The Toppermost of the Poppermost – Topper Shoes

It’s only been a fairly recent luxury with the internet and original Mods posting up rare and treasured photos from their sartorial heyday and stunningly researched tomes like Paul ‘Smiler’ Anderson’s Mods the New Religion with its own incredible selection of images, that enable us to see just how amazing and innovative the clothing was; especially in light of what had gone before, its sixties peak.

Any fan of Modernist history and its Swinging London Carnabetion cousin though still likes to get their hands dirty though… (I suspect it’s the quality of the printing ink…) There is something about wading through vintage periodicals and magazines from the sixties that I find genuinely a pleasure. Stylistically even the adverts (irrespective of what’s being advertised) ache of the era. They are superbly illustrated and make me want to own the very shoes they stand up in… such is the power of advertising I guess!

The other great treasure trove are the music mags. Chief among these is Rave magazine which knowingly mixes up street Mod with Pop Star style and is a great barometer of the changing fashions as it runs through from early ’64 monochromatic Beatle/Cliff/Rolling Stones looks with its skinny black ties and matching trousers to the mind-expanding conscious exploding rage of colour with the aforementioned Fabs and Stones being two of those at the forefront of the kaleidoscopic riot as the decade progressed (to be fair even Cliff’s ties were paisley by this time) to the dichotomy between the more earthy, organic looks and the space-age futuristic at its end.

Browsing through them again and its hard not to get excited by the sheer dandified flare of the floppy hatted and sharp shod Brian Jones, the Velvet Victoriana of The Kinks and perhaps best of all those Darlings of the Whapping Wharf Landrette; Small Faces. In amongst the new pearly Kings and Queens of Lennon and McCartney (although check out George and Ringo for the best stuff!) is Dennis! Who he? You may well ask… well Just Dennis was the regular clothes feature that appears in Rave magazine and its clear that its largely sponsored by the boutiques of Carnaby Street and whilst much is known about the King of Carnaby Street, and Mod-Millionaire John Stephen whose clothes so defined an era, little is known about the most famous of shoe sellers; Stephen Topper of Toppers Shoes.

Toppers Shoes had a clientele of the good and the great with The Stones, The Who and The Small Faces regulars as well as international superstars who made a point of visiting their premises such as Jimi Hendrix and the new ‘Judas’; Bob Dylan. It is however great to read more recent articles on such web-pages as the Original Modernist FB page how much both Toppers shoes and rival (and next-door neighbour) Ravel were not just coveted but bought and actively worn on the high-street cat walks of the mid-sixties and beyond.

Toppers Shoes were already an established London concern with three branches in central London; one at 68 Queensway in W2 and the others at 34 Coventry Street and 57 Shaftesbury Avenue in W1. They made the leap into Swinging London folklore with a move to number 45 Carnaby Street under the stewardship of Stephen Topper the then still teenage son of the owner, in 1965.

Six months later they feature strongly in the ‘London Swings’ issue of Rave magazine in April ’66. They also make the two era defining guides the pop-art Illustrated Ravers Map of London and the Gear Guide – the Hip-pocket guide to Britain’s Swinging Fashion Scene which denote the opening of a second branch in Carnaby Street at No 9 which catered for both men and women in its ‘beautifully cool interior of weird purply shades’ unlike No 45 which catered for men only. Prices ranged from three pounds to ten Guineas for men and for the girls from three pounds to five pounds-fifteen for shoes and from five pounds to seven pounds-nineteen and six for boots.

It’s easy to see what was so attractive about the shoes. Designed by Stephen Topper himself and manufactured to a high standard in France, Italy and Spain they were intricate weaves of contrasting leather; almond toed perfection. Viewing the colour photos of Small Faces at this time and you can see the weaves in cream and olive and outrageous black and lilac.

Brian Jones, arguably the most flamboyant Stone also owned a pair. Contrasting fabrics and colours were a regular feature of his work and were the perfect complement to the rest of the clothes on Carnaby Street.

A selection of Just Dennis articles reveals the eclectic mix of styles; from Sand Suede boots with waterproof leather lining, also available in black leather and olive suede (Price £7 19. 6d – Nov 1966). Two-tone loafers and two-tone brogues in Macao canvas and leather (Price 85s. – Feb 1967). Similar shoes in red-brown and black leather were available the following year at £5 9s. 6d.

In August 1968 hessian slip-ons in Natural or Ice Blue were 59s 11d. Cord Boots in Camel or Brown also 59s. 11d and at a slightly cheaper 49s. 11d are Canvas slip-ons in White or Brown or lace-ups in Navy or Natural with all shoes being described as light-weight and ideal for the beach.

Toppers shoes marched into the 70’s and continued to reflect the times with stacked heals and more bulbous toes and headed South West to the Kings Road (again reflecting the transition of the fashion centre of the era) but by the late 1970’s Topper Shoes and Stephen Topper himself seem to have faded from view.

Thankfully the comparative ease of modern research and with the clear passion of some current manufacturers inspired by the innovation and style of Stephen Topper’s stunning shoe collections it is possible to once again buy shoes that make similar style statements. Who wouldn’t want to be in the elite company of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Dylan Hendrix and of course Small Faces.

Ladies Autumn / Winter 2018 – Preview

Here is a preview of our ladies Autumn / Winter Collection. If you are seeing this, you were on the VIP list.

Brand New Tights – Ladies Vintage Retro 60s 70s Style

Here we have our Latest tights. We think these are just fab.

Headstart For Happiness – the early Style Council years – Part 2

The year ended with the mini album Introducing The Style Council which was released only in Japan, Australia, Holland, Canada and the US containing their recorded output to date, but still sold well in Dutch Import sales alone.

‘Daylight turns to Moonlight and I’m at my best…’ is Mod captured in less than 10 words.

The first line of their 1984 single My Ever Changing Moods with its Isley Brothers soul-funk groove was another big hit (UK No 5), including for the first time the US where it reached top 30 – Weller’s highest single chart position there; before or since. The success of the single meant that their debut album   Café Bleu released in March was renamed after the single in the US.

Café Bleu has got to go down in music history as one of the most surprising and eclectic albums of all time. It is a massive departure from The Jam (and indeed Rock in general) – It is a melting pot of the band’s influences musically and incredibly Weller (arguably the bands biggest draw) sings on less than half the tracks. The Hammond-cool opener Micks Blessing (similar to Moods B-Side Micks Company) is a great introduction its Jazz stylings and echoes throughout the album with its use of Jazzy chords and all out BeBop on the Steve White showcase Dropping Bombs on the White House.

Guest vocalists Tracey Thorn (from Everything but the Girl) adds her haunting tone to A Paris EP tune The Paris Match and Rapper Dizzy Heights appears on cod-rap (and probably one weak track) A Gospel. In amongst the jazzy-acoustic near solo numbers are reworked versions of Moods, Headstart For Happiness (featuring new band member D C Lee) and future single You’re the Best Thing before ending on another Hammond Workout Council Meetin’ – A truly stunning debut that (A Gospel aside) still sounds incredibly fresh and vibrant today.

Taken from the Album, You’re the Best Thing was the lead track to the Groovin’ single backed with track The Big Boss Groove a jazz-swing number complete with a wailing harmonica courtesy of Weller also charted at No 5, and up until the release of You Do Something To Me some 20 years later You’re The Best Thing was the go-to Weller Wedding song of choice, with its beautiful glissando guitar line and Curtis falsetto; it remains one of his most complete all-round songs.

Amazingly the run of incredible singles continued with soul stomper Shout To The Top, with a strident piano and uplifting lyric it reached number 7 in the charts. Perhaps a little at odds to the earlier singles was the use of Warsaw in the video with its purveying greyness and communist brutalist architecture showing the way to the following year of Miners, Militancy, Live Aid and Lenny Henry as well as an increasing political bent. The B-side, the haunting and sombre beneath the gun-towers love song of Ghosts of Dauchau was as sobering as the 12” companion The Piccadilly Trail, again flirting with homoerotic tension, was as uplifting with its summery percussion.

The Style Council became a household name across the World in 1985 and released their best-selling album Our Favourite Shop – it was a return (in part) to the intensity of The Jam albeit with perhaps more direct lyricism and less direct musical assault, and as brilliant as it is I can’t help but miss those first two years of incredible spiritually uplifting output and simple joie De Vivre that so defined their sound. It remains one of Weller’s favourite times musically ‘like being in a youth club’ as he once described it… and who doesn’t want to relive their youth every once and a while.

Headstart For Happiness – the early Style Council years

When the curtain came down on The Jam in late ’82 it was undoubtedly a relief for Weller. The intensity of their message was simply weighing too heavily on his young shoulders. The music just too constrictive for his burgeoning mind. It should have perhaps come as no surprise that his next musical venture was going to be lighter in tone.

What was perhaps most shocking was just how adventurous and carefree he sounded on those early singles and albums. Formed almost immediately after the demise of his former charges Weller joined forces with South West Londoner (and fellow Mod) Mick Talbot, who had already played on a couple of Jam tracks (including, single The Eton Rifles) to rage against the Rock machine that had gone before.

Taking MacInnes’ Absolute Beginner’s template to Modernism the duo eschewed Parka’s for continental Alan Delon style cream macs and the monochromatic punk-rock xerox machine palette was swapped for vivid spruce green shirts and pillar-box red summer-weight knitwear. Gone were the stage-shoes and white terri-towelling socks and in came horse-bit suede loafers and correspondence toned tassel loafers; shoes so beautiful that socks were simply not needed.

The gritty high-rise and dirty-grey London town backdrops to their photo shoots were replaced first by the artful and romantic Parisienne streets; all Gauloise smoke, bitter espresso’s and La Monde newspapers before succumbing to the sun-kissed azure skies and fields of gold spun wheat, wind-blown scarlet poppies and dancing effervescent waterfalls of Europe’s capitals. Truly; The Style Council were a band that were broadening their horizons.

Musically, the pair of passionate Modernists did what all Modernists should do and magpied the best of everything, whilst adding their own personal twist. Debut single Speak Like a Child (March ’83) was the opening salvo with its title taken either from Herbie Hancock’s ’68 Blue Note album or the possibly the single by Tim Hardin, both of whom were influencing the pair at the time; It had a joyful soul swing married to an organ groove that mined from Surrender to the Rhythm by Brinsley Schwarz. It’s light-hearted video atop an open-top bus around the desolate fields of Wales was a long way from the claustrophobic intensity of The Jam. It shot up the charts before nestling at number 4.

Money Go Round (Part’s one and two) followed just a couple of months later. It’s title a steal from The Kinks (Lola verses The Powerman and the Money Go Round LP) and despite its taut slap-bass funk groove, trombone hook and half rap half socialist rant it is perhaps closer to The Jam sound than even later hit single Walls Come Tumbling Down – it really wouldn’t have been out of place on The Gift; alongside Precious or Transglobal Express. Far better was the track hidden away on the reverse of the 12” Headstart For Happiness.

This beautiful uplifting song defines the spirit of the band like no other – the stunning lyrics were the new manifesto for the new breed:

‘Naïve and wise with no sense of time, as I set my clock with a heart-beat, tick tock
Violent and mild, common-sense say’s I’m wild, with this mixed up fury, crazy beauty…’

Lyrically Weller was in a purple patch, and the cinematic beauty of their next single, the bona-fide classic Long Hot Summer (title from 1958 Paul Newman film) was a huge hit across Europe – provisionally entitled the A Paris EP (plaintive pieces from the Parisian pair) it also contained one of Mick Talbot’s finest contributions Le Depart, which echoed the cinematic feel of the A-side.

Its video though was another nail in the Rock coffin – playful and coquettish and taking a visual lead from the homo-eroticism of Brideshead Revisited (not for the first time – check out the lyrics for Pity Poor Alfie) with a half-naked Weller fondling Mick Talbot’s earlobes to the synth bass-line soft bongo percussion of new drum lieutenant of just 17 summers Steve White – it had many a Jam fan spluttering into their Cappuccino. The single reached number 3 and became their highest chart position and deserved higher. A revisited and remixed version also charted in 1989.

Steve White also appeared on the follow-up single (and fourth in a year – imagine that now kids!!!) A Solid Bond In Your Heart, which like Money-Go-Round reached No 11, was another hark back to The Jam days. The song was actually written the year before and was vetoed as their swan-song in favour of The Beat Surrender. It sounded dated in comparison to what had preceded it and despite a wailing saxophone the four-to-the-floor Northern Soul stomp belonged a life-time away. Again, significantly better was the B-side It Just Came to Pieces in My Hands. Even the video seemed to be a throw-back to a Jam Mod image, although Weller’s hair in it is rightly considered as the definite Mod barnet.

Part Two To Follow

Do The Ska – Ladies Ska Inspired Shoes

Here we have some pics of our shoes for our latest Instagram campaign. We thought you would like to see them

Shoes used in the Pictures

Jeans with Ladies Modshoes

In this blog we wanted to show you how you can wear your Modshoes more often. At Modshoes we do a range of colours, and we always like to have a splash of colour. So below you can see a few of our shoes with Jeans in various colours & styles.

The versatility of bright shoes are often underestimated. With a neutral ensemble, such as black, white, tan and grey, they make a statement on their own, but do not cause a colour overload. However, wearing several bright colours, if the same intensity, also complement each other to create a whole statement look.

Pairing jeans with heels: obtaining the balance between smart and casual

The versatility of our range of heels is something that we pride ourselves on here at Modshoes.

Pairing a heel with a formal dress does create an elegant look, but how about those who don’t opt for a dress?
Or just wish to get the most wear out of their shoes as possible?

Dressing up jeans with a blouse and heel creates a look that can be more dressy, or more casual – but remains stylish. There is even versatility in the jeans that can be worn! Our personal favourites involve pairing the 2 Shades of Pink Dustys with lighter blue jeans, the Sunflower Mariannes with dark blue jeans, and the White & Lavender Dustys with white jeans.

The possibilities are endless, so why does it feel so difficult to pair jeans with heels?

A current fashion trend is the skinny jean which, when paired with a heel, lengthens the silhouette and creates a sophisticated look. Additionally, cropped jeans are favoured during the summer months, which exhibit the heel in its entirety, and create a daytime look! White jeans are especially flexible, as we love a coloured shoe here at Modshoes, which can be paired with white effortlessly.

  • We have conjured some quick styling tips when combining heels with jeans:
  • Opt for an overall semi-dressy look to prevent the heels from looking out of place
  • If flats are too casual and heels are too high, a midi-heeled block shoe, such as Dustys, or a low heel, such as Mariannes, are a perfect solution
  • Layering a dress over jeans creates an outfit ideal for a heeled shoe – dressy yet casual
  • Turning up the hem of the jeans shows off the ankle and consequently the entirety of the heel
  • Wide leg jeans or flares also draw attention to the ankles to accentuate the heels, it doesn’t have to be skinny jeans!
  • Frayed hems stand out against a heel, and establish a contemporary look

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Tales from the Land on the Never-Never.

Tales from the Land on the Never-Never.

By the time YEAR ZERO arrives at the end of July this many sceptred, yet fractured, isle will be rejoicing in England’s second World Cup Final victory bringing with it happiness, wrapped in Poundshop St George’s flags made in China and toasted with Supermarket multi-pack continental lager. With it will come a raft of misguided xenophobia, hasty tattoos, cheap celebratory tat and an all too brief flight from being the grist to somebody else’s mill.

Watford’s own mercurial lost boy’s THE SPITFIRES 3rd album is hewn from the same paranoid suburban corners, where hope has stalled beneath flickering street lights. The friendships forged at school that have since run out of educational road and now sit together on low walls heads down casting bored phlegm onto the broken glass pavers.

The taut musicality of their debut RESPONSE is revisited across the first half of the album. The muscular hard-left guitar attack and machine gun drum clatter is perfectly balanced with the increasing nimble bass and keyboards which are allowing the band to greater define a sound that is their’s alone.

Opener REMAINS THE SAME with its amphetamine ska lurch and haunting Rico trombone is typical of this new palette of suburban sound-clash. It’s a fine trick they repeat several times, most notably on single MOVE ON and live favourite SOMETHING WORTH FIGHTING FOR.

The pop sensibilities of second album (a lost classic to these ears) A THOUSAND TIMES is also present. The Madness music-hall jaunty piano of OVER AND OVER AGAIN and the male/female duet between Billy Sullivan and (another star in the making) Emily Cappel BY MY SIDE are both wonderfully structured songs – The Spitfires really do know their craft!

If anything the final run-in of the album is even better; SICK OF HANGING AROUND and forthcoming single THE NEW AGE are pure adrenaline rush anthems for an entire generation who have spent half their lives in a mental fetal position like a dog that’s beaten too much – ‘they need National Service!’ – Great! How did a dozen years of institutionalised apathy work out for them? It’s the hope that kills you!

The last two tracks are my personal favourites on the album; YEAR ZERO has a Lynch Mob meets The Mescaleros feel to these ears and I would love to hear the boys explore this sound more. Album closer DREAMLAND is a bona-fide classic with its haunting brass section and sleepy rolling lilt, it has a weariness that echoes the general malaise of 5 years of a singular punitive one-sided austerity that has doomed an entire generation.

YEAR ZERO is a stunning album; shining a light into the darkened corners of a Britain thats lost sight of its ‘Great-ness’. The sharp end of the wealth divide where the lost boys and girls haunt this never-land dreaming of appearing on Love Island or England winning the World Cup… sadly I doubt it’ll end the ‘thirty years of hurt…’

‘Year Zero’ will be released 27th July on CD, Standard 12” Vinyl, Limited Edition Coloured 12” Vinyl and Digital Download.

Pre-order now:

Life is better in colour: Pairing coloured shoes with your outfit

People are always tempted to choose black shoes to accompany any outfit. This could be due to its versatility, or just the fear of choosing the wrong coloured shoes to complement the clothing. But never fear, here at Modshoes we pair colour with colour, and have advice on how you can too.

The versatility of bright shoes are often underestimated. With a neutral ensemble, such as black, white, tan and grey, they make a statement on their own, but do not cause a colour overload. However, wearing several bright colours, if the same intensity, also complement each other to create a whole statement look. In particular, it is often uncertain how to pair yellow with an outfit, such as the Mariannes in Sunflower.

With summer just around the corner, wearing yellow should be embraced!

Whether this is with the same colour clothing, or a complementary colour, such as purple. The possibilities of what to pair them with is endless – such as shorts for a summery co-ord, a daytime dress for a casual but cute look, or even a formal outfit to add a splash of colour.

Let your inner colour shine through this summer!

With summer just around the corner, wearing yellow should be embraced!