Every industry has its greats. They leave their mark in a variety of forms; ideas, stories, heroic acts, products, processes or traditions just to name a few. George Cleverley is just one of those greats. In his legacy he not only left one of the finest bespoke shoe making houses in the world but also the elegant and venerable butterfly loafer (which, it should be noted is only one of his great designs).
Unfortunately, I have been unable to unearth a comprehensive history of this shoe but what I do know is this. The shoe was first designed by George Cleverley himself and produced on a bespoke basis by George Cleverley LTD. At a later date, sometime in the 1970’s, Mr. Cleverley was hired by the bespoke shoe house Poulson Skoane as a design consultant (but I am not sure if this arrangement started before or after Poulson Skoane was acquired by New & Lingwood). At some point during his tenure at Poulson Mr. Cleverley introduced the butterfly loafer under the Poulson Skoane name (and consequently the New & Lingwood name as well). Sometime after Poulson Skoane was acquired by New & Lingwood it was converted into a ready to wear shoe line, thus making the butterfly loafer available to a wider consumer base, like myself. I was able to acquire mine when I was in London this past summer at New & Lingwood (and to be totally honest, I told myself I wasn’t leaving London until I somehow acquired a pair).
There are two defining characteristics of a traditional butterfly loafer. Most importantly there are the overlapping pieces of leather up the top of the shoe. I can only imagine they are called butterfly loafers because the overlapping pieces look somewhat like butterfly wings, but I could be wrong. The second, and much less significant characteristic is the brogued apron on the top of the shoe (brogueing is the holes punched in the leather along an edge).
As far as I know there are only a handful of places to acquire my beloved butterfly loafers. Poulson Skoane (aka New & Lingwood but made by Crockett & Jones), George Cleverley and Alan Flusser’s Custom Shop are the three that come to mind. However, when I wore mine to Leffot the proprietor Mr. Taffel expressed a keen interest in them and noted they would look great in a brown suede, I couldn’t agree more. I have since been hoping and praying that he has them made for his store. But we shall see… Regardless, they are of the lesser known styles of shoes, which I think only adds to their essence. May I recommend that if you have the opportunity to acquire a pair that you do not pass it up.