In 1881, a group of five men formed a co-operative of shoemakers call the Northamptonshire Productive Society, NPS Shoes. From their home village of Wollaston, Northamptonshire, they carried on the traditions of generations of shoemakers who had come before them in the area.
Once in business, they quickly secured a contract with the British government to produce boots for the army. Plus, with growing industrialisation, there was more and more need for high-quality footwear. Today, they combine over 130 years of tradition, the latest technology, and high quality materials to produce a variety of Goodyear Welted footwear. For the past thirty years, they’ve also produced Solovair footwear, literally sole-of-air. To maintain their undisputed quality, products are made in the UK from start to finish. Their footwear is traditional, timeless, and modern.
The business is drenched in history, both of their own and the region of England they operate from. When NPS began to grow at the end of the nineteenth century, they moved into a large, purpose-built factory building which they still occupy today.
Their styles show off some of that rich history, mixing traditional, hard-wearing, practical techniques with a modern aesthetic. Their styles cross genres and are brilliant for both casual and formal wear. The thing that’s special about the Solovair branch of their shoes is their suspension sole. This means that they are air-cushioned soles, making them really comfortable to wear. The sole itself is made out of PVC, Poly Vinyl Chloride, which means they are resistant to a range of materials such as acid, oil, fat, petrol, and alkali. They are the perfect mix between comfort and practicality. They work as Solovair motorcycle boots, workwear footwear, or for a trip around town. Solovair footwear has several recognisable features, such as a green and black tag at the top of the shaft with their name and the grey stitching around the sole of each boot. On the bottom of each sole, the Solovair label is stamped, a proud sign of their makers.
Solovair Shoes at HANSEN
To reflect Solovair’s catalogue, we stock a range of Solovair footwear, including both low and high-top styles. To start, we stock the Solovair Monkey Boot. This boot intersects multiple different styles. They are made from high-shine leather and have seven eyelets studded onto each side of the shoe for the laces to be wound through. As we expect from Solovair products, this footwear is of brilliant quality. The suspension sole makes sure that the shoes are comfortable to wear. They even have a micro porous cellulose insole which protects the shoes from bacteria. The shoes are made using a process called the Goodyear welted method. This means that the upper of the shoe is sewn to insole using a chain stitch. Then, the outsole is attached separately to the upper using a lock stitch. Each of Solovair\s shoes are made in this way meaning that each of them are hand-made. They are so comfortable to wear partly because of this method. As the two parts of the shoe are sewn separately, it creates a space between them, giving extra flexibility for the shape of the wearer’s foot.This space also means that they have an insulation layer, making them warmer to wear too! They’re even easier to mend this way. A pair of shoes which are fitted with a new sole are given a life expectancy of up to twenty years. We stock this style in both Solovair oxblood and black. Both colourways are classic and straddle the boundary between a casual and formal style shoe. The typical solovair label, made from black and green stitch, adorns the back of each piece of footwear.
Here at HANSEN, we also stock their Derby Boot and Hiker Boot which are both high-top styles too. The Hiker Boots have hook and loop fastenings going the whole way up the middle of the boot in the classic style of Solovair walking boots. They come in black and a deep tan colour.The Derby Boots we stock come in two different styles - one with six eyelets and one with eight. Such a subtle difference really makes a difference to the personality of the shoe. Our low-top styles are the Solovair Gibson and the English Brogue. The Gibson has three eyelets and we stock it in rub off burgundy, a sort of marbled red colour, and black. The English Brogue is in the style of traditional British formal shoes. This style of shoe originated in Scotland and are characterised as being made of multiple leather pieces with decorative perforations and details within the design. Solovair adapted their has created their own rendition, using their classic stitching on the sole but decorating the shoe with brogueing detailing too. Although brogues were originally created for outdoor or country walking footwear, they are now generally considered suitable for all situations. The same can be said for Solovair’s version. They are classic, stamping their own style into heritage pieces of footwear.
Frequently Asked Questions about Solovair
Solovair vs. Dr Martens - What is the difference?
Both types of shoes share many of the same qualities. In fact, NPS shoes, the company which Solovair is a part of, was involved in the production of Doc Martens. The shoe manufacturer R. Griggs Group had the patent to produce DMs within the UK but didn’t have the technology. So, in 1960, R. Griggs group and Solovair collaborated to create the legendary Dr. Marten boots we have today. This is why there are so many similarities. Both shoes are made in the same way, using a solovair sole, welted construction, and signature stitching - white for Solovair and yellow for Doc Martens. The machines Solovair use today to make their boots are the same ones used to create the DMs when they were in production in Solovair factories. It’s the same leather cutters too, and of course the soles are the same.
In terms of deciding which you want to buy, it comes down to style. Unfortunately, DMs are no longer all produced in the UK. In fact, only 1 percent of the shoes they manufacture are now created on British soil. With Solovair being 100% manufactured in the UK, this is a serious point in their favour in any Solovair boots review. Another popular question is the difference between Solovair vs Tredair. Tredair is another British company run out of Northamptonshire. It too was established at the end of the nineteenth century though are now running a smaller production line.
How do I care for my Solovair shoes?
The method you use to take care of your Solovair boots depends on which material they are made out of. Make sure you check before you proceed. Each of the shoes we stock at HANSEN are made from leather so use a good quality shoe polish or cream. Buff it in with a dry cloth or soft brush and make sure to keep them away from sources of heat. In general, keep your shoes clear of dirt with a brush or damp cloth. It’s good practice to keep shoe trees in your boots when you aren’t wearing them so they maintain their shape.
What is Solovair sizing like?
The Solovair sizing differs from that of other manufacturers so they suggest that you measure your feet yourself before choosing a size. Do this by standing on a piece of paper in a pair of socks and marking the end of your longest toe and the back of your heel. Join these two points with a line, measure it and then add 7-8mm. Next, compare the length with the size guide below.
UK 6, EUR 39, JPN 24, US 7 = a foot length of 27.2cm.
UK 7, EUR 41, JPN 25, US 8 = a foot length of 27.9cm.
UK 8, EUR 42, JPN 26, US 9 = a foot length of 28.6cm.
UK 9, EUR 43, JPN 27, US 10 = a foot length of 29.5cm.
UK 10, EUR 46, JPN 29, US 11 = a foot length of 30.4cm.
UK 11, EUR 46, JPN 29, US 12 = a foot length of 31.1cm.
The sizing given on the HANSEN website is UK size. Remember that Solovair sizing is not gendered. So, if you want Solovair women’s shoes in smaller sizes, you can work out which one to go for with the guide above.
What other shoes does Solovair create?
Apart from the boots stocked here at HANSEN, there are plenty of other popular Solovair sale styles which have given Solovair the reputation they have. For example, there is the Solovair Astronaut boot which has eleven eyelets. This taller design makes a real statement, suiting a punky aesthetic perfectly. There’s also the Solovair Postman, a low-top shoe style which have a padded collar for comfort. They are perfect for people who have to do a lot of walking and crouching down in their job, hence the name. They also have a shoe in Solovair vegan leather, just in case you want the comfort and style of the brand whilst maintaining vegan values. They decided to make their vegan boot in the style of the classic eight eye derby boot in black. It still has the same classic white stitching and Solovair label, only they’re vegan. They also produce their boots using different sorts of leather in case you want an alternative finish. The Solovair Greasy Derby style is a popular one. This sort of leather has been treated in such a way that it looks greasy and feels very soft.