Canadian Fashion Connection – Master John

Although ‘Master John’ sounds like some kind of fetish shop, it was actually Toronto’s glam-rock boot shop in the 1970s. Stocked with styles that rivalled Vancouver’s Fox & Fluevog, London’s Terry de Havilland or Los Angeles’ Fred Slatten, John Master opened his first shop at 611 Yonge Street in c. 1971. The shoemaking was done at a small factory at 2752 Danforth Avenue near Main Street. His shop was as its height of success in 1974 – around the time he opened another shop at 513 Yonge Street. However, a declining interest in platform shoes forced him to close his first shop by the end of 1975, and the the second shop in 1979. 

His boots were not the best quality in terms of construction, but they never lacked pizazz. Silver leather platforms trimmed with snakeskin were common features of his showiest thigh-high pieces. Master claimed to have sold 300 pairs of handmade shoes a week to his clients which included: Black Sabbath, KISS, and British actor Christopher Lee.

Little is known about this elusive bootmaker – any further info would be gratefully received…

Image top: John Master holding one of his prized thigh-high boots

Image right: A shot of the front window, June 4, 1975, images courtesy Vintage Toronto

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
This entry was posted in Canadian dress, Obscurier Couturiers, Shoes. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Canadian Fashion Connection – Master John

  1. Terry Charter says:

    I have been searching for a classic pair of Master John’s leather platform boots for some time now. What ever happened to the great pair that I owned and wore proudly back in the 1970’s? How I would love to have them to just throw on for fun with those 6″ heels, knee high soft black leather, decorated with silver stars and gold half moons, wonderful platform boots that zipped all the way up. The 1970’s were so special to me as I was in my late teens back then working for Le Chateau during the day and spinning disco and rock and roll records most of the night, depending on which club I was working. I miss those days, back in good old T.O. and Master John’s on Yonge Street was an important part of that magical time, as was the music, the people, society and life itself. I guess I just don’t want to give it up or say goodbye to those good times, so the search continues for a great pair of those incredible boots in size 11 by Master John.

    • Jonathan says:

      Good luck with your search – they are RARE finds! A lot of his work was unsigned as well, so you might find something that he made, but not even know it!

    • Joe Trippi says:

      I have at least two pair of “Thigh High” that I wore on stage…he had a picture of us in his store, it was next to the Kiss picture!!

      • Jonathan says:

        If you ever want to part with them – PLEASE contact me!
        Jonathan Walford

      • Terry Charter says:

        Hello Joe,
        Any chance you still have a copy of that photo. It would be great if you could add it to Jonathan’s post here. And like Jonathan said earlier, photos seem to be as hard to find as the boots themselves.
        I saw one of your performances a few days ago on Youtube and sure enjoyed it! Such a great gift to have and share with the world and have a blast while you’re doing it. Keep Rockin’!

  2. Terry Charter says:

    A couple of points that I thought were worth mentioning was that I seem to recall these boots costing me $130.00 at a time when most that worked in retail were earning in the neighbourhood of $7.00 per hour. It was also the time of the bell bottom, and I had them. Great big bell bottom jeans that almost completely covered those great boots, so no one could actually see how cool they really were, unless you took them off. I was 6 foot tall and 130 pounds at 18, but instantly I became 6′ 6″ in my Master John’s. I had a suit styled denim jacket, black tee as we all did back then, my “Lee” bell bottoms and those cool platforms. What a site! And it was amazing how agile you could become with those big “clunkers” on. I drove an MGB with those little pedals so close together, and danced the nights away with them on too. One more memory includes a night in Montreal at a discotheque. It must have been Halloween because the place was filled with people dancing in wonderful costumes. One couple in particular were dressed as Frankenstein and the bride of Frankenstein. They were magnificent looking, so authentic, dancing together to a Rick Jame’s song “Super Freak” while both wearing extremely tall platform boots, most likely from Master Johns. They towered over everyone. It was a moment in time that I will never forget. It was perfect and I was in awe! Great memories.
    Thank you for this article Jonathan and thanks for taking me back.

    • Jonathan says:

      Don’t you wish you had pictures? All of my best memories from my youth in the New Wave early 80s are in my head — no pictures like today when everyone takes photos ALL THE TIME!

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