A Scottish company has defended its decision to sell ‘Jarrow Marcher’ boots for a hefty £180 price tag.
Aero Leather Company, based in Galashiels, has come under fire from a Jarrow historian who says that the naming of the boots is “disgusting”.
The company’s website describes the boot as their “version of the classic early 20th Century man’s working boot, the type worn across the globe before WW2, made famous by such diverse and legendary characters as Charlie Chaplin and The Jarrow Marchers”.
The leather soled boots, available in a variety of colours, are on sale for £180.
The website also states: “While everyone knows Charlie Chaplin, the Jarrow Marchers might not be so well known outside the UK. 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%.
“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.”
We can’t re-write the history books and for some company to rub our noses in it is disgusting.Paul Perry, Jarrow historian
Historian Paul Perry, who has written a number of books about Jarrow and the Crusade, 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. I feel quite sad about it myself.”
He added: “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. Selling these boots for £180 is insulting.
“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.”
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 down by people 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’re all about supporting a small business and we’re paying a good wage.
“We could quite easily have them made in China and sell them for £50 but that’s not what we’re about.
“We’re also spreading the word about the Jarrow March. We sell to a lot of people outside the UK who may not have heard about it and perhaps we’re spreading the word.”