Made to last

All of our shoes start with a last (the wooden moulds which give the shoes their shape). At Billy Ruffian we were very particular about these and after a long search found some classic styles with the shape we wanted from an old english shoemaker, now sadly closed.

Using these as patterns, we made the Billy Ruffian lasts; BR14 for the loafers and Oxfords , BR24 for the welted shoes and BR18 for the brogues and boots. These lasts are used to ‘form’ the beautiful hand stitched leather and suede uppers before the outsole is attached. For Billy Ruffians the sole had to be leather. Why so you may ask? The answer is simple, leather is a natural material that is warm in the winter, cool in the summer, moulds to the foot and is very comfortable. In short, the ideal sole material for our classic and timeless Billy Ruffian collection.

Boat shoes, as we know them, evolved in America from the Red Indian moccasin. These were made by moulding and hand sewing wet leather around rudimentary lasts. As the leather dried it shrank and formed into the perfect foot shape that needed no sole and were just so comfortable. The rubber sole arrived in the middle of the last century courtesy of a Mr Sperry, who put razor cuts into the bottom to prevent them slipping on wet decks and so the boat shoe was born. Our boat shoes continue this tradition. American leathers hand sewn on the last, siped rubber soles, latigo laces and solid brass eyelets.

Our shoes are made in small, highly skilled workshops that we have known and been privileged to work with for many years. Made to our exacting standards and specifications, our shoes are a show case for some of the best shoe makers in the world. We hope that you enjoy them as much as we are proud of them.

Materials

We seek to use only the finest materials that we can in our shoes and luggage and source these from around the world; English Stead’s suede in our welted loafer, French and Indian polished calf, American pull up leathers, Mexican natural rubber soles for our boat shoes, English threads, Horween shell cordovan from Chicago and Italian leather soles.

American Pull Up

North American hides make the best rugged, casual leathers. Specially tanned for us, our pull up leathers are heavily oiled to help them mould to the foot whilst at the same time be extremely resilient. American Pull Up is fully aniline and all scars and scratches will be visible as a reminder that leather is a natural product!

Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse leather is a development of the Pull Up leather. Even more heavily oiled and with the grain ‘buffed’ off, Crazy Horse is the ultimate ‘go anywhere’ rugged leather.

Polished Calf

Calf skins with their clean grain make the best leather for smart and formal shoes. These are carefully tanned to bring out the beauty of the natural grain and then polished when the shoe is still on the last.

French Calf

Made from European calf skins by Tannerie D’Annonay in the Rhone valley, our French calf is widely considered to be the finest and most hard wearing calf leathers in the world. Famous for its flat grain, tight break and refined lustre.

Shell Cordovan

Genuine Shell Cordovan is a very specific leather, from a particular part of a horsehide. The process of making this extraordinary leather takes at least six months. Each shell is first soaked in vegetable liquors before being hot stuffed with waxes and oils. Once tanned the leather is hand cured and shaved by highly skilled artisans to expose the shell. This is then hand stained and glazed to achieve the rich, glossy look and feel prized by fine craftsmen.

Stead's Suede

A raw hide is very thick and can be made into leathers up to 6mm thick (think leather soles). However most finished leathers are less than 2mm thick and are made by first splitting the hide in to two layers. The inner layer is known as a ‘split’ and is used to make suede leathers by first tanning the leather and then finishing it by ‘buffing’ or sandpapering the surface to produce the suede nap. The best suede in the world is made by the tanner Charles F Stead in Leeds and is valued for its fine nap and deep rich colour.

Suede

A raw hide is very thick and can be made into leathers up to 6mm thick (think leather soles). However most finished leathers are less than 2mm thick and are made by first splitting the hide in to two layers. The inner layer is known as a ‘split’ and is used to make suede leathers by first tanning the leather and then finishing it by ‘buffing’ or sandpapering the surface to produce the suede nap.

Full glossary of terms