Scots leather firm hits back at ‘poverty march’ boots criticism

Jarrow Crusade marchers, who walked from Jarrow on Tyneside to London to demand the right to work. Picture: Getty

Jarrow Crusade marchers, who walked from Jarrow on Tyneside to London to demand the right to work. Picture: Getty

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A LEATHER clothing company has hit back at criticism of a range of boots named after famous poverty marches, insisting: “We named the boots to honour the marchers.”

The Aero Leather Company has come under fire from historians who say naming the footwear the ‘Jarrow Marcher’ is “disgusting”.

Aero Leather has come under fire for naming the expensive boots after the poverty marches. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Aero Leather has come under fire for naming the expensive boots after the poverty marches. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Its website describes the £180 boot as their ‘version of the classic early 20th Century man’s working boot, the type worn across the globe before WW2.’

The Scottish firm’s website adds that the boots were ‘made famous by such diverse and legendary characters as Charlie Chaplin and The Jarrow Marchers’.

The Jarrow March was a protest march in England in 1936 against the unemployment and poverty suffered in the Tyneside town of Jarrow during the 1930s.

Around 200 men marched from Jarrow to London over 26 days, carrying a petition to the British government requesting the re-establishment of industry in the town.

I think it’s really disgusting and I think it’s a sad society that we’re living in if this is OK

Paul Perry

The petition was received by the Commons but not debated and the march produced few immediate results. The Jarrovians went home believing that they had failed.

Historian Paul Perry said: “I think it’s really disgusting and I think it’s a sad society that we’re living in if this is OK.

“Those men marched to London in what people often call a hunger march but it wasn’t about that, it was a march for jobs.

“We’ll never shake off the stigma that the Jarrow Crusade has left with us, it’s part of who we are and for someone to do this is actually quite sad.

“Every man on that march was allocated a pair of boots and they relied on people’s kindness along the way, such as the cobblers in Northampton who fixed the boots for free.

“I’ve written lots of books about Jarrow and could never write one without including the Jarrow Crusade. It’s part of our history and our heritage.

“We can’t re-write the history books and for some company to rub our noses in it is disgusting.”

The firm’s website also states: “In 1936, a group 200 men from Jarrow marched the 300 miles to London to present a petition to Parliament, asking the government for work, as the shipyard in Jarrow had closed down in the previous year leaving local unemployment at 70 per cent.

“Period photos show that almost every last man wore a pair of boots like these; it’s in their honour that we remember these fine men in the naming of our boots.”

Danny Calder, production manager with Aero Leather Clothing, said: “In no way or form are we trying to profit from the Jarrow Marchers or exploit them in any way.

“We are honouring the men and just happened to have a boot that is similar to what would have been in that period. We just named the boot honouring them.

“We are having the boots made in the UK by a small family business that was struggling because more and more people were going overseas.

“We’re supporting a small business like ourselves. We’re a small family business and we pay a living wage and that’s, in a way, what the marchers were fighting for.

“If you look anywhere for a pair of handmade boots from the UK, we’re probably selling them a lot cheaper than anywhere else.

“We’ve already been selling them under this name for two years and I’m shocked that there has suddenly been this reaction.”

He added: “We could quite easily have them made in China and sell them for £50 but that’s not Jarrow Marchers.

“We sell to a lot of people outside the UK who may not have heard about it and perhaps we’re spreading the word.

“The particular boot maker we use in Northampton is a family run business who have been making shoes since 1881 but in recent years have come under threat of closure due to some of their larger customers taking production to China resulting in loss of work.

“We pay our workers more than the living wage. Our boots are constructed in such away that they can be re-soled to extend their life span.

“We could very easily have had our boots made in China so we could sell them for £50 and not £175 - which is one of the cheapest prices for handcrafted leather boots in the UK - but where would that leave the workers in Northampton?

“We stand by our naming of our Boot and hope that if anything at least all this outrage has helped spread the knowledge of the Jarrow Crusade to people who weren’t aware of it.”

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