I do like it when readers suggest posts. You feel you’re fulfilling a need. Two weeks ago, on Five Tips on Bespoke Suits, a reader requested a similar post on bespoke shoes, so here it is.
1 Be conservative
I know it’s the same as the first suits tip, but if anything it’s even more true with shoes. You are likely to have more suits than shoes; shoes have to be more versatile. The beauty of bespoke shoe is in the lines, of waist and heel, rather than funky colours. And the availability of made-to-order services makes it easier to vary a shoe you like than a suit.
This is a rule I’ve followed far better with shoes than suits – my five bespoke pairs so far have been black and brown oxfords, plus one pair of slip-ons.
2 Specify everything
Having emphasised conservatism, you should play with the details of a bespoke shoe. Discuss the welt; look at the heel shape; suggest an alternative line for the seam. Shoemakers are more artistic than tailors, and will usually welcome such discussions. From Berluti to Corthay to Aubercy, many shoemakers sketch and paint their shoe designs where tailors rarely do.
3 Try the toe shape
The most important thing to the style of the shoe is the toe shape – everything from the joints forwards. Unlike a suit, you can probably try this style in advance, in your size. Just try a few RTW shoes and get an idea of the shape you like.
Some makers – such as Norman Vilalta – develop a new toe shape for every bespoke customer. But most stick to their standards. With Cleverley, Corthay and Gaziano & Gilring expanding their RTW lines, it’s even easier.
4 Don’t worry about cutting
Some shoemakers make the fitting in waste leather, and then cut it apart while you’re wearing it to see where the foot sits inside. They may tell you it’s impossible to get a good fit without it. That hasn’t been my experience. It’s about what works for the shoemaker – just like tailors, some of whom have made a better-fitting suit in two fittings than others did in five.
Do feed back as much information as you can at that fitting though, and take time to wear the shoe, walk around and warm it up, in order to provide as much information as possible.
5 Consider boots
Boots are beautiful things to have made bespoke. The curve up and around the ankle can be as pleasing as the waist of the sole. They can also be a nice bridge between casual and formal wear – a laced boot can work with both jeans and worsted where a shoe would not. I haven’t had any made so far because they can be too hot for the office; but my next pair will be Chelsea boots from Tim Little: for walking and travelling, rather than working.
Photo: Luke Carby