Oi Polloi

Walsh of Bolton, England

Published: Thu Dec 06 2012

With the Oi Polloi x Walsh trainers now unveiled, we thought it might be worthwhile for us to paint the picture and set the scene, offer some ‘contextual insight’, if you like. As the shoes are made in Bolton, a half hour’s drive from our shop, we figured we must know someone with the local knowledge. But who? Introducing… World famous blogger and stylist to the stars… The Rig Out magazine co-founder… None other than Mr Re-tweetable himself — Gleeenn Kitson.

What follows is Glenn’s rundown of running shoe folklore, and his hometown’s pioneering involvement in it. The Oi Polloi editorial team accepts no responsibility for factual accuracy and/or spelling mistakes.

We’ve illustrated this ‘piece’ with photos from a trip Steve and Eóin from Oi Polloi took to the Walsh factory, in Bolton.

On a totally unrelated note, we asked Glenn for his style predictions for Spring/Summer ‘13 and he stated cryptically “I’m going to reintroduce the word ‘booyacka’ back into the English language”.

Over to you Glenn…

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Bolton, England: situated ten miles to the north-west of Manchester, the town was once a mighty force in garment production. Integral to the industrialised hub of Cottonopolis, a 19th century boomtown, at it’s peak it boasted 216 cotton mills.

Fiercely independent, the town also has a rich history of rebellion and anti-establishment activity. It fought on the side of the Roundheads during the civil war — when all around where royalist. The massacre of Bolton saw 1,600 murdered. The Queen’s great, great, great uncle (or something) was hanged in the town and ever since the rumour goes that the queen will only wear black when she visits Bolton. In the 1980s it was reported that, on a royal visit, Elizabeth II called Boltonians ‘scruffy’… Which may be true but she’s no flipping right to say it. Bolton council reported that during the recent Diamond Jubilee, Bolton recorded the levels of applications for street party licenses.

Up yours Liz!

This independence continues today; whilst the rest of the Cottonopolis adopt the accent of the Manc colonial overlords, we still talk as yonner as ever.

Now more famous for family friendly entertainment, a town centre full of pound shops and people drink-driving on mobility scooters (and, of course, The Rig Out) Bolton has had it rough these past few years. However, there are still some things to be proud of. If like me you have a thing about jackets and footwear you may be surprised to hear that some of the few remaining factories around in Bolton produce for Mark McNairy, Nepenthes (AKA Engineered Garments) and a host of other top Japanese brands.

The Walsh factory floor

Anyway, time to get to the point…

Something else which is definitely, definitely a fact (sic): if it wasn’t for Bolton most of you lot would still be wearing clogs. Believe it or not, Bolton is the birthplace of the running shoe. The trainer. The sneaker. The dap… Or whatever else you want to call them (except for ‘creps’ – Ed). The running pump was invented by the Bolton based Foster Bros company, way back in 1898. Developed from cricket shoes, stripped back to make them more agile, with spikes added for traction and the heel removed for… well, just because. Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, would wear a later version of these very shoes as they battled for gold in the 1924 Olympics.

How does this have anything to do with Walsh?

Well, Norman Walsh (the company founder), served his apprenticeship at Foster Bros, where his skill was recognised early on by Mr Foster himself, who made him personally responsible for the professional athletic customers. In 1948 Norman made many of the shoes worn by the British Olympic team.

This may or may not be Norman Walsh

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