Bespoke shoemakers since 1857

James Taylor & Son is a leading British bespoke shoemaker, established in 1857. We make a wide range of fully bespoke footwear, ranging from fashionable shoes and boots, through to complex orthopaedic footwear for all types of foot condition.

We are a small, very long established business that is absolutely dedicated to the design and making of beautiful, classic shoes that are incredibly comfortable to wear. Our staff are some of the most experienced and talented in the industry, we use the best materials that money can buy, and we make shoes that fit perfectly and look beautiful.

All our shoes are made in our Paddington Street premises in the heart of London and we are one of a handful of traditional West End shoemakers. But we are also comfortable with technology and we use the world's most advanced 3D foot scanning and CAD/CAM system, so we can design absolutely perfect shoe lasts and orthotics to fit your feet.

As well as bespoke, we offer a limited range of very high quality ready made shoes, including the Status range (providing a lift of several cm) and Finn Comfort that are ideal for the fitting of custom orthotics. We also offer a full repair service for all types of footwear including, of course, our own. We have an excellent reputation for handling all types of repair and alteration work, and we can extend the life of your shoes and boots almost indefinitely.

"Your shoes seem to never wear out" Mrs. Y Norwich

Joseph Box silk shoes

Silk shoes by Joseph Box circa 1880

James Taylor - ladies shoe

Silk ladies shoe by James Taylor & Son circa 1890

A Unique History

Our history begins when, in 1857, a skilled shoemaker by the name of James Taylor left his native Norfolk to take his skills to London and a fashionable Great Portland Street address.   The firm’s very early history is largely unknown but the firm became established as a maker for the rich and famous, and was eventually inherited by his son, and then his two grandsons.

During its first 50 years James Taylor & Son became one of the most important bespoke shoemakers in London.  It was part of a small group known as the “Four Firms” and this group dominated the bespoke shoemaking world in the 19th and early 20th century.  Two of them were makers to the Royal Family (Hook Knowles & Co and Joseph Box) and the other was a famous bootmaker called Charles Moykopf.

Hook-Knowles shoes

Pumps by Hook Knowles & Co circa 1920

Hook-Knowles - original bill

A 1907 original invoice from Hook Knowles & Co to one of its clients

Moykopf pumps

Silk pumps by Charles Moykopf circa 1890

Lobb label showing other firms names

A John Lobb label showing the names of the three of the Four Firms it had acquired by the 1950s

The Four Firms worked as a cartel (perfectly legal in those days) and, alongside a group of small bespoke shoemakers (the West End Master Bootmakers Association), set prices and wages for the whole industry.

The Four Firms, together with the 140 or so smaller firms in the West End Master Bookmakers Association, worked and co-operated throughout the great changes and crises of the 20th Century.  These included the rise of competition from the new ready-made footwear factories in Northampton and the collapse of prices during the Great Depression.  An archive of original documents held by James Taylor & Son records the many challenges that they faced.

By the 1940’s the total number of bespoke shoemakers in London had fallen to just over 30 and the Four Firms had joined with the West End Master Bootmakers Association to form a single group.  There are now only 4 members of the West End Master Bootmakers Association left, including James Taylor & Son.

Of the original Four Firms that led the industry in the 19th and early 20th century, three of them (Hook Knowles and Co, Joseph Box, and Charles Moykopf) were taken over by John Lobb of St James St in the 1950’s.

James Taylor & Son, uniquely, has survived and ultimately prospered throughout all the changes over the last 150 years.  We are the only one of the Four Firms to continue as an independent bespoke shoemaker to the present day.

James Taylor 100 year old Minutes
James Taylor 100 year old Minutes

Samples of the minutes of a meeting of the Four Firms in 1920, recorded by George Taylor of James Taylor & Son, and deciding on the prices for bespoke shoes in London.

Steve Robinson, Managing Director

Robert Elek, Head of Shoemaking

Our People

Our team at James Taylor & Son are all specialists in the field of shoemaking, some of whom have been with us for over 30 years.  Their individual skills include all the key shoemaking functions such as last making, pattern design, clicking, closing hand-lasting and soling.  Each member of our team has multiple skills but specialises in particular parts of the shoemaking process, so we can design almost any style of shoe or boot and make them to the highest standard of finish.

For more medical work, our team includes two formally trained and experienced orthopaedic shoemakers.  Their work on last and patterns ensures that the design and construction of our custom orthotics and orthopaedic shoes meets the correct therapeutic standards.

Our organisation means that every pair of shoes made by James Taylor & Son is worked on by at least five different craftsmen, in order to achieve the exact fit and style that you require.  It is a uniquely skilled process and one that has barely changed in over 150 years.