Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 10 October 2014

Strength of a shoemaker

We're delighted to say that the work at No.1 Savile Row is finally finished, the store is fully open and looking resplendent. 

It is masculine, warm and very welcoming with flagstones, glass and oak displays and strong, graphite walls...the perfect complement to Gieves' autumn Highland collection.

Inspired by our new surroundings, we've developed a capsule collection of new bespoke samples starting with a simple Wholecut in Chestnut calf, an Oxford in French Navy crocodile and a Loafer in tobacco suede with lizard skin 'lantern' tassels. A spectator in slate blue canvas and chestnut calf will be added soon.

Perhaps most exciting for us has been discovering our own signature toe shape - seen above in the Oxford shoe. It is taken from an original '30s last and has a distinct 'snub' nose. Look out for more shoes with this toe shape from us in the future.

With our autumn course entering the 'welting phase' there have been mutterings of machines and more than a few questions about just how strong you need to be a shoemaker. Is it a case of physical strength or tool technique?

The shoemaker's 'butterfly'

In truth it is a mixture of both. Historically boys and young men made shoes in small workshops in almost every town, proving size isn't everything! Today's hand sewn shoemakers, men and women, come in all shapes and sizes and, an enterprising bunch, they continue to find their own way around the centuries-old techniques from....

- standing up to work at a bench
- using a strap to hold their work in their laps
- welting and stitching using cut-off gardening or cycling gloves
- sanding and finishing using machines (yes, I said it, machines)

I thought I would put my strength to test for charity and a few weeks ago I rowed London's Great River Race - 21.7 miles (about 32km) along the river Thames. It was great fun, but also proved to me that shoe making at the workbench gives the best core and upper body workout! I felt great and had zero aches and pains.

Lawrence, me, Thomas, Joel, Ian, Klaus, Nick, Rob, Victor and Svend (taking the pic).
a great mix of nationalities British, Danish, Swedish, German, half American, half Indian, half Thai & Russian
We did it in 3 hours 5 minutes, missing the fastest time for our veteran class by just 15 minutes and only hitting one boat even though we had done no training and only five of us had ever actually been in the boat together before.

Passing the Houses of Parliament - yes that's me at the front!

We're going for the fastest time next year, so I'll be training hard at my making bench. Until next week happy shoemaking!