There is nothing quite like a new pair of well-made shoes, except perhaps your old favourites, worn-in and beloved despite their aging state. However, today when searching for new shoes it’s near impossible to find a durable shoe constructed from quality leather. Browsing the high street you might be puzzled by the price and bewildered by what is and isn't good quality. Yet within 12 months of purchase, you are back looking for a new pair, a shoe that is smart looking and comfortable all day and every day. This is why we’ve turned to handcrafted shoes, offering the most sustainable solution to footwear that we can find.
As your feet lay the foundation for the rest of your body, supporting your knees, your back and shoulders. It’s vital that the shoes you choose to wear have been designed to offer the best possible comfort and support. In this article, we take a look at the time honoured process of handmade shoes, the advantages of custom design and the four most important features you should be considering when purchasing your next pair of handcrafted shoes.
The construction process
While the finished product may exude a sense of timeless simplicity, the craftsmanship involved in producing a beautiful pair of hand made leather shoes are considered and complex.
In developing the shoe design, the Shoemaker starts by drawing a pattern. From the last, a pattern is drawn of the upper, heel, sole, insole and stiffeners – creating a two-dimensional replica of the final shoe. These separate pattern pieces are then traced and cut out in scrap leather to develop a test shoe (also known as a pullover).
Typically a custom shoe will require three fittings. In the first, the client's measurements are taken and together, they select the style and materials. The Shoemaker will also take a look at any old shoes or previous commissions to gain an understanding of the client's gait, foot sensitivity and shoe wear. In the second fitting, the pullover is tried on by the customer to establish the fit and then make any adjustments if necessary before making the shoe. The customer will then return to the studio for the final fitting, Where the shoe is tested and any minor adjustments made.
You can refer to our Comprehensive Guide To Mens Boots for more information on the kind of leathers used, but in most cases, the Shoemaker is looking for the right leather material to fit the purpose and wear of the client. Materials such as Shell Cordovan, Calfskin and Bison leather. The final product is a distinctive item individually crafted to enhance the unique character of the material and possessor. A specialist craftsman may also use their own finishing techniques to add surface texture to the leather, such as those developed by the A. McDonald studio.
Four things to consider when purchasing a pair of handcrafted shoes
Searching for a new pair of shoes can be daunting, there’s a lot to consider and mass marketing has been designed to trick you at every turn. As such, we’ve broken down the four most important features you should be looking for in your next pair.
Comfort and Support
As with the rest of our body, no two people's feet are alike. Your shoes first purpose is to offer the very best support by aligning the foot, knee, and leg as appropriate. This is often achieved through the design of the initial last and the structure of the sole , upper and last. The support and the comfort of the shoe should be the first thing you consider when buying.
Your high-quality men’s fashion shoes should not be falling apart within 12 months of purchase. In fact, they should – with appropriate care and repair over time – feature in your wardrobe for years, even decades to come. When purchasing footwear, look beyond momentary trends and consider the quality and handle of the leather, the timelessness of the design and the craftsmanship behind the making.
While often associated with environmental impact, sustainable design is a far broader concept. Considering the supply chain and product lifecycle, the maker of sustainable handcrafted shoes will have taken the economic, environmental and social impacts of the production process into account.
Cost Per Wear
It can be easy to balk at the final cost of a pair of men's designer shoes but it’s critical that we consider that is constructed from quality materials and designed for optimum comfort, a single pair of shoes may be worn on an almost daily basis for years. Breaking down the cost-per-wear of shoes is really important when comparing mass produced footwear to handcrafted shoes, especially when one notes the environmental impact of the multitudes of synthetic and irreparable shoes that will come and go within the same lifecycle of a single pair of hand made leather shoes.
Where to find handcrafted shoes
Based in Sydney, the A. McDonald Shoemaker studio has paved the way for Australian made handcrafted shoes since 1990, when Andrew McDonald first opened his bespoke workshop in Surry Hills. Now situated in the iconic Strand Arcade, Andrew’s custom leather shoes are designed with quality, durability and sustainability front of mind. Using uncommon leathers and tested techniques, customers can commission a pair of one-off, enduring handcrafted shoes that are designed to withstand the test of time. We may be spoilt for choice when it comes to color material and styles in the high street but how do we know we have made the right choice? Handcrafted shoes may cost and take time to make, but the rewards of comfort, craftsmanship, and cost-per-wear of the Oxford brogue or this Cordovan Monk Strap, will endure.