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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - London - £40,000 + Bonus

£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own