Traditional craftsmanship is something to be treasured, respected and appreciated. The old adage “they don’t make ’em like they used to” rings true for vintage shoes collector and store owner of Vintage Ziggy, Pat Griffin. Trained as an architect with a passion for ecological sustainability, he has developed an eye and appreciation for good design, structure and places a high value on quality. Taking time out from architecture, Pat’s hobby of restoring traditional vintage and quirky retro leather treads quickly grew from selling his refurbished finds at local vintage markets around Byron Bay to opening up an online store to make his shoes available to all far and wide.
Growing up, if you lived in your lace up Doc Martens, Blundstones or RM Williams everyday you would know the close affinity you developed with these shoes. Their supple leather moulded to your foot just so. Putting them on was like putting on a pair of slippers. They gave you street cred and reflected your personality. Then somewhere along the line you got all serious and formal uncomfortable shoes became the mainstay of your wardrobe. Perhaps I’m talking too much from personal experience? Looking through Pat’s seriously covetable shoe collection reminded me of my own brown RM Williams still sitting at the back of the cupboard. They haven’t been worn in a good 15 years, but I can’t bear to part with them. After speaking with Pat (read on below), I think I might just get them out for the upcoming winter season.
What is it about vintage shoes and boots you love? In stark contrast to the contemporary phenomenon of “fast fashion”,vintage boots are just oozing with quality and character. There is something very tactile about them. I love the bygone era of craftsmanship when boots were built to last; they can be polished, conditioned, repaired, resoled and reused. Even as they age, every wrinkle tells a story.
Why did you start the store? After finishing my architecture degree, I wanted to do something different for a while and restoring and selling vintage boots really only started as a hobby. With my background in design and ecological sustainability, I saw restoring leather goods as a great way to address today’s culture of disposable footwear.
I started selling in conventional vintage markets, but after a serious back injury I began marketing my boots online. As a small and independent vendor, I found that an Etsy store was such an ideal format. The Etsy philosophy also resonates with many of my values, particularly when it comes to bespoke and vintage craftsmanship.
What are your favourite pair of boots? It’s almost too hard to choose just one pair of boots. My size is a Men’s 12, so sadly most of my collection won’t fit me. Given that I grew up wearing old second hand Baxter and Blundstone boots, I have a soft spot for all things Australian made. My current pride and joy is a pair of black Cuban heeled R.M. Williams boots. There is something quite timeless about Australian Chelsea riding boots.
If I had a bit more bravado, my favourite boots currently in my store would be ‘Brown Chippewa Logger Boots’. Made in the USA in the ‘80s, the thick leather has a rich warm glow.The Cuban heel and tapered calf hints at how they may have been worn with logging harnesses or spurs.
What vintage shoes do you covet? I’m always after a mix of quirky,unique, and timeless boots.
I’ve had a particular focus on seeking out vintage Dr. Martens that are made in England. I’m also always on the lookout for older Australian made Baxter and R.M. Williams boots. Of course, there’s always room in my store for statement pieces that turn heads – it’s never too brazen to wear a pair of funky cowboy boots to work in my books.
An immaculately preserved pair of vintage boots is great. However, I also like the challenge of working with rougher boots with a history that come to life with some polish and restoration. I think there is a need to promote repairing, reusing and up-cycling wherever possible. It’s really satisfying to bring out the beauty in something that has been neglected.
Do you have any special boots arriving soon? I’ll have a bit of everything in the pipeline. There’s going to be a bigger focus on Australian made vintage, such as Baxter and R.M. Williams boots, as well as English Dr. Martens and some American made Timberland boots.
I’ll also be experimenting with some accessories made from repurposed vintage treasures, such as handbags and satchels made from ‘50s leather camera cases.
If it’s time for you to walk in someone else’s shoes, do get in touch with Pat Griffin and Vintage Ziggy or follow him on his Facebook or Instagram page. I’m sure he will find the perfect pair for you.