One surprisingly sunny day in late October, I paid a visit to the Harrys of London store in the upscale Burlington Arcade in London. The moment I step into the store, I feel at home. The gray walls and plush leather sofas set the tone of a modern-day gentleman’s club.
I am here to meet Steven Newey, CEO of the company. Steven himself is the picture of a modern-day gentleman, with a well-groomed beard, a richly textured gray herringbone jacket, a playful floral pocket square, dark jeans, and of course, deep burgundy Harrys of London boots. Like the brand, he radiates traditional sartorial sophistication, but with a decidedly contemporary edge.
“The Harrys guy is you. The Harrys guy is myself. [It’s for] the lifestyle you’re living, traveling around everywhere. We’re just trying to design a product which makes your life more comfortable throughout the day to match your needs.”
Steven and his team are the most gracious hosts, and I am honored to spend time with them and learn more about the wonderful Harrys of London brand. Ever since I first discovered the brand on Mr. Porter, I have been intrigued by Harrys of London’s old-meets-new mix of traditional styling with cutting-edge shoe technology. I ask Steven how he would describe the brand to the uninitiated:
“We are a design-led company. We like to be one step ahead all the time. We do have uppers, which are traditional, made in Italy. But at the same time we have a very technical aspect. We are rolling out Technogel® into all our styles, it is a really amazing product. I’ve been wearing our shoes now for 18 months. Before I would wear shoes because they looked amazing but the comfort level wasn’t there. I couldn’t wait to take them off. I don’t do that anymore. You feel less tired in my opinion. And that’s because of our Technogel®. Feel is really important for us. When a client puts his foot into our shoes there’s definitely a difference. To this day when I introduce new clients to the brand they say, ‘wow this is really comfortable.’”
Steven is preaching to the choir! I frequently feel that I have to choose between comfort and style when walking around the streets of New York, but with Harrys of London shoes, you don’t have to.
“We say we’re a ‘company with sole’ because we do a lot of soles. We do Vibram® soles, including the Windsurf and Wave soles, and we do rubber-injected leather soles.”
In fact, another thing I like about their shoes is that, despite their refined appearance, they are actually high performance all-weather shoes. Nothing puts a damper on footwear style like inclement weather. But Harrys of London shoes come equipped with non-slip soles and water-resistant leathers, so you don’t have to sacrifice style for practicality. As Steven explains:
“Trust me, James, when you walk out and it’s raining and you walk around with wet feet all day, that is not good. We say we’re a ‘company with sole’ because we do a lot of soles. We do Vibram® soles, including the Windsurf and Wave soles, and we do rubber-injected leather soles. So this is a really practical way of doing it, a formal upper in a boot; however, then you’ve got that rubber injected sole. When it’s raining, you don’t feel like you have to worry about it.”
Steven is an excellent ambassador from the brand, and it’s no wonder, given his long and distinguished background in luxury retail. He has worked with everyone from Hermès to Loro Piana to Alfred Dunhill and Berluti. I ask him about his amazing 20-year career with the world’s top luxury retail brands.
“First of all, I was very lucky. I think I’ve been very fortunate to work with some really excellent talented people along the way. I started working at Alfred Dunhill the first time around the end of the 80’s. I spent five wonderful years at Hermes, travelling between London and Paris dealing with beautiful product. I went back into Dunhill in a more senior role, again working with menswear luxury goods. I was approached by Loro Piana. I spent 12 wonderful years working in an Italian cashmere house with seven generations of history and a beautiful strong story and DNA.
From the days of Loro Piana I went over to Paris and I worked for a brand, which was one of my favorites for many years, Berluti. There were some really amazing people. My position there was General Manager of the EU and the Middle East. I’ve always been very fortunate to be working with strong quality product. And that, these days, is hard to find. I’m a product guy at the end of the day. I’ve always had a passion for nice product.”
Steven takes me on a tour of the Burlington Arcade store, introducing some of the highlights from the current collection. He is very proud of the new Harrys of London luggage capsule collection that seamlessly ties in elements of the shoe designs. The handles are made from the same Technogel that is found in the soles, for a comfortable grip. The leather is the same scratch-resistant leather as the Mr. Jones sneaker. And the bags are lined in a special fabric that protects your laptop.
A display of shoes with brightly colored soles catches my eye. I like the navy sneaker with a pop of lime, for just a touch of playfulness. I ask Steven about those:
“That’s the Mr. Jones Spectrum range. Our Downing shoes with the Windsurf sole have some colors as well. The more color we do on our soles, the more people find that quite fun. We’re not scared to play with color. Next season spring/summer, we introduce mango orange, red, racing green. And the men loved it! They hit the store in January. These days men want to be a bit more causal, a bit more relaxed, more fun.”
I find myself coveting a fabulous pair of black sneakers with a fur lining that are prominently displayed in the window. Steven explains that those are Mr. Jones shoes with a chinchilla fur on the cuff:
“A more contemporary guy loves that. You can be really dressed down, walk in with those and everyone is like ‘where are your trainers from.’ You’re making a statement. For me the shoes bring the outfit together. The shoes are more important than the jacket you’re wearing. You can make an outfit with the shoes.”
Steven, the most attentive host, suggests that I try on a pair of Mr. Jones sneakers. This is currently their number one best-selling shoe and one of Steven’s personal favorites.
“I would say my Mr. Jones sneakers are the best sneakers I’ve had in years. I don’t leave home without them. I’m on my second pair. I seem to wear them on the weekends a lot. When I travel they’re great for that as well. I’ve always got those in my suitcase.”
The Mr. Jones sneakers are so comfortable! My foot slips right into them and they fit like a glove. They also are a perfect complement to my outfit, a blazer and jeans look. Steven agrees:
“You can wear a pair of trainers these days and still look fairly formal. We play with that and say it’s the formal man’s trainer. You can’t be without a white pair of trainers no matter what the season is. They look great with a pair of jeans or a jacket.”
Harrys of London is very generous to send me on my way with my own pair of Mr. Jones sneakers. These are a lifesaver on my weekend of London sightseeing. They truly live up to their reputation for style and comfort.
I had such a wonderful visit to the Harrys of London store! I was excited to learn that there are plans for a New York City store sometime in 2017. In the meantime, you can find them in the men’s shoe section of select Barney’s stores and on Barney’s online. If you are looking for an extremely stylish shoe that does not sacrifice comfort and practicality, then look no further!