Debenhams acts to save icon of British fashion

From: Debenhams
Published: Mon Jan 17 2011

Debenhams fears that an icon of British fashion is in danger of disappearing, as sales of men's brown suede shoes have plummeted to an all time low.

For decades they were the mens shoes of choice, an indispensible badge of identity for the 'G&T, ice and a slice, Jaguar driving, man about town'. Now fashion store Debenhams has decided to act to preserve the style for the future shoppers before it disappears forever, by asking top designers to reinvent the classic shoe using styles which will appeal to a younger generation. 

Debenhams spokesman, Ed Watson, said, "For years, this shoe has represented the sole of the nation. All over the world, Britons are still renowned for wearing brown suede shoes with blue shirts. It's as well known as our penchant for afternoon tea, and we want to do all that we can to enable everyone to continue this great tradition".

Brown suede shoes first found favour with respectable Middle England when they were worn by the Duke of Windsor in the 1930s. Film star Cary Grant, and later, Terry Thomas followed the trend, boosting the shoe's profile to an all time high. Sales soared in the 1960s and 70s, with brown suede becoming the footwear of choice, along with blue blazers, flannels, and Pringle jumpers. British Army officers wore the shoes constantly when in civvies, and golf clubs all over the country regarded them as virtually a requirement of membership.

'Ladette to Lady' social & etiquette expert, Liz Brewer said, "Brown suede shoes are a British design classic. They are the appropriate footwear for the often-problematic smart/casual dress code and are perfect for country house weekends."

Sales began to falter towards the end of the 80s, during Margaret Thatcher's final years in power. They fell still further with Tony Blair's drive towards Cool Britannia in the 1990s. Now sales of traditional brown suede shoes have dwindled to an all time low. 

Debenhams spokesman, Ed Watson, said "Younger men have stopped buying brown suede shoes because they still associate them with the Terry and June set - footwear for dreary suburbia. Therefore, we've asked our designers to develop a new approach which incorporates the best of this classic style while bringing the shoe bang up to date.

"We're considering using contrast colour laces to capitalise on this season's colour-block trend, and perhaps altering both the heel height and length and width to bring the shoe more into line with modern trends. However, any changes our designers make must still ensure that the shoe can be worn with blue shirts. Even though this combination is often derided in other countries, it undoubtedly makes a unique statement which some believe is the quintessential mark of a British man".


Notes to editors:

About Debenhams:
Debenhams is a leading department stores group with a strong presence in key product categories including womenswear, mens clothes, childrenswear, home and health and beauty.

Debenhams is the second largest department store chain in the UK.

Debenhams operates 160 stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland, comprising 147 full departments stores and 13 Desire by Debenhams stores, which is a small store concept featuring an edited product range. Debenhams also has 60 international franchise stores in 23 countries.

Designers at Debenhams include Ted Baker, Jeff Banks, Jasper Conran, Erickson Beamon, FrostFrench, Henry Holland, Betty Jackson, Ben de Lisi, Julien Macdonald, Melissa Odabash, Jane Packer, Pearce Fionda, Janet Reger, John Rocha, Lisa Stickley, Eric Van Peterson and Matthew Williamson.

For further media information please contact:
Ruth Attridge
PR Manager - Menswear, Beauty, International & Retail Services
33 Wigmore Street
0207 529 0172
Company: Debenhams
Contact Name: Ruth Attridge
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: 0207 529 0172

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