Of all the storied shoemakers in Northamptonshire, the British belly of shoemaking that has wrought centuries of endless influence over footwear around the world, nobody has been at it longer, and more consistently, than 192-year-old Tricker’s.
In 1840, there existed 1,821 shoemakers in Northampton. Today, only a few dozen remain. Tricker’s has been there through it all, withstanding world wars, financial crashes, material shortages, ever-shifting consumer tastes, and everything else the world can throw at a business. They’re still there, and aren’t threatening to go anywhere. And the shoes are built basically the same now as they were 100 years ago. Which is a very good thing.
One question that runs through my mind constantly: why isn’t Tricker’s, progenitor of the English country boot, more wildly popular in the US? And what I’ve reasoned is: Tricker’s doesn’t spend its time marketing. They pour every ounce of effort into creating some of the most infallibly constructed, timelessly styled shoes and boots—not to discount the incredibly creative stuff they do!—you could ever possibly put on your feet.
So we decided to do a little digging, to help tell Tricker’s very worthy story and hopefully open some eyes.
1) 192 Years Later, Tricker’s is Still Family-Run
The legacy was all started by the eponymous Joseph Tricker, a bootmaker from Islington, London. In 1829—when Tricker was just 19 years old!—his company was formed, and soon his family grew. His daughter Clara Tricker married a man named Walter Barltrop, who held the only logical profession: bootmaker. From there, a string of Barltrops have continued to run the company: Ernest, Donald, and today, Nick.
2) And The Shoemaking Lineage of the Larger Tricker’s Family Runs Insanely Deep
And man are they experienced—of the 79 people on the Tricker’s production staff, over half are over 50 years old. 28 of them have relatives who work for Tricker’s currently or in the past, and another 44 have relatives who have worked at other shoe factories, from great grandfathers to daughters. Just so cool.
3) Walter Barltrop Quite Literally Made These Boots in 1848—When He Was Seven!
The boots crafted by Joseph Tricker’s son-in-law weren’t just a lark. “While simple in its execution,” Tricker’s says, “it set the path for the waterproof country shoes and boots that make Tricker’s famous today.” Seven years old! What an impact.
4) The Tricker’s Build and Components Have Remained Basically Unchanged since 1926
1926! That’s when the Tramping Boot was introduced in C-Shade leather—one of Tricker’s icons—which has remained the exact same hue for almost 100 years.
5) In 1930, a pair of Tricker’s Cost About $5.50 in US Dollars
Aka 75 shillings, or around four British pounds. That’s the earliest price list we could unearth, which also made clear that Tricker’s would only sell you their shoes if you were either someone capable of “remitting cash,” or, alternately, had “references in order.” Ohhhhh, if only we could all acquire shoes on references alone…
6) Tricker’s Collaborations With High Fashion Are Unbounded
Over the years, Tricker’s has opened its collaboration doors to an impressive range of fashion designers, including Junya Wantanabe/Comme des Garçons, Mark McNairy, and Thom Browne. The results often marry Tricker’s beautifully stately country footwear with choice bolder touches—how about some yellow leather soles!—to create something altogether new out of something absolutely timeless.
7) In the Early 20th Century, a Tricker’s Sub-Brand Was Marketed as a Health Tonic
The brand “Elthea” was a play on words with “healthier,” and the marketing promised that the shoes could prevent the flu and common cold by keeping your feet dry. “Clearly the statements could not be used today as they would be deemed misleading,” Tricker’s was sure to make clear to me. “However, this was in 1905, when these rules did not apply.”
8) Tricker’s Product Line Once Included Ice Skates—and Ski Boots
The ski boot, dubbed “a revelation in British handcraft” was (according to Tricker’s’ ads from the time, at least) “acknowledged by the leading ski-ing experts to be the finest boot ever produced.” With a toe as square as square gets, brass plates for attaching skis, double waterproof welts, and a cloth top-shaft extending up over the ankle, it bears a striking resemblance to the Norwegian ski boots that friend of Stitchdown Lars Jensen based his Østmo Type I pattern on.
9) Tricker’s Pioneered The Use of Leather Tanned With Olives in Footwear
Yes, olives! After developing a zero-chrome, 100% chemical-free tannage that deployed the essence of olive leaves, German tannery Weinheimer chose Tricker’s to be its exclusive footwear partner for Olivvia leather in 2017. The leaves are byproducts of the olive industry, and would otherwise be burned as an environmentally harmful waste product. Oh and all the waste can be used as a natural fertilizer! Good on you, Tricker’s and Weinheimer.
10) In 1937, Tricker’s Commissioned Two Lasts to Celebrate King George VI’s Coronation
And boy have they had some staying power: the Tricker’s 4444 is the main last used to this day for the brand’s iconic Bourton country brogue, while the 4497 is the key building block of Tricker’s similarly famous country boot, the Stow.
11) And Tricker’s Calls that 4444 Last “All the Fours”
Which can save you an incredible amount of time while saying it, and just sounds damned cool.
12) The Tricker’s Store Has Graced 67 Jermyn Street since 1938
After setting up 12 years earlier 160 meters down Jermyn—quite likely the best street for shoe stores in the entire world—Tricker’s moved into 67 and has remained there ever since. The original wooden shoe cabinets, made from oak from Northamptonshire, still bear the marks caused by shattered glass when bombs fell on London during WWII. Much like Tricker’s shoes, the store appears to be indestructible, and looks significantly better with age.
13) Head to Jermyn Street or Northamptonshire for Bespoke Tricker’s
Measurements to create a custom last—which to this day are still handcrafted from wood—for bespoke Tricker’s can be taken at either location, where specifications and leather are also discussed before the 9- to 12-month bespoke creation process begins. Tricker’s bespoke is among the truest representations of hand-crafted footwear, following an iron-clad process unchanged for almost two centuries, in which even the thread is handmade by Tricker’s in Northamptonshire. Pricing starts around $3,500 including custom last creation. I want some.
14) Tricker’s Master Bespoke Shoemaker is The Brand’s First Woman in the Role: Adele Williamson
After studying to achieve a footwear design degree, Adele began her Tricker’s career as an intern in 2015. Today, at just over 30 years old, she personally handcrafts the majority of Tricker’s bespoke line, an incredible and inspiring ascent. And so we had her on the Shoecast! It’s truly an episode worth a listen…
15) Tricker’s is The Definition of a Worldwide Brand
Northamptonshire is the worldwide home of shoemaking, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say there is basically no more purely British shoe than a Tricker’s Bourton. But at this point, more than 80% of Tricker’s sales are non-UK, with a shop recently opened in Tokyo that looks like it was transported from Jermyn street—plus endless collaborations with Stitchdown favorites The Bureau Belfast and Division Road, Canada’s Haven, Hong Kong stalwart Houses Shop, plus Japan’s Sophnet, A Bathing Ape, and Engineered Garments, including through its sub-brand Nepenthes (which has a shop in New York City).
16) None Other Than Sir Edmund Hillary Was One of Tricker’s Bespoke Customers
Yes, the first man to summit Mt. Everest, along with Tenzing Norgay in 1953. Tricker’s found an old order book dating to 1960 in which Hillary’s size—11L!—is listed under the heading “Himalaya Expedition.” While it’s unclear if Hillary wore Tricker’s to the summit, it’s absolutely the case that certain parts of his Himalayan adventures were completed in Tricker’s boots.
17) Prince Charles is a Tricker’s Devotee
So much so that he awarded Tricker’s a Royal Warrant in 1989, and continues to wear the brand’s brogues and other shoes to this day. In 2019 he stopped by the factory to commemorate Tricker’s 190th anniversary, touring the facility, speaking with workers, emphasizing the importance of handcrafted manufacturing in the UK, and getting measured for a new pair of bespoke Tricker’s.
18) Another bespoke customer: Shaquille O’Neal
Prince Charles got to see the Big Aristotle’s size 22 shoe lasts, along with those for James Bond himself Daniel Craig, and his own mother, the queen.
19) Joseph Tricker had a PHENOMENAL Beard
Absolute legend status.