Video: Buying a pair of bespoke shoes

Wednesday, February 13th 2019
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While in Florence last month, we took the opportunity to film some of the practical videos we've produced in the last year, with artisans based in the city.

This is the first, with Stefano Bemer, talking about buying a first pair of bespoke shoes: what the process is like, what you should think about in advance, and (importantly for the obsessives out there) what you shouldn't worry about.

Tommaso is a great spokesperson for the craft, freely admitting what he doesn't know and talking openly about the different types of customer. It's worth a watch for both the general advice and for his specific tips.

As with all videos we've produced, this covers an area that particularly benefits from being shown on film. And it's lengthy, intended to cover every aspect of the process, with questions and clarifications from me throughout.

You can see a review of bespoke shoes made for me by Stefano Bemer here.

And other videos in this series include:

Thank you to Tommaso and everyone at Stefano Bemer for their time and help.

What to learn more about how Permanent Style is funded? Details here: 'Is this an ad?'

 

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Marcus

To avoid the impression this is a paid for add of SB you could list some othe bespoke shoemaker in Firenze: e.g. https://saskiascarpesumisura.com/

Marcus

Disclosure: I trust in your integrity!

Anonymous

Simon,

It great to have integrity and it’s dedinitely lacking elsewhere.
However, I have it on authority from good local sources that you have charged artisans like Salva in Naples c €400 to write a piece on his strides. This is well discussed by bespoke clients in the market…

Anonymous

Thanks Simon. I recently bought a pair of high-end RTW oxfords (EG). They have been starting to slightly hurt the top of my foot after wearing for a couple days in a row. Is this me lacing too tight, shoes breaking in or them just not fitting!

Anonymous

Great advice, thanks

Robin

I’ve just skimmed thru this, and will watch later (probably several times ), but would add that you need to make a lot more videos .
Ideas for videos ;
Being measured for a suit/shirt/ trousers etc ,and explaining what and how measuring is done .
Yes others have done this but I doubt anyone has been measured as much as you .

As to questions of you being ‘sponsored’ / subtle advertising etc . I’ve followed this blog for several years and would say there is nothing else like this .
You’re as impartial as folk are gonna get .
If some folk are suspicious of this blog then they ain’t seen what others , particularly the American bloggers , are getting up to !

Having said that in order to keep standards at PS high we will continue to question and comment when your impartiality un/consciously slips!

Anonymous

What to look for in RTW would be really useful. Even just picking up a jacket and showing how you feel for a floating lining, or looking at a piece of knitwear and showing the threads etc.

Robin

I very much second this suggestion .

Phil

Are Stefano Bemer still available anywhere in London?

Scott

Simon, thank you for doing this video that explained so well the bespoke process. I was very impressed that Tommaso said he wanted a customer to first look at the ready to wear line because the quality was basically the same as bespoke and much less expensive. The bulk of my shoe wardrobe consists of John Lobb and Bontoni, but Stefano Bemer just became a shoemaker to consider.

Anonymous

Simon
As we are on the foot currently – what is your sock game? Still on bresciani and the odd bit of william abraham?

Anonymous

Hi Simon, great to see Stafano Bemer featured. A favourite since your first pair. I used to work in media, might I, respectfully, raise some points: it’s best to sit on the (viewers) left with guest on the right – you anchor the space – the eyes then naturally move to the right for response. Think Parkinson and Graham Norton. Also in your Q&A responses you say O.K. in excess of 20 times, in a long form interview it stands out. You don’t need to agree – accept the response or counter but nothing else is required. Relax – you look good, sound good and have presence. Content is already good but to raise the bar more cut-aways could be used with v/o (voice over) used over the pictures. This would reduce the static element of the shoot (i.e. make it more visually dynamic) whilst illustrating and highlighting the content being discussed. For example getting measured: this could have been more descriptive but better communicated with the measurement activity being more developed. Alternatively this rule could be applied to any other are that you might wish to develop. As an example some of the RTW shoes being discussed could have been more fully featured or examined. The sound though good was a little too ‘live’ due to the many flat surfaces which bounced the sound. If doing something similar consider placing a neutral table cloth on the table as a dampener. Lastly it would have been good to see more areas of the workshop and work at hand. As a comparison (with a budget many times larger) the BBC’s Handmade: By Royal Appointment (2016) – ep2 is a worthy watch. Notably, (and brand aside – Lobb) it is the visually descriptive way that the craft story of bespoke shoes is told. Commenter’s ideas for other features seem spot on.

Anonymous

Hi Simon, since adding the ‘other active threads section’ it has become very difficult to leave comments and impossible to search or access menu (not sure if all related). Tried all three on iphone multiple times – no success, tried on kindle success but only after many attempts. Might be a reason why last two articles feature so few comments?

Anonymous

Hi Simon,I have the same problem ie cannot access search,menu or add a comment on your site.The only way I have found to add a comment is to press your reply button.

Robin

The ‘search’ and menu buttons are not working from my IPhone .
Fault still exists I’m afraid .

Max

Hi Simon, I also have the same issue on my Android phone – I cannot access the menu

Anonymous

Simon
Do you lift weights? If so what gym gear do you wear?

Anonymous

Would be interesting to have a couple of articles on gym and maintaining body shape. Watch out in the gym. You might not notice it but your shoulders will get stronger and waist a bit tighter after some weights (also much better for your posture than a bicycle!)

Anonymous

Thanks. Can you ask a tailor to make room for this? I naturally fluctuate throughout the year

Anonymous

Honestly, if you are training you ought to tell your tailor.

Only the most determined of gym-goers will see a change in body shape to the degree that a properly fitting bespoke suit ceases to fit. Putting on weight is a much bigger risk to fit overall.

Scott

Simon, that’s happened to me as well, but in a different way. I’ve had all my suits and jackets made to measure for the last 25 years. I’ve always lifted weights and exercised during this time, but over the last year or so I dramatically reduced my alcohol intake, along with deserts or anything with sugar. The result has been that my midsection has gotten a bit smaller and now several of my coats look to big in the stomach area, but still fit well in the chest and shoulders. I hope that my alterations tailor can make the necessary adjustments without disturbing the balance of the coat. In your opinion can this be done successfully?

Scott

That’s a relief, thank you! I’ve never been a big drinker or desert eater, but it amazing what small changes in diet can make in the shape of the body over time.

DE

Hi Simon, another good video and very interesting to see the bespoke commissioning process at SB. After trying a couple of ‘top end’ London bespoke shoemakers, I am left cold by the somewhat inconsistent fit of both orders. Both pairs of shoes are fine and wearable (albeit 12 months on I still get a small blister from one of the shoes and a bit of heel movement with another) and overall I enjoyed the commissioning process. However, my experience is that bespoke shoemaking offers far less benefit to fit and scope for ‘style input’ than bespoke tailoring gives me. This may be because tailoring gives so much more leeway for adjustment during and after the making process? Anyway, I have returned to Edward Green RTW, whose materials are just as good and whose lasts fit me just as well (if not better) than the bespoke makers I’ve experienced. I would add that I haven’t tried SB and I don’t want to put anyone off trying a bespoke maker – just relaying my own experiences.

Rik

Hello Simon – is it normal for the leather inside the shoe around the back of the heel area to wear through? This happens on all my leather shoes and I was wondering if this is sign of a less than perfect fit, weird feet, or just normal wear and tear? Does it happen on bespoke shoes? Thank you Rik

Phil

I love Tomasso’s enthusiasm, and his outfit, though was I alone in finding it a little hard to follow exactly what he was trying to say?

BTW, I think I spied you this afternoon pottering around in a shop on Savile Row today. You looked like you were unpacking. I nearly tapped on the window and offered to help.

Iñaki

Simon.
The tie you’re wearing, is it a grenadine grossa by Drakes? I also understand it’s unlined, correct?

ANM

Simon,

Great video, and it certainly brings to life some of the experiences you must have with the wonderful suppliers you write about. As expected, Tommaso comes across as gracious, and someone who would anyone at ease.

Please do more.

A few years back, you introduced us to your “basic” shoe wardrobe.

What has been added since, that you would like to highlight?

And at the time, you were a bit critical of black shoes, as “all you can do with them, is make them shiny”…has this changed? Do you have more black in your collection?

And finally, anything more colourful – purples, or blues?

Thierry HENAUT

Hello Simon,
I will be in New-York in may and intend to buy wide and high instep confortable RTW shoes . Can you suggest some shop/brand/adress ?

Hugh

Check out Vass at no man walks alone for high instep RTW. Hand sewn soles, too.

Anonymous

Try Carnina. In particular, look for shoes on the Rain last.

Gohar Raja

Dear Simon

Congratulations on your upcoming pop up and your millionth readership, very well deserved.

Just wanted to know your opinion, which of your suits is the more comfortable to wear, Chittleborough and Morgan or Cifonelli?

Regards

Gohar

Maxim

Thanks for such a warm and engaging video, to both Simon and Tommaso.
Ladt year I have bought a pair of RTW Oxfords from Tommaso online, he was the most caring and easy person to deal with, and as shoes are just great (after extensive break-in period of wearing them at home now and then), I am looking at both another RTW pair and, hopefully, a bespoke a little later. It was great to put Tommaso face on my experience communucating with him via email.

John

I briefly interacted with Tommaso at the Bemer townhouse space in NYC (they have to buzz you up and it’s a bit intimidating) and he was truly the most polite and kind retail worker I’ve ever encountered. I didn’t buy anything and I was pretty sloppily dressed and probably pretty sweaty but he treated me like family. I spent 5 minutes in a room with him a couple years ago but I was easily able to recognize him and his kindness in this video. Great guy.

Lindsay Mckee

Hi Simon,
I visit London quite often and If I were to make a decision for bespoke, where would be the best place in London to begin. I’m inclined to put durability before aesthetics.
Many thanks
Lindsay

Lindsay Mckee

Simon,
I should have clarified on my previous question on bespoke shoes when visiting London. My style would be standard British in Brown / Black Derby or Oxford shoes. Price £2000-£5000 bracket in a sturdier and durable Northampton construction rather than a light shoe. I did pay a very brief visit to Gaziano & Girling for example and was quite impressed. Hope I’ve clarified this better.
Many thanks
Lindsay

Anonymous

Simon did you manage to make the active threads list completely visible for all your responses?

Lindsay Mckee

Hi Simon,
Many thanks for pointing out Nicholas Templeman, worth checking him out.
I also might check out James Taylor in Wigmore Street, maybe more functional than stylish being bespoke orthopaedic shoemakers.
Thanks again
Lindsay

Simon P

As a regular reader I have been quite heavily influenced over time by your excellent work. Russell at Graham Browne has been making my suits and jackets for some years now (due to reading about him on PS) and Simone Abbarachi makes my shirts (again through PS). Recently I tried private white vc and blackhorse jeans, both excellent.

I’ve yet to shake your hand, and had hoped to meet you at the pop up last year when I went in (excellent by the way). Though my wife may want to berate you for my spending!

Now to my question…I own quite a lot of shoes…over the recent 4 or 5 years mainly G&G and George Cleverley, but want to step up to bespoke. Obviously I am familiar with GC and G&G as options but I wondered if you would recommend any others? Budget is a factor and both GC and G&G are seemingly at the high end..I’ve watched lots of you tubes over recent months and googled a lot…in an ideal world I’d love to find a non west end maker and save a bit of money…so hoped you might point me in a few directions?

In hope of some guidance..

Simon P

Thanks Simon. I’ll take a look at those you suggest..or perhaps just live with the larger spend!!
Many thanks

RP Demers

I should be in London January 25-31. I was particularly looking at possibly having a pair of shoes, which you recommended and had made, which are suede, yet you recommended them for multiple uses. However, I forgot the name of the shoemaker. I am also looking at having pair made based on a pattern I saw this year while in Italy. Would this information be enough to jog your memory as to which shoes I am thinking about?

Lindsay Eric McKee

Do Vass in Budapest still do proper bespoke shoes?
I heard recent rumours, hopefully unsubstantiated, that Fosters/ Henry Maxwell in London could be in trouble, I sincerely hope not?

Hugh

The armory is selling off all their Foster stock right now

Scott

Really? Do you know why? This is unfortunate news indeed.

MB

That’s very sad. I was quite looking forward to trying the new range at some point.

Hopefully it’s not a permanent closure but the above doesn’t sound very auspicious.