Unlike other elements in menswear, shoes are not a mere accessory. You actually need good shoes, quality support for your feet throughout the day, which explains why shoes have always been an investment and not just a fancy ornament.
Technical and aesthetic creativity in boot-making have reached an impressive level, strangely contrasting with the abundance of badly made industrial shoes with glued soles and mediocre materials. As in many aspects of contemporary menswear, for smaller companies, economic survival resides in top-notch quality.
Caulaincourt is the name of two brothers who were generals in the army of Napoléon. A few generations down the family tree, in 2008, a member of the illustrious family called Alexis Lafont chose to assert his historical roots and promote quality boot wear and craftsmanship, proudly displaying the Napoleonic symbols: the bee for the Paris collection (Ready-to-Wear); and the crowned N for the Napoléon collection (Made-to-Order).
A refined and passionate person, Alexis Lafont has boldly chosen quality leather but also very subtle and sophisticated patterns for shoes that develop a strong stylistic character.
The Paris collection presents shoes that can receive patina–but without modifying the design (490€). The models in the Napoléon collection are made to order (i.e., the customer can choose the last, leather, lacing, sole, etc.). It costs an added 195€ and requires eight weeks before delivery.
With made to order, a personal last is not created for the customer; instead, you choose the last that you feel at ease with and then create your own variations on the model. With a dozen lasts and about 50 models, the choices at Caulaincourt seem limitless: lacing, welting (Blake, Goodyear, Bologna construction, Norwegian, stormwelt…), types of soles and sole edge, broguing and ornaments, etc. The types of finishing are also numerous, including colour of the stitching, scalloping of the welt, thickness of the stitching, etc.
The way it works is simple: the customer combines the technical possibilities of the shoes with the choice of a leather. The only problem is you want to try everything. The patina service is just one more reason to indulge in the customizing process and go as far as you want. From espadrilles to hiking shoes, the range is truly wide.
Also, the staff knows how to guide the customer and provide technical advice, suggesting combinations or ideas, discussing soles, and welting lasts with accuracy. In this respect, Caulaincourt is as much for connoisseurs who want to experiment as for beginners who want to be guided.
Discussing with Alexis Lafont to create my own model was a pure pleasure given the passion and extended knowledge of the man.
I chose a model that could highlight the strengths of Caulaincourt, a two-tone, two-material Balmoral boot. See below the Sherlock model in Ready-to-Wear from which we started our discussion
- the “Dragon” last, with a slightly squared tip,
- a very intense museum calf leather (so intense that there will be no need for further patina), and
- to replace the tweed quarters of the Ready-to-Wear model with blue suede quarters.
The boots were perfectly executed, with a nice half-moon iron screwed on the undertip of the sole. The smooth wingtip with half-broguing has a lot of character, both classy and not too loud. The shoes are thus very sophisticated but without flashiness. Its fluid lines are wonderful and the Goodyear welting is not chunky at all, both consistent with a boot and with the overall subtlety. The leather is extremely neat.
You can also ask for models that were created in the past, using their online look book. See below three Made-to-Order variations of the same model created for customers :
They also offer various leather goods (which can be customised—lovely belts and bags, especially the Oscar model with its unique closing system).
Of course, if you’re after a black oxford with a straight toe cap, it might be a pity to bypass all the possibilities on offer (although they do carry such a classic model called Armstrong, with a nice fine tip). But if you’re looking to expand your horizon and rejuvenate the classic models, then push the envelope and satisfy your stylistic curiosity.
The offer at Caulaincourt is in line with the deep trends of modern menswear, based on tradition but with personal extensions which correspond to personal choices, not with long-gone sartorial prescriptions. A maison which is clearly in line with traditional boot-making but reaching out to contemporary adaptations.
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E-store, website and adresses : Caulaincourt Paris