This year, Tricker’s of Northampton celebrate their 190th anniversary of producing quality, English made footwear. Keen to learn of the heritage behind Northampton’s oldest operating footwear manufacturer, we visited their factory on St Michael’s Road, in The Mounts; Northampton’s historic shoemaking district.
Now in its 5th generation and still family owned, Tricker's boots and shoes have been manufactured at the St Michael’s Road factory since 1904.
We were lucky enough to be guided around the factory by David, head of sales at Tricker’s. David explained how the factory still works to the most traditional methods - top to bottom.
The leather is first checked by hand and eye, before being sent for clicking. Many famous Tricker's shoes and boots, like the Bourton and Stow have their own knives, but for bespoke and custom orders, the uppers are still cut the old fashioned way, by a master clicker.
When it comes to bespoke and custom orders, Tricker’s employs artisan shoemakers who hand sew orders to exacting standards with traditional tools on custom made lasts. At work during our visit was Adele, a shoemaker with Tricker's, and Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust Apprentice.
For comparison, a bespoke Tricker's shoe takes about an hour and half to welt by hand, whereas a modern welting machine can do this in about 30 seconds.
The Tricker’s bespoke service illustrates perfectly their commitment to maintaining age old Northampton shoemaking methods, while their use of modern machinery and leathers sets them apart as a forward thinking shoe manufacturer. Tricker’s have recently started manufacturing footwear from a sustainable Olivvia leather, which is tanned using olive leaves.
Tricker’s employ around 100 staff across the factory, and with a core collection of footwear for both men and women available year-round there’s always a sense of hustle and bustle across the factory floor and in the shoe room; a good thing for any shoe factory.
As well as the country classics, Tricker’s are well known for their long-standing collaborations with the likes of Margaret Howell, Junya Watanabe and Engineered Garments. Recently, they’ve partnered with ever minimal Arket on a capsule collection of sleek, all black footwear.
With many Northampton shoes, the bulk of Tricker’s output ends up overseas in markets like Japan, the US and Italy, where the Northampton name is well known and highly regarded as the best available.
In the factory showroom, which is lined with shoes and boots, David pointed out that as much of 60% of all Tricker’s orders are split between the most well known styles; the Bourton Country Shoe and the Stow Country Boot. This comes as no surprise, given the high regard the Country collection is held in, being virtually unchanged for 80 years and closely associated with the Royal Warrant, held since 1989.
For the future, Tricker’s plans are very much to stay true to their roots, exploring their vast archives for design inspiration, while utilising unique and interesting leathers and finishes. This season sees classic styles utilising the new Museum Calf leather, with a focus on lightweight crepe and Vibram soles.
Photography by Alex Natt (@adnatt)
View Tricker's full product range via their website www.trickers.com