Talking to Lee Miller reminds me what I love about craftsmen. He has that mix of sincerity, humility and zeal that you only seem to find in people who must mix the aesthetic and the functional on a daily basis.
But Lee has also innovated, and constantly learnt from others. He switched to plastic lasts in 1991, but shaves them down as well as adding layers of leather. He uses a ‘last trap’, an old machine (pictured below) that allows you to find the precise tread point on a last – where your sole hits the ground first, ideally on your second metatarsal.
Perhaps most interestingly, Lee uses ink prints of customers’ feet to get a map of the pressure they exert on the ground. “It feels just like standing in sand,” he says. “Other makers have been here, Japanese and Italians, and say I take too much information. But I don’t think you can have too much information.”
As cowboy boots rarely have fittings, the initial information is key. Lee takes standard measurements and tracings, as any bespoke customer would be used to, but also traces the foot in profile.