd, Ryder etc. you will have no problems.
    I have 10 pairs and only the ones with the 173 Last, lasts.

    • Anonymous

      I have just come across 5 pairs of pre Prada new in box Churchs shoes and I have to say they are pure quality, they are size 5 however and too small for me anyone got any suggestions on a purchaser for these beauties?

    • anon1 – I would say that that is quite accurate.. thanks for your input…

      Anon2 – what a find, just too bad they are so small!! EBAY!!! you will sell them mostly likely to a japanese guy quickly! or maybe Style Forum’s buying and selling thread

    • X30X

      I still have 5 pair of the Consul model (and 2 pair of the Fighting Seal) that I bought during the 70’s/80’s and am slowly “Lexoling” and stretching them (they were stored with shoe trees) so that they will re-fit my now older feet. The only visual difference between the then and now is that the very fine brogue is no longer applied to the seam where the cap-toe meets the upper; what other changes might be below the surface?

      Regards.

  • johnny

    the logic of the system that is in place now is : buy a company with good reputation and good products–> pay a high price to acquire. once you have it look how you can squeeze more money out of this good old company, obvious while saying the contrary lower quality, extend of choice and so on.
    result for the consumer , higher price and a low quality product.
    victory for the system it worked again.

    • TheShoeSnob

      I could not have said it better…it’s happening everywhere too…especially on Savile Row…such a shame….a good name & company history, built by people of integrity who worked hard to get there destroyed by the signing of a paper in an acquisition….

    • Josefina Maria

      I totally agree johnny

  • Vivian

    Hi ShoeSnob, I understand your point on your disagreement on turning a classic into fashion. But can you talk a little bit more in detail how the “decline in quality” means? Is Church using an inferior type of leather or skip some steps in the making? Thank you.

    • TheShoeSnob

      yes, inferior leather but higher retail prices…does not add up….more bulbous and less shapely lasts as well…

  • john marshall

    I have a pair of Church’s wingtips. I’ve had them since 1988 and still wear them. Prada makes the ugliest men’s shoes I have ever seen.

    • TheShoeSnob

      I am sure that those ones that you have are of fantastic quality, as is evident if you are still wearing them 25 years later…

  • Nek

    I wish I knew about that earlier…. I bought a pair of shoes 2 months ago and after wearing ~8-10 in City the soles were worn off!!! I took them there and it took 1 month to replace them after some hard talking. I have to admit that the Regent St shop manager was very helpful and professional but the factory director answer “There is nothing wrong with the sole” (it was down by 1mm and the stitching had almost disappeared) just made furious and wondering about their product quality standards… I haven’t worn the new pair yet but I hope it won’t have the same ending.

    • TheShoeSnob

      sorry to hear that my friend. hopefully it does not happen again….

  • David

    I bought a new pair 3 month ago. I was suprised the blue shoe bags we were used to have been replaced by some ugly paper bags. I through them away ! I will carry them in the old ones. I hope the quality of the shoes is not the same !

    • TheShoeSnob

      sounds like they are skimping out on the details…

  • Zig

    Im a size 5 for church’s how much are you letting it go for?

  • alex

    I wish I had read this before buying a pair of boots that wore through the sole in 3 months, which isn’t abnormal, but now has holes in the sides where they crease when I walk. I can put my finger through the hole! The leather is two layers of leather glued together, each layer only 1mm thick. I never seen such shoddy material in such an expensive shoe! Am now battling with customer “service” who have basically told me to sod off.

    • TheShoeSnob

      wow, the upper has holes in it after 3 months…that’s quite a bit premature….sorry to hear for your troubles, especially as they won’t even assist you in good old fashioned customer service!

  • BlueMeanie

    I am not overly surprised at the comments to be found here regarding the decline post-Prada.

    While shoes are not exactly my fetish, in other areas I have found similar. An amerikan company buys up a well respected british brand and runs it downhill. It has reached the point whereby, when I see a classic usually good quality product decline, I ask if some amerikan corporation has recently bought the company.

    The only things that amerika seems to have given the world is war and star trek!

    Bert.

    • TheShoeSnob

      That’s a bit of limited thinking if I have ever seen it. I am sure that within your day that are many things you enjoy was either created or founded by an AmeriCan…and dont forget that Britain gave a lot of war to the world long before America ever did…there is always a superpower that creates chaos

    • Hey @BlueMeanie – I guess you’ve never heard of computers and that internet thingie, eh? (but I do agree about the war bit.)

      • kiwirob

        Except neither computers nor the internet were American inventions.

    • traderjim7

      Prada is an Italian company, not American. America did give the world two great men’s dress shoe companies, Alden and Allen Edmonds.

      Speaking of war, we saved you guys across the pond a couple of times when the Germans had their sights set on controlling the world. And yes, we also gave you star trek, and a few million other inventions including the computer and software in front of you.

      By the way, you should learn how to spell America.

      • Anton Korn

        First programmable computer was the Z1, created by Konrad Zuse. a German.

    • jack

      try Alden shoes in New England. really good. did US “give” the world WWI or WWII?” Who backed Norks when they invaded Sork? Who backed NViet when they attacked SViet? Who ran Hussein out of Kuwait when he decided to add them to his collection? Did the US give us the Cold War… or did we do the lion’s share to win it? Oh, and I think American contributions to TV/movie entertainment go a bit further than Star Trek. It’s called Hollywood from about 1920 onward.

  • rebecca

    i agree. my current pair of shannns only lasted four months before the sole split. too tight in the width as well

    • TheShoeSnob

      not good…thanks for sharing Rebecca

  • MikeL

    I once spent 250 quid on a pair of Church’s brogues. Solid as lead, and felt like clumping around in lead too. Soon afterwards I bought a pair of Barker’s…. rather not a timid difference: better quality, lightweight, and much more style in the latter. I don’t know what all the fuss is about; William Church now operates Cheaney’s…….. yet Barker are a much better brand of today, having greater class and longevity, and style!

  • Ludolf

    Hi Shoesnob,

    very interesting points. I am a longtime C&J customer for over 10 years. However, I got a bit interested in Church’s after reading a James Bond blog. I went into a store but somehow found the shoes weird, not that classic, strange “fashion-like” models and colours, basically not that heritage I was looking for. And then I learnt it got acquired by Prada, so there you go.

    I heard Prada is actually quite bad at managing their company acquisitions. They bought Germany’s Jill Sander like 10 years ago and got into several fights with the Jill Sander herself, kicking her out, ,bringing her in again, kicking her out again…I think that says a lot about what level of respect those dudes have towards a previously independently running brand and the value of that previous management-team.

    Bottom-line, I think the shoes look rubbish and I will stick with C&J or upgrade to GG or EG or so.

    • TheShoeSnob

      thanks for sharing Ludolf, I think you have the right mind frame going there

  • Gary

    I have 4 pairs of Church’s triple sole shoes… 2 Graftons, 1 Shannon and 1 Lancaster. The quality (leather and build) is still exceptional on their conventional shoes. I also have a couple pair of the more fashion oriented styles. They are not the same in terms of quality… or price for that matter. It is like comparing apples to oranges.

    • TheShoeSnob

      I don’t think that all Church wearers would agree with you but I am happy to hear that your shoes have been holding up well.

      • Matt Wood

        I work for churchs and you’re talking shit

        • TheShoeSnob

          Because you work for them doesn’t mean you know anything about shoes and secondly it makes you biased. And clearly I am not the only person who thinks these things so there is that.

  • 30 pair?!? Seriously?

    Then why do you need to buy anymore pairs? Serious question. I assume you can’t have worn them all out.

    P.S. Yes, I currently own 12 pairs of shoes, but across several brands, so I kinda get it. But all from the same maker? And 30 of them?

    • traderjim7

      Maybe they are different styles. I have more than 30 pairs of Allen Edmonds shoes.

    • TheShoeSnob

      you wouldnt want to know how many i have!

    • traderjim7

      I have 25 pairs of Allen Edmonds, and a few pairs of Alden.

  • Josefina Maria

    I agree, english traditional footwear are the core and soul of this brand. The camouflage pair belongs elsewhere, not that I dislike them but they don´t follow the brand values. I think traditional with a SMALL twist works, it could be a coloured seam or just a slight change in the pattern making. They don`t need to reposition the brand.

  • Robert Blum

    I have a pair of Church’s shoes that I purchased in NYC 23 years ago. I had the soles changed twice and they are still wearable shoes. I just decided to check the Internet to locate a store that I could buy Church’s shoes from, and happened upon this information. Too bad! I suppose I won’t buy Church’s shoes again.

  • Meto

    My Father bought me my first pair of Church’s shoes in 1956. I think they were “Brummell” at £8.80! I must have bought around 50 pairs since then but sending them back to Church to be rebuilt on the original last, most of them are as new. I like the “bookbinder” finish and “Keats” and “Dorchester” seem to be my most popular styles in several colours and different leathers including buckskin. Because they last so long I don’t need to buy any these days but do buy Barker moccasins, as after Prada bought Church they seemed to drop these (soles made in England, uppers imported from Italy). When I see them today most of the styles look poor to me and the thickness and quality of the leather seems inferior.

  • TheShoeSnob

    thanks for sharing

  • Sami Al Suwaidi

    Would you recommend the C&J Connaught or the Church’s Classic Collection Dubai?

  • Lee James

    I also worked for Churchs and they used to be a great company to work for until Prada took over. Even some of the church family have left and run Cheaney. The shoes now are over priced and the heritage of the company is being eroded.
    Shame on you Prada.

    • Ko Herent

      I understand that. My whole life I used Church’s, untill I bought the first after the Prada deal. Different quality, they even smell different.
      Than I tried Cheaney for once…that’s my brand now.

  • Nancy

    Hey folks, I have 3 pairs of the pre-Prada Church’s mens shoes, bought in 1984, never worn, made on last # 73. Size 81/2 D/41-42 Euro/ 8 UK/ 10.125″/25.7 cm. Two pairs are black, Consul IV style, one pair is brown, same style. Also a 1984 pair of Church’s black Mandarin slippers, size 9M, made on last # 64 with leather upper and sole. Available now an eBay. Sept 29, 2015.

  • D. Hutchins

    What is the difference in Church’s Consul and Balmoral shoe. They look the same to me.

  • David St. Cyr

    I managed a Church’s in Minneapolis during the late 80’s to early 90’s and honestly, no other men’s shoe store in the area could compare to the quality and statement. Having been in the shoe industry for several years, wearing a pair of Church’s was a statement. Another fine test of their true quality was what a shoe repair person had to say. I trusted just one cobbler to recommend for a re-sole, and he would often comment how well made Church’s were, as shown in the number of re-soles he was able to do on one pair. Working for Church’s was a pleasure, although it took time to get them in stock. Dominick from New York, or Cary in Chicago, where always top-notch. I have a few pairs that I still take pride in wearing, 25+ years later. I had heard of Prada taking over Church’s, and while Prada had their own niche in the shoe industry, it is sad to here they messed with something that worked. Church’s shoes where classic, never in or out of style……

  • AXH

    Am I the only one? I bought a pair of Churches shoes in Bentalls, Kingston upon Thames on the 18th November 2015. It is now 16th March 2016 and I was mortified to find this morning that one of the soles has worn through and there is a 1 cm diameter hole in it. Not very good for a £350 pair of shoes

    • Nigel Mifsud

      Nightmare! Bought mine (brogues) last April GBP400 from their shop on Brompton Road. Just taken them in now for them to repair a hole/gash/split about 1cm long on the sole.
      Very strange shape and place for a hole. Let’s see what they say. Repair estimated at GBP125.
      Not happy at all.

    • DLM

      John Lobb

    • price

      This is why all leather shoes are called rich mans shoes. A lot of buyers have a stick on rubber sole fitted when new.
      Back in the day these were resoled on a near monthly basis.

  • runga

    Biggest rip-off are Loake through limiting sale to overseas addresses. In light of Brexit I wish Loake a big fail.

  • Alexandre

    I always remember that church’s were making some models to be destined for sales, the classic models are the best. The value for money is not there any longer unfortunately…

  • I have a pair of Cordovan Crup Church’s Grafton shoes which I bought in 1993. I’ve had them resoled twice at Church’s, and they still look brand new. I think I paid about 350 pounds sterling for them back then. I’d imagine they’d be about $1000 if I could still buy them, but apparently not!

    How sad that such classic shoes are no longer available.

    • jf lascom

      Grafton shoes are still in the catalog. You can pick them in any Church shop or through this excellent site: http://www.herringshoes.co.uk 540 GBP excluding VAT, choice of leather or rubber sole.

      • Dixie Smith Ryall

        Where can I purchase Church;s in the US? I used to get them at Saks, but no more.

  • Hugh W

    After 3 weeks of trying the new pair of Church’s, I could only wish I saw this page sooner.
    The quality of leather is utterly undesirable: the outsole wears out fast on city roads; the leather on the cap ended up with a cut on a fairly gentle rub against the door (yes, a blo*ody cut on the cap’s leather, that’s a pair of shoes wasted); the leather on vamp and tongue wrinkled too fast and too easily.

    Simply cannot believe how bad the quality of the leather is. Utterly disappointed with Church’s.
    Never again. Crockett&Jones or Cheaney next.

    Would welcome any suggestions on how to take care of the 1cm cut on the cap leather. Thanks.

  • spengler1

    Church’s shoes stand out for their durability and traditional fit. However they have not kept up with technology. When shoes are made lighter with state of the art materials to cushion the feet Church’s has stubbornly kept to the old ways. The shoes provide little cushion from impact unless you happen to walk on parquet floors all the time. Try walking on concrete with that pair of vaunted dress shoes and your feet will be hurting.