A Neil Young song is playing in the background of the small space on Christopher Street where black lacquered furniture and snakeskin-print seats are adorned in skulls, studs, and everything that comes to mind when you think of rock and roll at its most legendary.
Lining the shelves are beautifully crafted, mostly leather shoes with intricate menswear designs of the sort that only the people we deem “cool” would think to wear. There are only about twelve of each shoe made, and then its life cycle ends. Uniqueness is key. At Jeffery-West, after all, individuality is celebrated.
It’s a natural fit, then, that photographer Josh Cheuse’s prints would be adorning the walls. Images of outsize personalities from Joe Strummer to Run-DMC complement shoes inspired by Keith Moon and David Bowie.
Cheuse has been friends with Monroe Robertson, a 34-year-old British actor and partner at Jeffery-West, for over a decade. Their latest project sees them team up to display Cheuse’s photos at Robertson’s Jeffery-West outpost in Greenwich Village, with an opening party slated for Thursday night.
“I just kind of started following bands around,” Cheuse says of his introduction to music photography. “In those days, things were way more accessible. The Clash were recording at Electric Lady and I went to my junior high school pay phone. I called there and I asked for the manager, and I said, ‘Can I come take pictures?’ and he said, ‘Sure.’”
The Clash, he says, introduced him to the “punk ethos”: “If you have something cool to bring to the party, you’re welcome to come,” he says. “So I went down the rabbit hole and I never came out.”
“All these pictures were shot on film,” he says. “I don’t know. There’s something about that time. In the ’80s, people had better style. They were more individual. You couldn’t just walk into a store and be cool when you walk. So this is to celebrate that individualism.”
Jeffery-West’s shoes embody the ’80s, celebrating the edgier style of the time but creating them in a new English way, to bring a level of craft and expertise to a vintage vibe. “They’re all inspired by different names and characters in films,” Robertson says. “They all have this essence about them. That’s why the brand is very influenced by rock and roll.”
The black-and-white photographs are decidedly vintage-trendy, appealing to those who celebrate the talented musicians of yesteryear. Rock and roll stars like Joe Strummer and The Clash exude a confident, cooler-than-you vibe. They’re accompanied by The Beastie Boys on a video shoot in Long Island and the now-famous photo of Run-DMC’s Adidas shoes.
Cheuse, like Robertson, is very well-versed in creativity, and the power it has on society. He was born in 1965 to parents he calls bohemian, who sent him to ethical culture schools and introduced him to the arts. Robertson brought Jeffery-West to the USA from England, in a time of fast-fashion and designer craze. Both have come to appreciate the lasting impact of craftsmanship in creativity, whether it be shoes that last a lifetime or music that transcends time periods. “In the old days, it wasn’t cool to sell out,” Cheuse says.
Both Monroe Robertson and Josh Cheuse celebrate the artists who defined their generation, independent of wealth or desire to conform. They celebrate the people who made it cool to be whatever they wanted. The people who said what they thought, wore what they wanted, and played whatever music they pleased. And, together, they’re bringing it to a small space in New York City. After all, Cheuse says, “there’s nothing more rock and roll than a good pair of shoes.”
Correction: Due to an editing error, Josh Cheuse’s name was misspelled in the headline and captions.