Entirely handmade shoes are not cheap. The high-end benchmade shoes are hand-clicked and hand-lasted, but not hand-welted. In this country, most of the entirely handmade ones are made bespoke. And that makes them even more expensive, as the shoe is being made unique to your foot, as well as being constructed by hand.

Most entirely handmade shoes are pushing £1000 or more. Laszlo Vass of shoemakers Vass in Hungary is one exception, but then unless you want a pair of shoes you haven’t tried on, you have to go to Budapest.
hm-vass-h
One exception has recently popped out of the brickwork. His name is Clifford Roberts and he worked for one of Northampton’s biggest shoemakers for 30 years (though he won’t say which for the sake of discretion). Having left that firm, he now makes handmade shoes from his house, just outside the town. And they start at £290. Less than £300 for entirely handmade shoes.

Since he was first discovered, on eBay and by the members of a discussion here, the timeline for the work has extended for six weeks to twelve. But that is still a lot quicker than the five months it takes, for example, for a pair of made-to-order Gaziano & Girling shoes.

Several members of the forum have made their own orders and reported their results. The quality of the leather seems to be good, the fit equally good and all the work (noticeably, the welting) all done by hand. There have been one or two criticisms that the lasts Cliff works on are ‘blobby’, but this is only one of the three or four shapes he works with – and besides, it is a question of taste.

Now, the dream of any shoe geek is to be able to get bespoke handmade shoes at an affordable price. If Cliff can make handmade shoes, is there any way he can do bespoke? Well, in theory yes.

Pretty much all the lasts in this country are made by Spring Line in Northampton. The only remaining last-maker in Britain, the company makes wood and plastic lasts for everyone from Nike to Edward Green. They will make you a bespoke last for around £190 – just send them a 2D foot draft or a 3D foot scan.

The first of these methods of measurement should be done after requesting specific instructions from Spring Line. Or, ideally, by getting an experienced shoemaker to make a draft of your feet. The second method, though, is pretty easy to accomplish. Just go along to Lodger, the new shoe company on Clifford Street that has been mentioned on this site before. They use an electronic scanning and imaging machine to build up a 3D picture of your foot. It’s for their shoes, but they won’t mind doing it for your own use as well.

So measurements from Lodger, a bespoke last from Spring Line and then handmade shoes on that last from Cliff Roberts. Bespoke shoes for less than £500?

Well, not quite. You see, bespoke shoemaking is not that straightforward. No one gets your last and shoe right the first time. If you have a bespoke pair of shoes made at, say, Foster & Son, the process will involve several fittings. First you will get a trial shoe, only half made or constructed in a cheap leather than can be thrown away afterwards. You try that, you make a few comments and the last is adjusted accordingly. Even when the final shoe is constructed it can be altered, and often the last will be tweaked slightly for the next order.
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So to recreate this experience at Spring Line would take more than one visit to Northampton. For someone in the UK, this makes it a little tiresome. For someone in the US, it makes it impossible or very expensive – particularly given the extra steps and communication between the two craftsmen, of lasts and of shoes, that wouldn’t be needed at a bespoke shoemaker.

The other catch, of course, is that your last could only be in one toe shape. If you are at all interested in design, this could be a constriction. You could have another last made, but it would cost another £190.

Now if you already have a bespoke last you are happy with, you’re sorted. Just send it to Cliff with some instructions. Very few shoemakers will do made-to-order shoes on a bespoke last – they would rather you went through their bespoke service. But Cliff will do it for the same price.

Also, if you have very unusual feet (and live in the UK) it is still probably worth the effort to work with Spring Line and Cliff to get a last you are happy with. If you don’t, then (blasphemous as it is to say) ready-to-wear shoes are a good bet. The advantages of bespoke are not the same for everyone.

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El Aristócrata

I think that like in a suit a bespoke pair of shoes must be tried at least a couple of times before they can be called bespoke. To me it seems prety difficult for any shomaker to make a perfect pair of bespoke shoes with only some measurements. The client should try the shoes at least once.

Talking about price I must desagree somehow with Deborah. I spent few hours with Eva Vass last Easter in Bupapest. I have seen how they make shoes and if they can offer these lovey shoes at a very competitive price and they make a living from it, it is just because some reputables brands are making a fortune from their bespoke shoes.
If Vass, as I was told by Eva Vass and as I write in my web http://www.elaristocrata.com, can offer bespoke shoes starting something like 580€ is because they can be done. Probably no 350€ but for sure no 3.000 as many Lobb cost. In Lobb you pay quality, name, nice, high rent shop….. and probably in Vass you only pay quality.
Congratulations for your blog

shoemaker

Springline are not the only last makers in the uk.
“BOBCOL” of Norwich make lasts, shoe trees and wooden heels!!!

Ticketwood

We all love shoes and no matter how many we own, we still end up buying some more. I’m always looking for new shoes and that aren’t those expensive. Although it is not possible to constantly spend money on new shoes, we can certainly have the right to own shoes that make us feel comfortable but are also easily affordable on any budget. Lately I found all that at Shoehustler

http://www.shoehustler.com

Rosh

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Anonymous

ohhh, i like this

Anonymous

I purchased a pair of bespoke shoes from http://www.adlershoes.co.uk – they send me special casting tapes which were quite easy to use to make casts of my feet and when the shoes, a pair of full brogues arrived about 2 1/2 months later, the fit was slightly close first time wearing them, but after a coupple of days the fit was perfect. The leather looks and feels right when I compare them with apair I had aquired some time ago from Green and now, that they have my last in their storage, I can order anytime and it will only take 4 weeks until dekivery – in all a most positive experience with adler shoes

Anonymous

Agree with the ADLER experience been a customer there for the last year and had two pairs of brogues made and they are the best value for money I can find

Anonymous

Recently there have been a few comments published by customers of Adler, all positive with a coupple with some reservations but none complaining about quality or service – I shall give them a try, having researched the web and found that Adlers are the best prices for bespoke shoes – I don’t buy them for any other reason but for having large, difficult feet to find shoes off the rack for

Anonymous

A friend of mine has the worse feet I have ever seen, every time I see him bare footed I get an urge to feed him a banana. Very wide in the front, bunions on both feet and a hammer toe due to an accident. He had shoes made by Adler and couldn’t be happier with the result. If those are not bespoke, I don’t know what is

Michael Stone

Just want shoes and slippers size 13

Mr a brooks

I am interested in made to made shoes

Kenneth Stanton

A few years ago I decided I wanted a bespoke pair of shoes. To this end I combined a holiday in Budapest with an occasion to get a pair of shoes made by Vass.

I had high hopes and the shoes in the shop looked wonderful.
As for the bespoke service, this was strange. Firstly my feet were measured using a pencil on a single piece of paper. I agreed a style and leather.
Then in due course was advised the shoes were ready. No fittings, no alteration, nothing like that. Simply that the shoes were ready and of course being bespoke they were paid for at the time of ordering.
Needless to say the shoes did not fit properly.
What could I do? I was a couple of thousand miles from home and on the last day of my holiday?
How can they make bespoke shoes without any fittings?

Viv Wilkinson

Iive in Northamptonshire and looking for flip-flops for a beach bride – any help much appreciated – urgent!

Rory Smith

Now that Lodger seems to be no more, can you recommend anywhere else to have a 3d foot scan done to enable Spring Line to make a bespoke last?

Secondly, who else beyond Cliff Roberts makes the best value shoes made to a custom last? I’m not necessarily looking for handsewn shoes, as long as they can be made to a custom last.

Emil

Got Cliff Roberts shoes today. Really love them! However, it took … more than a year to make them. Therefore, I sm not sure if will be ordering again. I’m now thinking about Vass and J. Adler.
By the way, he does not make bespoke shoes any more, only made-to-order: you choose the style, then he uses his own lasts to make the shoes.

Matthew

Simon, do you have any news to report back about Adler?

David Morton

Where can I get hold of Cliff Roberts?

Emil

You can find his email in AskAndyAboutClothes forum, but it is written so that could not be recognized by a robot (to avoid spam).
By the way, I have two pairs from Cliff, both worn out after slightly over one year of use. And he does made-to-order shoes, i.e. you choose how they will look like, and he makes them for you using his own lasts. They will look like you want, but I cannot comment on quality. I will try Vass now. Also, it is true about Springline lasts – they make lasts to almost any shoemaker in the UK, but they are not great for bespoke – bespoke shoemakers, to my knowledge, order lasts from Springline, but then correct them for more accurate fitting. I used Springline only once, the lasts ar smaller than my fit, so cheap side is cheap. I want to try 3D scan to see if Vass can do better job

David

Gorgeous shoes!

Laura

Hi, stumbled across this as I have a pair of my mother’s heels from the 70s that have had their last day (leather is coming off in shavings). I love the shape though and haven’t seen anything contemporary like them. Would anyone have any suggestions for where I could get a copy made for a reasonable price (i.e. not ‘bespoke’ prices!)? Are there countries where this kind of thing is cheaper (like tailoring in certain parts of SE Asia)? Thanks!

krigi

Hi Laura,
to my knowledge, it is impossible to copy shoes. Shoe making almost always involves a shoe last (except probably for some slippers or flipflops). I’m afraid, but I see no solution at the moment for your quest. Someone else might step in with some ideas.