Manufacturers of Children's Clothing: Start-rite Children's Shoes (United Kingdom)

Figure 1.--Start-rite was well known for school sandals. This T-strap shoe was the standard style for both boys and girls over many years. There were also double-bar styles. This was a Start-rite advertisement in 1965. We are not sure about the magazine.

Start-rite is one of the best known British manufacturers of children's shoes. The company has a long history going back to James Smith was a cordwainer (leather worker) who opened a small shop behind Norwich market (18th century). He was the first shoemaker in Britain to come up with the idea of ready-made footwear. At the time footwear was bespoke or ordered made to measure. Footwear made this way was expensive. Ready-made, off-the-peg footwear, could be made less expensively. Smith’s grandson Charles Winter joined the family business. Like many entrpreneuers at the time, he developed commercial applications for newly created machinery. In his case, he adopted the new sewing machines to stitching leather uppers to the soles. This was a critical step in the mass production of footwar and thus offering low-cost shoes to the public (19th century). James Southall, Charles Winter’s grandson by marriage, in the difficult economic environment following World War I, opened a modern factory outside Norwich--Southalls. Up until the 20th century, children's footwear was basically the same as adult footwear. We see some children wearing strap shoes, but this was primary very young children from affluent families. By the 20th century, there was increasing public belief that children's clothing and footwear. Production at Southalls included footwear for children which had an entirely different shape to that made for adults at the time. A key element was that the footwear allowed room for growth. An important part of the production was closed-toe sandals which proved popular with both boys abd girls. The trade name "Start-rite" was first used by Quant & Son, a shoe retailer in Bury St Edmunds. Southalls purchased the exclusive right to the name (1921). The company decided to launch a major mrketing and advertisement campaign, including an effort to expand sales in London. A special emphasis was given to the company’s Start-rite children's brand. Southalls was the first footwear factory to make a practical contribution to the prevention of damage to young feet. The company commissioned a medica, investigation into schoolchildren’s feet to confirm their belief that children's footwear should be designed differently than adult footwear. After World War II, the company decided to exclusively focus on children's foowear. We notice some of Start-rite styles offered in 1962.


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Created: 6:50 AM 11/27/2010
Last updated: 6:50 AM 11/27/2010