Cheaney is one of the major manufacturers in Northampton, England, and a few years ago they launched a new top line called Imperial, which feature oak bark tanned soles and a quite extreme fiddle waist. After some initial problems in the manufacturing, with very late deliveries as a result, they have now stabilized the work process of the Imperial line since some time back and it’s growing in popularity. Shoegazing have tested a pair.
Model: Holyrood (from the Imperial line)
Color: Bronzed Espresso
Size: UK10,5 F-width (standard)
Sole: Single oak bark tanned leather sole
Price: Around €675 (I received the shoes for the review from Care of Carl)
Cheaney was founded in 1886 by Joseph Cheaney, and in 1896 they moved into the premises that they still are in today. Joseph’s sons Arthur and Harold joined the company in 1903, and since then the formal company name is Joseph Cheaney & Sons. In the late 90’s the luxury clothing company Prada both the shoe manufacturer Church’s, which then also had ownership of Cheaney, and for several years a fairly large part of Cheaney’s production of shoes were made for Church’s. The brothers Jonathan and William Church’s left their original company, and in 2009 they bought the full ownership of Cheaney.
One of the things the Church’s brothers made was to establish a a new top line called Imperial. A line that most likely was meant to compete directly with mainly Crockett & Jones Handgrade and Alfred Sargent Exclusive. This is something that is positive with the increasing interest in quality shoes around the world, that we, the consumers, have more options to choose from. This really goes for most price ranges and types of shoes, and in this specific segment we have in addition to the three mentioned for example JM Weston, Enzo Bonafé, Alden, Vass, Roznyai, Buday, Santoni’s Fatte a Mano range, Bontoni and so on.
Cheaney does otherwise normally make shoes in the price range between €350-450. Like many Northampton manufacturers it used to mainly make shoes fot other brands, but nowadays it’s their own brand which is in focus, even if they still do a lot of production for other brands as well.
Cheaney is of course most accessible in the UK. In London they have several stores of their own, and they also have a factory shop in Northampton where you can do great bargains of factory seconds and such. They also have their own online store where their full range of shoes are available for free worldwide shipping. Otherwise, there are retailers around the world, and also several online stores, like the Swedish shop Care of Carl where the pair reviewed comes from.
General info about the shoes
Holyrood is a classic double monk model with a plain cap toe, made in the slightly mottled dark brown shade Bronzed Espresso, a look that is not that common among British manufacturers. The buckles are brass colored with an “antique” look. The shoe is made on the slightly elongated last 208 that has an almond shaped toe. It has oak bark tanned leather soles with closed channels and as mentioned a pretty extreme fiddle waist. The shoes comes in a black shoebox with two pairs of shoe bags, a shoe horn and an information booklet.
Construction and materials
The Imperial line is as almost all Cheaney’s shoes Goodyear welted. It’s the underside of the shoe that stands out the most, with the heavily built-up fiddle waist that’s really sweet looking. It’s, as is customary for factory-made RTW shoes built so that it flattens out before the heel, so to speak. It’s because it requires a lot of work to build the first parts of the heel if you have the elevated waist going all the way into it, and Cheaney uses pre built heels, again as almost all factory-made RTW makers, and then it’s standard to make it this way.
The soles has a nicely closed channel, and the oak bark tanned leather is probably from the British tannery Baker, which makes among the best soles in the world.
The upper leather feels really nice and is as often with shoe by British brands slightly thicker. I’ve only used them about 10-15 times, but for this period the creasing has been as expected from this type of fine shoes. The mottled finish that’s called Bronzed espresso might not be to everyone’s taste, but personally I think it’s really neat.
The shoes have toe stiffeners made of Celastic (plastic impregnated fabric) and heel stiffeners of leather board (leather dust mixed with glue and compressed). The shoes are solidly constructed, but they do lack a bit when it comes to some of the finishing parts. One thing is that the edge of the sole is quite rough, I would definitely want them to work some more on them with finer sandpaper. The roughness makes it hard to get a nice shine on the edge of the sole, and if you use a cotton cloth when polishing small parts can get stuck at it. This is something that’s not uncommon when the shoes have been used for a while, when the glue between the welt and outsole gets squeezed out and you have some wear, but on new shoes in this price range it’s not expected.
Secondly, I react a bit on the fact that the sole stitch is placed quite a bit out in the part at the arch, which makes the sole edge quite wide here. Probably the relatively narrow and built up waist plays a certain role, it can be difficult to work this area with the sole stitching machine. It’s not unusual to see this on cheaper machine welted shoes, especially if it’s thick leather soles or rubber soles, however these are none of that. Both of these things is nothing that affects the durability at all, but it drags down the overall impression a bit since it’s not something you usually see on the shoes in the segment that Cheaney Imperial plays in. If it’s a miss in quality control or it’s how the shoes normally look.
The 208 last is only used for the Imperial line, it’s a pretty sleek last that is a bit elongated with an almond shaped toe. It’s relatively normal in length, but slightly narrower than standard I think. The heel is pretty tight and hugs nicely around the heel without any risk of heel slippage for me, which otherwise isn’t very unusual with double monk shoes that is not as flexible as lace-ups when it comes to adjusting how hard they are tight.
On Shoegazing I’m using Loake Aldwych made on the Capital last as a reference shoe, since it’s a very common model (at least in Europe) many shoe aficionados have experience with it. I have a size larger in Cheaney’s Holyrood, UK10,5 compared to UK10 in the Capital. Cheaney’s 208 last is still slightly narrower overall than the Capital in one size smaller, while the length is about the same. Capital, however, is known to be a pretty large last.
Cheaney Imperial is definitely a good addition in the upper midrange price segment, with great upper leather both in terms of quality and coloration and with the high quality sole together with a delicious fiddle waist. Some small mistakes in the finishing that Cheaney needs to work with to deliver a shoe that feels as elaborate as the main competitors Crockett & Jones Handgrade and Alfred Sargent Exclusive, but it’s clearly a lot of shoes for the money.