Obituary: Eric Lobb

Eric Lobb, bootmaker, born London 3 March 1907, married 1949 Helen Denby (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1968), died Watford 25 January 1993.

ERIC LOBB was the Chairman and Managing Director of John Lobb - makers and retailers of the finest hand-crafted shoes available on the market today. His grandfather, John Lobb, opened his premises in St James's, central London, in 1866 and the firm has remained in family hands ever since.

Eric Lobb, son of William Hunter Lobb, was born in London in 1907. He attended University College School, Hampstead, and then went up to Pembroke College, Oxford, to study rural economy and agriculture. He returned to London where he undertook a series of sales jobs and enjoyed a small farming enterprise in his spare time at the family farm, at Radlett, in Hertfordshire. He joined John Lobb in 1939, when the international Depression had taken its toll on the business.

With the advent of the Second World War, and the business facing closure, he volunteered to join the Navy but was rejected on account of his red/green colour blindness. A successful application to the Air Force followed, but on the eve of his departure he received official orders that John Lobb was to remain open for the duration of the hostilities to maintain British business prestige.

Trade continued throughout the war in spite of suffering bomb damage on six occasions. The valuable store of wooden lasts (a blueprint of each client's feet) was moved to the safety of the country and individual pairs recalled as necessary. Today some 30,000 lasts are stored on ceiling-high racks in the basement of the shop, filed in alphabetical order of clients.

In the post-war years Eric Lobb was an energetic ambassador, touring Britain and the US to promote his product. He was also responsible for reviving the firm's royal warrant, which had expired with the death of Edward VII. Since 1956 Lobbs have enjoyed the custom of the Duke of Edinburgh (when, on the Duke's 50th birthday, Eric Lobb sent his congratulations, the Duke replied, 'One of the reasons I am still going strong is that I have always been so well shod'), from 1963 that of the Queen and, from 1980, that of the Prince of Wales. Other of their well-heeled customers have included Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Groucho Marx, Guy Burgess and Frank Sinatra.

A pair of Lobb bespoke shoes can take six months to make and involves the skills of as many craftsmen. The foot is measured by the 'fitter' and the skin or hide is selected by the 'clicker'. There is a choice of some 50 different kinds or leather, including python, ostrich, elephant and lizard. At least eight pieces of skin are used for each shoe and these are specially picked for colour, grain and weight. Wooden lasts are carved by the 'last-maker' from fine hornbeam, beech or maple to the exact size of the customer's feet. The 'closer' cuts the leather to the final shape and the 'maker' completes the operation by attaching the sole and the heel. The shoe is then polished. In an age of increasing mechanisation and changing fashions a pair of classic Lobb shoes remains a luxury few can afford (a pair of men's shoes costs about pounds 1,000), but one that all would appreciate.

Lobbs mainly cater for the male market and are particularly noted for their brogues, classic Oxfords and loafers, which are hand-sewn with twisted and waxed threads. The Victoria and Albert Museum selected a pair of navvy cut scroll brogues for their newly opened Gallery of Twentieth Century Design, and the recently donated wardrobe of the late Edward James revealed two fine pairs of Lobb shoes.

Lobbs' unique achievements were officially acknowledged in 1984 when they received the Queen's Award for Industry and the French award for Craftsman of the World in 1987.

Outside business Eric Lobb was an enthusiastic sailor. He retained his early love of farming, keeping Jersey cows and prize-winning chickens at home in Hertfordshire.

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'