In the Shoes of J B Priestley

Bradford has a tradition when it comes to the shoe trade based around Stylo which was founded in 1935.
The Stylo business grew in the 1960’s by buying Barratts and in the 1990’s when they bought Priceless. Unfortunately that record is badly tarnished by receiverships, administrations, redundancies and liquidations. Barratts shoes, Priceless, Stylo, Shutopia and Dolcis have been ‘rationalised out of existence’.
Three times the same executive management of Michael Ziff and family have tried the shoe trade on for size. Let us hope that they are more successful this time around having just bought the latest, much reduced, business from the liquidators.

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With this as a background I found it interesting to see Bradfordian J B Priestley was being used in the Bata-ville shoe context by the folk at No Way To Make A Living. In ‘Bata in Essex and the Decline of the Third England’ they record

‘When J. B. Priestley wrote Eng­lish Jour­ney he was exer­cised by some trouble­some 1930s women: lip­sticked, dressed up to the nines to ape Hol­ly­wood glam­our on light industry wages. These were the women of the third England.

“the Eng­land of arter­ial and by-pass roads, of filling sta­tions and factor­ies that look like exhib­i­tion build­ings, of giant cinemas and dance-halls and cafes, bun­ga­lows with tiny gar­ages, cock­tail bars, Wool­worths, motor-coaches, wire­less, hik­ing, fact­ory girls look­ing like act­resses, grey­hound racing and dirt tracks, swim­ming pools, and everything given away for cigar­ette coupons.”

Priestley, J. B. (1984[1934]) Eng­lish Jour­ney, Pen­guin Books.’

These fact­ory girls were an object of con­cern and scru­tiny, troub­ling the estab­lished cat­egor­ies of class with their out­spoken, per­formed fem­in­in­ity. A new, light, indus­trial labour force destabil­ised the estab­lished under­stand­ings of gender and class. The Bata fact­ory in East Tilbury was staffed, in part, by this kind of woman: mak­ing shoes in order to pay for new shoes and hand­bags and lip­sticks. And to keep their fam­il­ies: women’s work is not all about pin money and frivolity, J. B.’
Read the full ‘Bata in Essex and the Decline of the Third England’

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J B Priestley and English Journey from Amazon

What Would J B Priestley Make of This

  • Stylo Shoes is now a sound business based in Pakistan becoming the largest selling ladies’ shoes brand in Pakistan and the largest ladies shoes retail network in the country with 57 outlets in 30 cities.
  • Bradford’s Shoe business could be three time losers with the Ziff family.
  • The ‘English Journey’ is being used in academic texts about the decline of the third England.
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