Double Monk stocks timeless footwear. In a corner of the top floor of The Strand Arcade, the boutique’s handmade shoes are mostly imported from England, where the crafting processes are virtually unchanged from the early 1900s. When Double Monk co-owners and brothers Nick and Christopher Schaerf first visited the Northampton factories where many of the shoes they stock are made, they learnt that assembly lines are often intertwined with family trees.
“When we first visited the Northampton workshops, we were stunned by the way skills had passed through the generations,” says Christopher. “I spoke to some shoemakers whose father, grandfather and great-grandfather had worked in the same workshop.”
Until recently, this rich knowledge and history was largely inaccessible to most Australians.
“Years ago, Nick and I had to travel halfway across the world to find the products we loved. English shoes and grooming supplies; Italian ties and pocket squares; French pocket knives. You just couldn’t find items like that here.”
So, enthused and frustrated, Nick and Christopher put their respective careers as a doctor and lawyer on hold to start Double Monk. Following a store in Melbourne, Double Monk arrived in The Strand last December to offer Sydney’s menswear connoisseurs a local destination for perennial classics.
Whether you have a deep knowledge of the brands they stock or are completely new to this level of craftsmanship, Double Monk accommodates all customers.
“We see a lot of guys who are getting married or starting a new job and want their shoes to make an impression. I think Aussie guys are starting to see that cheap shoes aren’t something you can ‘get away with’ any more, and that shoes make or break an outfit,” says Christopher.
While Double Monk’s range, which at any time consists of up to 60 pairs of leather and suede shoes, can seem intimidating, a team of friendly and sharply dressed assistants are there to guide you through the A to Z of specialty footwear. Double Monk also stocks accessories, including Bresciani socks and Rubinacci Napoli pocket squares and knitted ties (including a range made specifically for Double Monk).
As an introduction to boutique shoes, Christopher recommends a pair by Crockett & Jones, such as the understated Oxford, or the versatile tassel loafer, which in summer can be worn with shorts. The range from Crockett & Jones begins at $750. Prestige ranges by John Lobb or Edward Green begin at $1595.
The shoes are expensive. But they’re also an investment.
“These shoes are built to last – it takes more than 200 individual steps to make each pair of shoes,” says Christopher. “If you look after them they will last a lifetime. Many guys are daunted by shoe care, but it really isn’t complicated – with a little bit of love the leather gets better and better with age.”
To get the most mileage, Christopher recommends re-soling when required. In day-to-day upkeep, a good shoe brush and shoe trees help, alongside polishing – not with an alcohol-based solution, which will dry and prematurely age the leather, but with natural bees-wax-based polish or cream.
Though Double Monk specialises in timeless looks, it’s looking towards the future. In coming months, The Strand store will branch beyond England to include the American shoemakers, Alden. It will also host multiple trunk shows, offering a rare chance to meet and listen to shoe makers. That’s the sort of thing that really excites Nick and Christopher – giving Sydneysiders a chance to learn about a craft which previously wasn’t accessible to them."
“Our ambition was for Double Monk to be a destination for anyone interested in artisanal shoes and accessories. We equally love spending time with guys seeking to invest in their first high-quality pair of shoes and self-proclaimed shoe nuts who want to customise every detail of their made-to-order shoe.”
The Strand Arcade
Shop 129–131, Level 2
412–414 George Street, Sydney
Mon to Wed, Fri 10am–5.30pm