Well, I was wrong. Six months ago I made the point, following the collection of my first pair of shoes from Cleverley, that the benefits of bespoke shoes were more about comfort than aesthetics; in contrast with a bespoke suit, where the benefits are more in how it makes you look.
You can see why it makes sense. The aesthetic improvements in a bespoke shoe are more subtle than those of a suit. The closely cut waist and gently pitched heel don’t grab everyone’s attention; but a bespoke suit makes you look leaner, stronger and taller to everyone, instantly.
Regarding comfort, a bespoke suit can help with its high armhole and correctly cut trousers, but the difference over ready-to-wear is not as marked as with bespoke shoes, where your ankle is held precisely and every joint subtly shaped around. So much more pressure goes onto your feet and so much more pain can result.
Yet while my Cleverley shoes certainly fit better than any ready-to-wear, the thing I can’t stop admiring is the aesthetics: that line through the waist and instep, the way the heel segues into the heel cup; it makes the whole shoe seem much more delicate and refined.
When I look at old pictures of movie stars in the 1930s, my eye now often goes first to their feet, to see if I can spot that slender arch and pitched heel. It looks particularly good on men from that era, who often wore wider trousers that dropped straight from the natural waist. That long, wide leg makes the shoes seem more delicate still, almost hidden save for the narrow heel and elongated front.
Of course, there are things about my Cleverleys that I want to, that I will, change. Such is the curse of bespoke: nothing is ever quite perfect, or not for long anyway.
Aesthetically I should have gone for a deeper brown leather; this one was a little too reddish. I might also have matched the line of brogueing across the toe cap with another line elsewhere. In terms of fit, they are a little close on my little toes, particularly on the right foot. You could also tweak the height of the vamp just above the right toe.
The great aspects of the fit barely need repeating, but those I notice most are the tight hold around the ankle and heel, which removes any chance of rubbing and allows the front of the foot to flex freely, and the adjustment for my low instep, which permits more purchase with the laces than any ready-to-wear pair. These benefits come to the fore after a long day’s walking – a day in Paris with a surprising number of cobbles springs to mind – when the back half of the shoe clings resolutely to the foot and there are no signs of friction, anywhere.
Improved fit and longevity have to be worth something for you to spend more than £2000 on a pair of shoes. After all, most of the aesthetic aspects can be approached by high-end ready-to-wear shoes or cast-off bespoke pairs (like my other Cleverleys). But for the moment, all I can do is stare at that beautiful, sculpted waist.