FROM OUR FEBRUARY ISSUE: IF THE SHOE FITS…
The entire MR team is proud to present the final page of our February 2023 print edition. Haven’t gotten your copy? Feel free to page through a digital copy at Issuu, and we’ll continue to post the individual stories on MR-mag.com. If you haven’t been getting MR in print, be sure that you are on our mailing list for future issues by completing this form. We’ll return with our July 2023 MR Awards edition.
FROM LEGENDARY DANDY Beau Brummel in the 19th century to Instagram stars in the 21st, stories are the lifeblood of the menswear industry. Ghostly stories of ships lost at sea, Cinderella-style fairy tales, Hollywood good luck fables—no matter the genre, we all enjoy a good story. This is one of those. Or maybe it’s all of them rolled into one. You be the judge.
On December 10, 1786, the 53-ton Danish brigantine Catharina von Flensburg set sail from St. Petersburg bound for the Mediterranean port of Genoa with a cargo that included rare, exotic Russian reindeer calf leather hides. On route, the vessel was caught in a storm and was forced to shelter off the coast of Cornwall, England. While the crew was able to safely reach shore, the vessel and its cargo were lost. In 1973, divers searching for another wreck, that of HMS Harwich, discovered the bell of the Catharina and subsequently its cargo, hidden in the silt of the seafloor. Miraculously, the hides were perfectly preserved despite being underwater for nearly 200 years. Legally, the ownership of the cargo belonged to the Duke of Corn- wall, HRH Prince Charles, but he waived his rights, allowing the cargo to be sold to finance the Catharina Project.
Fast forward to December 2, 2022. An elderly man enters New & Lingwood, an
English men’s store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Two employees greet him. The man opens the bag he’s carrying to reveal a shoebox bearing the logo of the English shop where they are presently meeting. Inside are two embroidered cloth shoe bags protecting a pair of brand-new, unworn men’s shoes inserted with perfectly fitting carved wooden shoe trees. The box also contains a color brochure from the same famous English retailer, a bill of sale for the shoes dated 2006, contemporaneous press clippings from The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and papers from the store attesting to the provenance of the leather and the shoes made from it.
Both employees are familiar with menswear’s urban legend of pre-Revolution Russian reindeer calf hides, lost at sea for centuries, then discovered, salvaged, and finally crafted in England into an extremely limited number of bespoke and ready-made shoes. In a Cinderella moment, one of the employees decided it was time to try the shoes on. They were a perfect fit, and after a short negotiation, a deal was struck. The employee joined an exclusive “club” of fellow owners of shoes made from the precious 250-year-old Russian reindeer hides salvaged from the wreck of the Catharina. Fellow members are said to be King Charles III of England (gifted a bespoke pair in gratitude when he was Prince of Wales), award-winning British actor Terence Stamp, and three-time Formula 1 champion Sir Jackie Stewart. Well, that’s my story. Oh, and by the way, the newest member is… yours truly!
Justin is a freelance writer whose articles have been published in the Financial Times and British GQ. He can often be found at New & Lingwood, 970 Lexington Avenue, New York.
Photo, top, by cmonphotography. Shoe photo provided by Mr. MacInerney.
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