Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 16 March 2012

An Unusual Upper

Greetings again from London. We hope the week has proved to be fruitful. We have been getting ready for our trunk shows next week in Chicago and New York. The boxes have been collected for shipping and Deborah is ready to fly out on Sunday. We are very excited and looking forward to seeing current customers for fittings and meeting new ones. More of this next week.

We recently finished an interesting pair of shoes. They were based on the antiqued pigskin Derby shoes we made last year.

But this time, they are a wholecut, the simplest of styles. We have used the same antiqued effect on the leather as before, but have added a whole load of features which really make the shoe stand out. Things which mark them out as handmade and bespoke - spade welt, fiddle waist, jockey heel, and bevelled waist.

Detail Of The Antiqued Finish And Spade Welt

Notice The Spade Welt Here

Fiddle Waist And Jockey Heel

The jockey heel is the straight cut across the heel breast. It was originally made to help the heel sit easily in the stirrups on riding boots, but they are perfectly acceptable on any shoe. The fiddle waist on this pair, because they are for a customer and to be worn, we have used leather to build it. With the spade welt, we had the pointed toe shape, but it was not quite pointed enough to make the welt elongated at the toe, so we threw the welts out at the joint only - slightly unconventional but I think it looks great.

I like the juxtaposition of the simple upper style combined with the array of added bespoke features, making these an exceptional pair of shoes.

And so to the unusual uppers of the title. Well, judge for yourself. Powder pink nubuck and cream calf. Quite a combination. I was doubtful when the customer ordered them, but now they are on the last, well...

We got them ready for a fitting next week in Chicago. Prepared the stiffeners and toe puffs and let them dry out more than normal so they didn't mark the linings.

We also put side linings in them because nubuck has a tendency to balloon out over time along the toes.

We blocked some light weight insole leather and let it dry. Then trimmed it close to the feather edge on the last.

Because this is just a temporary stage, we only use a tiny bit of paste to hole the stiffeners and puffs in place.

By the way, with such a delicate leather, you must be very careful when lasting and using glues. One thing to bear in mind is the nails you use. The steel nails we use have a tendency to make your finger tips black. It is the reaction with the moisture on your skin. This can mark the upper very easily, so I wear latex gloves when lasting delicate leathers like this one.
I remember having to make a pair of white doe skin Wellington boots when I worked for John Lobb. They were an absolute nightmare and I had to keep washing my hands every few minutes to avoid marking the leather. It took forever.

All lasted up.

Braced and ready to pull the lasts. We let them rest on the lasts for a few days and then pull them.

And that is them ready for a fitting. No sock. We add a fake sole with a heel and that is it. We always tell customers that it is the internal dimensions we are interested in at this stage.

Wish us luck in the States and more next week.

Until then, happy shoemaking!