John White Shoes

Founded 1919

John White Shoes is a British footwear brand that specialises in high-quality leather shoes for men. Founded in 1919, they offer a range of styles from classic to contemporary, all crafted with attention to detail and fine materials.

John White Shoes History

John White started his shoe industry career in 1896 as an apprentice at a shoe factory in Northamptonshire. After 23 years, in 1919, he made the first pair of John White Shoes.

The boot and shoe industry at that time was facing a difficult period due to wholesalers having thousands of pairs they couldn’t sell after the war, resulting in low sales. However, John swiftly obtained repeat orders due to the superior workmanship and quality of his shoes. He was more profitable than his competitors due to his grasp of costings.

In 1920, he was employing four people and moved into his first factory, a building recently abandoned by a failed manufacturer from the town. The next year, he took on a larger factory, employing 125 men and producing 6,000 pairs per week. John extended his factory three times and installed new machinery in the following decade.

In 1930, John launched his own brand, ‘Impregnable’ footwear, which was of superior quality, worthy of the skilled people who made them, but sold at a fair and reasonable price. He launched the brand with a front-page advert in the Daily Mail, selling 1.25 million pairs of shoes that year. In 1937, John defended small retailers from Marks & Spencer after they began selling 5 shilling shoes. John produced shoes that he sold to the smaller shops for less than 4 shillings, still making a profit of 3 shillings and a penny on each cutting sheet. By the end of the decade, John was employing 2,000 people and was operating from nine factories. Throughout the 1930s, he advertised heavily on the front page of the Daily Mail.

During World War II, John’s Lime Street factory was swiftly pressed into supporting the war effort, with a staff of 2,000 producing three million pairs of boots per year. In total, one-ninth of all footwear supplied to British Forces came from John White; some eight million pairs in all. The variety of boots produced for the war effort was almost unheard of. John also supplied allied forces, including the Soviet Union and Greeks. The directors and employees paid for a Spitfire named Impregnable, which saw active service with a Polish squadron of the RAF and secured at least two confirmed kills. Towards the end of the war, John made special cold weather boots for the Finns, who were driving out their German former allies.

In 1962, John retired from the business that he had started in a small workshop in 1919. He was 77. The decision to retire wasn’t entirely harmonious; it came after the board refused his wife Nancy voting rights, putting John in a minority position for the first time in the company’s existence. It could be speculated that John was forced from the company by other board members. He had recently taken ill and spent some time in a Northampton nursing home. In 1966, George McWatters was appointed Chairman of John White Footwear, which was in decline, in an industry on its knees. McWatters appointed Philip Birch to the board as Managing Director in 1968.

In 1972, John White Footwear joined with George Ward Holdings (no connection to John’s brother-in-law, also named George Ward) to form Ward White, and by the time John White died in 1974, he had transformed the shoe industry in Northamptonshire, becoming one of the most influential figures in the business.

Read more on John White Shoes history.

Style and Occasion
John White


Where do John White Shoes manufacture?

John White Shoes manufacture their products in Northampton.



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Last modified: 2023-05-31 09:02

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