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.

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!

Stompers… shoes with Soul!

Against a midnight mohair backdrop, hanging to air on the wardrobe door, in the half-light shadows like a voyeur, the disc drops. Gathering speed as the arm swings out before lowering itself, like a practiced lover, gently into the groove. That moment’s promise is there. The great suggestion that we are about to receive something so pure; so vital, like life itself.

A fine crackle like a lightning storm at the very edge of your hearing, teases the senses. Momentum achieved, the orange Duke label spins so I can no longer read either title or artist, but after the first hi-hat rise and bass note chasing the chiming scales downwards I’m in familiar territory and the anticipation of the sweetest voice, like chocolate, like velvet, like the greatest of riches, all you could ever want for…

I pick up the soft cloth; dipping a corner into the waiting cup of warm-water. Letting its warmth invade the cloth enough to add to the polish as the mixture is placed upon the leather and small circular caresses gliding ever outwards as that voice hits the very core of me. Not merely Bobby Bland, but Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland… with a voice that hits those; oh-so-rare, bluest of notes. The ones that set the hairs on the back of your neck quivering in recognition – the seduction complete, the idle circles, smooth and effortless like leather soles on a wooden sprung-dance floor. Like a lover’s fingers; deft, sensual, keen, earnest and yearning, sweet… so very sweet…

Two-minutes and forty-five seconds later and in the dream-state it’s a blink of an eye and it’s a lifetime all the same. The shoes are dull and matt with small wispy clouds of polish. I set the shoes down and click the replay switch. A quick check that the coast is clear and I drop a couple of bombers as the mechanical clunks and whirrs ready themselves for another pull at the very core of me. The cloth is switched to the dry end and I start to press harder, buffing the leather, like a spinning dancer, gathering pace as the tune reaches its imploring crescendo.

The harsh clicks and whirrs a distant memory, so discordant after the emotive swell of soul, now replaced by the silence that screams through the room. The only sound the vague monotone buzz from the Dansette, matching the one from the Durophet. I inspect my handiwork. The shoes catch the light, shining, and glistening. I roll them slowly, devouring the glossy radiance. Yes! They’re ready! I’m ready! I lower them gently into the waiting mouth of my bag. Open like a lover’s arms.

Satiated, I light a cigarette, breathing out slowly, watching the neon-blue smoke chasing its myriad tails, tumbling blindly, before climbing leisurely towards the ceiling, consigned to history and memory – but who needs memories? It’s the promise to come that’s important, not even tomorrow; it’s the promise of tonight that’s essential – vital as life itself!

Stompers… shoes with Soul!


Ska Wars – The feud between Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan

Little in Jamaican music is clear. Smoke and mirrors doesn’t begin to cover it. Any fans of Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae will be well versed in multiple releases of the same song, by the same artist on differing labels. Then, to cap it all, those that played the records often scratched the labels off so that those listening in for rival sound-system would be unable to identify the most popular records on the dancefloor. Underhand deals, backstabbing (sometimes literally) and clashes were common. The most famous of these ‘musical wars’ in Jamaican music of the early sixties was between Cecil Bustamente Campbell, better known as Prince Buster and Derrick Morgan dubbed ‘The Ska King’.

Prince Buster hewn from the mean streets of downtown Kingston was a real life Rude boy, a street fighting tough whose pugilistic talents were utilised at Coxsone Dodd’s Downbeat Sound System at dances. Never one to shy away from confrontation he left Coxsone’s stable in 1961 and established his own Sound System; The Voice of The People, with the aim of dethroning the three recognised leaders in the sound system business at the time; Coxsone, Duke Reid (The Trojan) and King Edward The Giant.

Amid the faint whiff of corruption, he so very nearly fell at the first hurdle when immigration stopped his attempt to buy American records via the Farm Work Programme to play on his system. His competitors knew he would have been a serious threat to them, so perhaps ‘interference’ was inevitable. Buster if nothing else was a fighter, so he moved into recording and producing and created his own music to play; producing successful hits for not just himself but Eric ‘Monty’ Morris, Owen Grey and his soon to be arch-rival Derrick Morgan.

Derrick Morgan was a couple of years younger than Buster and after a modest but comfortable upbringing and schooling (compared to Campbell at least) he went on to win several talent shows with his singing leading to a success in the late 50’s on a couple of discs recorded with Duke Reid. Not long after these recordings Derrick met Prince Buster and excited by Buster’s fledgling outfit seized on the opportunity to record Shake A Leg and Come On Over with the Prince, however, shortly after Derrick decided to move to aspiring Jamaican-Chinese producer Leslie Kong who at $20 a song was paying twice as much as Campbell at his Beverley’s studio not 100 yards further along Orange Street, a move that infuriated Buster and led to a bitter feud between the pair. The acrimony exploded when Morgan recorded a hugely successful record for Kong called Forward March, with Buster accusing him of plagiarising the saxophone solo.

Buster lit the touch paper on Blackhead Chineyman in no uncertain terms within the stinging lyrics “you stole my belongings and give them to your Chineyman; God in heaven knows you are wrong; Are you a Chineyman or are you a black man?”

Clearly stung Morgan responded vehemently with Blazing Fire (which allegedly starts with the phrase ‘Shut Up Fool’ spoken in Chinese) “You said it, I am a blazing fire, you said it, I am a blackhead Chineyman, but when I was with you, I was like a bull in a pen. Live and let others live and your days will be much longer”.

The musical spat continued with Buster responding with Praise Without Raise in which he sung “All you’re getting is praise, but the Chineyman banking the raise. Watch out blackhead you’re getting praise without raise”

Morgan hit back again immediately with ‘No Raise No Praise’ stressing “You also said I’m getting praise and no raise. Don’t conceal it friend to tell the public I was singing for you and I neither get praise, much less raise”.

It wasn’t just the two artists that were getting involved – rival gangs of Rude boys were getting on board (no doubt goaded on by the main protagonists) and actual pitched battles were taking place at the Sound System jump ups and even politicians were starting to get involved in the unedifying spectacle.

There were a few more exchanges such as Buster’s 30 pieces of Silver but it wasn’t until Buster threatened to release a song called Chinese Jacket which explicitly named Morgan, that Morgan warned Buster that should he proceed, he would release one with the lyrics “Buster while you were at sea, I was alone with B (Blossom Buster’s wife) and all your children have the mark of the Blackhead Chinaman”.

Getting pressure from at home and now the newly formed Jamaican Government as disputes between rival fans had grown to such seriousness that they were forced to intervene in the feud and cease the rivalry. They arranged for both men to be pictured together in a friendly manner and publicly declare that despite the rhetoric in the songs the two were actually best of friends.

Whatever the reason the musical war quietened down and the exchanges thereafter were more humorous in tone. Morgan’s Rude Boy in court tune Tougher Than Tough was followed by Buster’s smash-hit Judge Dread “You tell me Rude Boy never fear?” echoing a line in Tougher Than Tough… before summarily sentencing him to 400 years. Morgan responded with Judge Long Sentence, before Buster got the last words in with the conciliatory The Appeal and then finally Barrister Pardon.

In later years, it was said that this musical war was just a friendly one designed to generate interest in their recordings and boost record sales through the controversy that it triggered, but with the vitriol of the early exchanges it seems unlikely, but like much in Jamaican music it is hard to know where the truth lies. What is true though is that Derrick Morgan went on to record many more tunes for Prince Buster’s labels after the cessation of hostilities. What is also true is that both men have left an amazing legacy of tunes and the tunes involved aresome of the finest of the early Ska era.

The tunes that defined the ‘musical war’:

Derrick Morgan – Forward March

Prince Buster – Blackhead Chineyman

Derrick Morgan – Blazing Fire

Prince Buster – Praise Without Raise

Derrick Morgan – No Raise No Praise

Prince Buster – 30 Pieces of Silver

Derrick Morgan – Tougher Than Tough

Prince Buster – Judge Dread

Derrick Morgan – Judge Long Sentence

Prince Buster – The Appeal

Prince Buster – Barrister Pardon