The Billy Ruffian Story began nearly 140 years ago when Charles Pettit, a Victorian artisan, didn’t listen to his mothers predictions of financial ruin, and opened a small tannery in the North Bedfordshire village of Harrold. And it went on from there, generation after generation of his family tanning leather for customers around the world; making Leathergoods in their Buckinghamshire workshop and supplying shoes to leading brands around the world.
So where did Billy Ruffian come from I hear you ask? Well, when the sixth generation were stepping out into the world and struggling to eke out their student loans, they ran into a problem; the classic English shoes they so admired were just too expensive. So undaunted and drawing on their family’s wealth of experience they set about creating their own range of superbly crafted classics but at an affordable prices.
As with all shoes, they started with the lasts (the wooden moulds which give the shoes their shape) and after a long search found some classic shoes and boots from an old English shoemaker, now sadly closed, which had the look they wanted. Using these as patterns, they made the Billy Ruffian lasts. Around these they wrapped beautiful leather and suede uppers.. hand stitched of course...before adding an Italian leather sole to complete the shoe. Why the leather soles you may ask? Simple..leather is a natural material that’s warm in the winter, cool in the summer , moulds to the foot and is just so comfortable.. and great for dancing too.
And the socks.. beautifully made in England, with stripes and dots for a bit of fun and that bit of rebellion tucked away when conformity is the order of the day.
Finally, why Billy Ruffian ? Well, this was the affectionate name given by the sailors of Nelson’s Fleet to HMS Bellerophon which fought at the Nile, Trafalgar and accepted the surrender of Napoleon in 1815. So why did they choose it as a name for their shoes? It would be nice to say that it was because it represented integrity, dogged Englishness and adventure, but the truth was probably more prosaic.. they just liked it!