Born in 1938, Terry Higgins apprenticed at his father’s theatrical shoe making company. With plans to become an actor, Terry changed his last name to de Havilland while living in Italy in 1959. Upon his return to England, Terry went to work at his father’s business making pointed-toe ‘winkle-picker’ Beatle boot styles for men and women. They had just started to make wedge-soled shoes using his father’s old lasts from the 1940s when his father unexpectedly died in 1970, leaving Terry to take over the family business.
Terry soon began making platform wedge-soled shoes in patchwork snakeskin, selling them through a Kensington market boutique. Terry was selling his shoes as fast as he could make them to clients including Bianca Jagger, Britt Eckland, Cher, and Angie Bowie. He opened a boutique in 1972 called Cobblers to the World on King’s Road in London’s fashionable Chelsea district that became hugely popular with the glam rock crowd.
In 1974 he was commissioned to make Tim Curry a pair of platform shoes for the film Rocky Horror Picture Show. As the platform began to wane in popularity, Terry became instrumental in re-establishing the stiletto heel, first producing spike heeled shoes for a Zandra Rhodes collection. In 1979, changing tastes and the soft economy forced his store to close but de Havilland continued on, launching a new line called Kamikaze Shoes that featured extreme ‘winkle-picker’ stilettos for the New Wave scene.
When this venture closed in 1989, deHavilland began making shoes for the Magic Shoe Company in Camden, mostly for the Goth and fetish market as well ascollections for designers, including Alexander McQueen and Anna Sui.
After a heart attack in 2001, de Havilland closed his Camden shop in 2002 and returned to his roots, revisiting what he was famous for designing in the early 1970s in both a licensed ready made line and as custom work for clients. In 2007 de Havilland opened a London shop for men’s shoes called Archie Eyebrows.
In 2008 I was in touch with Terry de Havilland via email. I asked if he could proof my bio of him for my book as there was little written about him online at the time. He was teaching at the London College of Fashion and invited me to lecture on the history of shoes at the college, but it never happened. Unfortunately, I lost my emails in a computer crash years later – too bad as I would have liked to have read our conversations one more time.
Snakeskin platform shoes by de Havilland, c. 1973 – 1975