Name: Jason Simmonds
Job title: Managing director
How long have you worked at Herring Shoes? I started the website for Adrian (Herring) in about 2000 as a web developer but I joined the business full-time in 2010. Since 2018 I have been the MD.
Favourite style of shoe and why? You can’t have just one favourite because times change and so do your tastes. My first favourite in the 1990s was a burgundy beef-roll loafer which I thought was the coolest thing for a 20-something to wear; although I also had the burgundy Dr Martens Chelsea boot too, so maybe I had some style?
Now, I favour the military and utilitarian styling of the Badminton, for example. I just love everything about it, from the way the leather develops over time to the bright eyelets that give it personality, while being strictly functional as a pared back boot.
Favourite style of boot and why? My most loved pair (just ahead of the Badminton) is the Exmoor boot. Adrian and I visited the Fox brothers mill in Somerset to design the tweed and then we custom designed a boot with Cheaney that would show it off.
In a way, it is the opposite of a utilitarian style with the flamboyance of a rich tweed that you can make a suit from (I have and so have some of our customers!) It is unique as a style, so I feel special when I wear them and even more so as I appreciate the thought and effort that has gone into creating them.
What is your shoe philosophy/what do you love about shoes?
John Wildsmith, the founder of the Wildsmith brand, said it best: “You are either in your shoes or in your bed, so it pays to invest in both.” This is so true but is not often said. With our shoes, we create a product that is either completely or mostly natural and sustainable, lasts well, doesn’t go out of fashion, is repairable many times and supports traditional craftsmen and women at the same time. What bothers me is the short-lived lifecycle of so many mass-produced trainer styles. We need to invest in heritage, well-made shoes, whatever the style.
What shoe/boot trend do you envisage for 2021? Our shoes are not fashion conscious in the normal way other brands are. We create classics that are updated to reflect current styles, but they are still overtly traditional. In 2021, we will launch an exciting collaboration with an iconic trainer brand so that we can offer authentic casuals as more of us move away from the formal requirements of an office. I am sure though that the classics will endure. Men like to show off and an expertly crafted shoe always says a lot about the wearer. Maybe the formal styles will start to push back into some of the casual settings?
What has been the biggest change in the shoe industry that you have seen since you have worked for Herring Shoes? The big brands have started to take far more control of their products which is good because it discourages discounting of the product. It costs a lot to hand-make a shoe in England and a lot of factories have closed in the last 20 years because their margins were unsustainable.
To keep the tradition alive there needs to be a reasonable profit and they are, sensibly, protecting themselves. There is a trade-off though, we are not able to sell as freely as we were due to their distribution models. This is why having the Herring brand, made to the same standards and fairly priced, wherever you happen to live in the world, gives us opportunities to grow.
Who would you like to see wearing Herring Shoes and why? There are a few that would probably make people wince as being too obvious or too celebrity-loving. Unfortunately 2020 put the brakes on any new profiles but we have a few ongoing projects which might well include a some well-known faces that make it onto the website. I can say with hand-on-heart that every ambassador I have had the privilege of meeting has been inspiring in different ways. Collectively they say a lot about what makes Herring as a brand tick, so whoever we meet next is who I want to see.
Top shoe care tip: Alternate your shoes. It is so important to share out the wear between more than one pair of shoes. If you could only do one thing, alternating would be it.
If you had to choose one pair of Herring Shoes to wear for the rest of your life, what would they be? Easy, the Herring Exmoor boot. It has great associations for me. I love its Britishness and it can be dressed up or down. Might look a bit odd on the beach with shorts though….