Yohei Fukuda bespoke shoes: Review

Friday, April 17th 2020
Share
||- Begin Content -||

As mentioned in my recent article on Yohei Fukuda, I ordered a pair of bespoke shoes from him last year, when I was in Tokyo. 

However, I opted for bespoke without a fitting. 

Why? Well, at the moment I seem to be getting to Tokyo every three years on average, so the process of having a pair made with one or two fittings would have been a long one. 

And although Yohei does come to London sometimes, it’s unpredictable and not really a working trip - I couldn’t guarantee getting a fitting. (That is now changing, of course, with Yohei holding his first show in London this summer, assuming travel is back to normal.)

So a bespoke-made shoe (as all Yohei’s are, whether RTW, MTO or bespoke) and with a bespoke last, but without the opportunity to try the shoe on before completion. 

This was risky, I realised, though it is something Yohei has done before. He estimates 5% of bespoke shoes are made this way (though it’s more common for clients ordering second or third pairs, with a last established). 

In order to try and cut down this risk, I ordered a very standard style - Yohei’s house oxford - which meant I could try on his RTW shoes in that style in the Tokyo workshop. This established that the fit was fairly good, with a few tweaks such as a higher instep, wider joints and a narrower heel.

Indeed, I had already tried on those shoes the previous year, at The Armoury in New York, which is what made me consider it it in the first place. 

“When we do this process, it helps a lot to keep the design standard,” Yohei told me at the time in Tokyo. “There are always fit issues that are thrown up by changing the design, and the house style is one we know very well - and how to fit it to different feet.”

I’m pleased to say that the results were very good. 

That’s my pair photographed by Yohei at the top of this piece, by Jamie in Florence lower down, and then by me at home at the bottom. 

Yohei and I had discussed all the aspects of my foot that would need to be dealt with, and he knew some of these anyway from reading Permanent Style, and seeing shoes made by others. 

We also took standard measurements while in Tokyo, as well as trying on RTW versions of the shoes. So there was a lot of information to go on.

The fit of the shoes was great. Certainly better than any RTW shoes - a point worth repeating in any review of bespoke footwear. 

There might be tiny points that Yohei would change next time, such as a little bit less room on the instep, so the laces don’t tighten quite as closely at the top. 

But it’s the kind of thing I wouldn’t be surprised to see on a first pair of bespoke, with multiple fittings, and then perfected on a second pair. Impressive to have just that with no fitting at all. 

I think the shoes might also be the most beautiful I own. 

They feel perfectly balanced - not too elongated or short, with a distinctive square toe but softer than Gaziano & Girling RTW or my Cleverley bespoke, for example. 

The latter point is neither good nor bad - it’s a subjective point of style - but it does reflect what Yohei was saying in our earlier piece, about softening his lines over time. 

The same goes for the waist of the shoe. It’s beautifully cut in and narrow, leading to the impression of sleekness you get with bespoke shoes - where the middle of the foot seems to disappear from some angles (see shot below). 

It’s such an elegant, light-footed effect. 

But the waist isn’t extreme either - compare it to my bespoke loafers made by Daniel Wegan when he was at Gaziano & Girling, for example. 

And the execution of the bespoke make elsewhere is perfect. 

I ran through these points in my review of Foster & Son bespoke, and that’s still probably the best illustration of them. But it should be repeated (like the bespoke fit compared to RTW) that the delicate pitch of the heel is beautiful, as is the way it runs up into the heel cup. 

That heel is also curved inwards subtly, as it runs into the waist (most clearly seen when looking at the bottom of the shoe). And indeed the combination of make and fit is lovely, as the upper edge sits perfectly all the way around my ankle. 

These are all things I take for granted with good bespoke shoes. But they are integral to its beauty, and precisely executed here.

The style and leather I went for were pretty conservative - an oxford in dark-brown calf. But I know very well, this far down the line, that these are the shoes I will get most use out of. 

The green-suede chelsea boots I included in the earlier article on Yoehi are more exciting. Indeed, they generate a particular kind of desire that I think is unique to shoes - something about a perfect object that you never quite get with tailoring, shirts or other articles of clothing. 

But I know they will be too unusual, and will only come out once or twice a month. They would usually require an outfit that starts with them as the first consideration, rather than the last.

Over time, you start to realise why the footwear collections of old dressers, or those in old Apparel Arts illustrations, are mostly black, dark brown and tan, lace-ups and loafers. It’s just easier to vary other things, like shirt patterns or accessories. 

And it makes me happy that my first pair of shoes from Yohei will see a lot of use.  

The Yohei shoes came beautifully polished, with a real mirror shine on the toe in a darker shade of brown. This is of course something I could achieve myself over time, but it is a treat when someone lays the foundations for you. 

One or two areas of the back were perhaps over-polished, with the surface coming away slightly on the first wear. But that went the first time I polished them myself. 

The packaging was also lovely. Most bespoke makers use branded wooden boxes these days, but Yohei’s also come with tweed shoe bags and a tweed strip to separate the shoes, all with branded leather patches on them. 

The shoe trees (shown below) were also lovely, although not quite as hollowed out as those from Masaru Okuyama that we covered recently, or Gaziano & Girling

I have to say I was rather stressed about going for non-fitting bespoke, and it was a relief to get such a great result. 

I also know, now that we’ve made one pair, that a second pair could be made in the same way and this first pair act as a fitting - when I show them to Yohei in the summer. 

It makes me think that if you try Yohei’s shoes, and they fit you well, they’re definitely worth considering. As mentioned, all the make and hand sewing is the same. 

And while I understand why Yohei doesn’t offer an ‘adjusted last’ or semi-bespoke, where small changes are made to a standard last (as Saint Crispin’s does), I do think this is an option more shoe brands should offer. 

I don’t have very regular feet, but still the important changes I need to a standard last are fairly small. With just two or three adjustments, the fit can be very good. 

Like tailoring, full bespoke shoemaking is exciting because it opens the doors wide for design and fit - but that increases the risk as well. (And of course it’s harder with shoes to make changes to the finished product.) 

So I personally think bespoke shoemakers should look at more options between bespoke and RTW. Perhaps an adjusted last, perhaps no-fitting bespoke on house styles, perhaps just more RTW styles to try on to understand fit and style. 

It would help with the costs, the timings, and the predictability of bespoke. (The middle of those three often being underestimated - Yohei’s delivery time is currently 18 months.)

Yohei's house bespoke costs 420,000 Yen (£3,120). Prices vary mostly with style rather than make - full list available on the previous post to this, here

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
86 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Carl

Thank you for a great review, I had really looked forward to it! I am very pleased that you seem to be getting more and more into Japanese shoemakers. And of course, the shoes are strikingly beautiful, and Jamie’s photos are amazing.

Fernando

Incredible shoes Simon, could you add a photo of the waist?

Fernando

Thank you 🙏🏽

Bob

Amazing shoes Simon – I particularly look forward to your shoe pieces.

Sam

That’s a nice looking shoe! Thanks for the review.

Nigel C

I just looked up ”Elegant”: – i) Graceful and stylish in appearance or manner. ii) Pleasingly ingenious and simple. There you go! I’ll not be in Japan again for a long time, and I may never spend anything like that much on a pair of shoes but they are a treat to behold.
Best wishes N

Anonymous

So it sounds from the article that your shoe came from an altered last? But you mentioned Yohei doesn’t do altered last orders? A bit confused.

Anonymous

Does Yohei make the last himself?

Anonymous

Can you name some bespoke shoemakers who can converse well in English? That always seems to be an issue for me — bespoke is a very involved process so a language barrier is difficult.

Otávio Silva

Beautiful and rather useful pair. Are you wearing green socks? The trousers/socks/shoes combination look very elegant and subtle.

Anonymous

Right, i’m looking for just Japanese makers who can speak some English. I appreciate their aesthetic. Appreciated–

Yes, I’ve reached out to a few English makers but they were a bit impolite and put me off with untimely/no responses.

Anonymous

Thanks Simon!

Jesper Ingevaldsson

There’s quite a few Japanese bespoke shoemakers who speak good English. All who’ve trained shoemaking in England, so apart from Yohei Fukuda also for example Hiro Yanagimachi, Shoji Kawaguchi (Marquess) and Yuigo Hayano (Bespoke Shoe Works). Apart from those for example Seiji McCarthy, Noriyuki Misawa (Misawa & Workshop), Toru Saito, and Chiemi Chiba of Clematis Ginza speaks good English.

Yeah there’s definitely a variation in the English skill, but I would say you can sort measurement, order and fittings and converse on all the details that matters with all of the ones mentioned (I have myself ordered from three of them). Yohei is definitely one of the best ones (apart from Seiji of course), Hiro is perhaps somewhere between Yohei and Shoji, and Misawa and Hayano is pretty good as well.

Anonymous

Right — Seiji is fluent.

I don’t know anyone else who’d be at Yohei’s level or above. Anyone else beyond this list?

Hiro’s English is surfacing but not as skilled as Yohei’s. It’d be more difficult to discuss technical details.

I don’t know about how Noriyuki, Toru, Yuigo, and Chiemi Chiba’s English compares.

Jeff

A bold move but the alternative (waiting years for a pair of shoes if you get back to Tokyo) would not be pleasant. I tried on Yohei’s shoes at The Armoury as well and they were a bit tight. Having him take your measurements in his shop certainly guarantees a better result than straight RTW. I will have to hope his visit to London coincides with my next trip there this fall. Summer travel may be a tossup. I enjoy your site.

Anonymous

Does the 420,000 Yen cost include shoe trees?

Jay

Dear Simon,

Living in a cold and wet city like yourself, I find myself more and more drawn to opting for quality dress shoes with (factory equipped) thin rubber soles. It obviously takes away from the elegance (especially on beautifully finished bespoke shoes) but I’m getting quite tired of slipping on the pavement and worrying about water damage – which in turn doesn’t look very elegant either.

What is your view of this?

Thanks!

Jay

Thanks for your reply Simon, and look forward reading the article next week. Will definitely let you know my thoughts. And apologies for being a bit off topic, but seeing those beautiful shoes Yohei made for you made me realize just how the value proposition degrades with the change of undercarriage.

W. Brown

I’ve certainly become a fan of the thin rubber sole. In Denver we get quite a bit of snowfall during the year. Thankfully it doesn’t stick around much, but that leads to slush the next day. Carmina uses Dainite rubber soles and they seem to be holding up well. My first pair was a MTO balmoral boot in burgundy museum calf. Second season on those and they still look sharp. Picked up a RTW oxford in brown suede this winter. It’s nice to be able to switch to a different pair the next day to ensure the shoes dry appropriately.

Samir

I understand that at the Armoury they sell a Yohei RTW for $2300 and a MTO for 2700 , isn’t that just adjusting the last

SN

Great shoes!
What is your size and width in your EG shoes and what size you have tried in YF RTW when you met with him before?

SN

The question is about how are the EG and YF compared with the fit.

SN

Thank you!

Kevin

Simon, your shoes look incredible. Are they light? Their vamps are not robust.

Jan

Gorgeous! But dark brown oxfords from a Japanese maker again? Can I ask why you went for something so similar to the recent pair from Okuyama?

BespokeNYC

Was thinking the same thing! You’ve previously mentioned you wear suit and tie much less now you no longer work in an office. Do you still wear oxfords with more casual outfits?

Lovely shoes though!

Brendan

Simon – what exactly is heel pitch?

Anonymous

What are the biggest differences between english shoemakers like Cleverley or Gaziano & Girling and Fukuda House bespoke (oxfords) in terms of style?

They are one of the most beautiful shoes I’ve ever seen and the price is more reasonable as the now, from my point of view a little overpriced English (and others in Europe too). I know it’s due to the high demand in recent times and partly due to higher fixed costs but Fukuda shows that you don‘t have to exaggerate the price when you are among the best.

Anonymous

Hi Simon, I still don’t see your IG video chats on my story.

I can view the videos when it’s live but afterwards I don’t see the finished video on my stories (on the right hand side).

Anonymous

Hm, I just went on you profile page, looked at your icon, but really don’t see a play button…

I did see the play button when one of your videos was live, though.

Jonny

Haven’t read your blog for a couple of years, came back and it’s still quality writing about interesting and lovely things. Thank you very much for your work.

pr

The link to the green suede chelsea boots does not work…any chance of repairing it?

pr

Green chelsea boots link

K

The shoes are beautiful, but they left me hoping the article would end with a video of you tap dancing a la Fred Astaire.

K

I think that’s it. They have such lightness and whimsy (with the swooping waist) that they seem more at home swishing through air than stolidly anchored to the ground. I think you could give Fred a run for his money. 🙂

Anonymous

Doesn’t he mean the metal toe tips?

Ricky Takhar

Simon, of topic however would you consider an updated article or greater yet a book on the finest menswear in the world?

Would be interesting to see how your opinion on brands has evolved over the past few years. Having read the book and seen brands such as zilli, kiton and cleverly, I wonder if your more recent experiences with rifugio/ seraphin, 100 hands/ D’Avino or Yohei would make the list.

Best,
Ricky

Lindsay Eric McKee

A great review. I am looking forward to hearing your review on the pair of Nicholas Templeman bespoke shoes you are having made.

Thibault

(Forgive me if you already tackled this question in one of your previous posts)
As with clothing in general, I assume that bespoke is mostly an option chosen by aficionados who are are after true craftsmanship, premium quality and premium materials. However you might agree that you don’t necessarily have to go bespoke to tick all those boxes. What separates bespoke from other options even more is probably the the idea of limitlessness, both in colour, shape, style and materials (within the boundaries of the artisan’s craft).
On the other hand, bespoke might also be a necessity for those people with odd feet or difficult body proportions but who still want to dress in the best way possible.
You told us already about your sloping shoulders and your smaller heels, so I wondered whether there was ever a certain frustration of just not finding something that fits as it should, that enhanced your drive towards bespoke?

E.g. Thanks to Saint Crispin’s options regarding the foot bed and waist, I no longer need to wear certain shoe brands who are actually a size too big and not fully to my taste, just to be able to wear them with my orthotics in. This investment in semi bespoke shoes was well worth never having to go through the struggle and time consuming activity again of searching smart shoes that enable me to wear my necessary foot support.

ANM

@Thibault: “…What separates bespoke from other options even more is probably the the idea of limitlessness, both in colour, shape, style and materials (within the boundaries of the artisan’s craft)…”

I think it is the quiet knowledge of having something that is simply made for you, and no one else.

The bespoke items I have, do not have a traditional label, or if they do, do not have a size/sizing labeled on them…

I think of the film “Being There” – when they are trying to find out where exactly ‘Chance” came from…there is one scene where they are commenting that none of his clothes even had labels (they were all bespoke from his now deceased employer), and thus were “untraceable.”

In “the Dark Knight” they make the same discovery about the Joker – “his clothes have no labels, just pocket lint”

I have always been fascinated by that..

daniel lock

great looking shoes! really nice

Nicolas Stromback

Its interesting har dark brown goes with everything, so long as its dark enough. I do share your opinion on the allure of that green suede. I bought me a pair of summer loafers in that shade and they have been used extensively, with anything but green pants really. Love how they go with cream and light grey. But maybe this type of green is more of a summer colour.

ANM

Simon,

They look like art…both good (I am sure the complements would flow from strangers) to bad (one would almost be reluctant to wear them!)….Probably best left on display for all to marvel at the mirror finish, etc. (actually, a lot of women buy shoes they never actually wear – they just look good in the closet, and come with the knowledge of ownership…come to think of it, I have a couple watches like that…yikes!)

However, I see no mention of a basic of construction – I presume a Blake sole?

Anon

Hi Simon,
I just wanted to ask how you feel toward metal toe tips. I’ve noticed you have them on several pairs of shoes you have recently reviewed.
I had some installed on two pairs of new bought Alden loafers as I noticed that I quickly wear down the front edge of my shoes (A new pair of C&J loafers recently just lasted about 4 months of rotational office wear until the outsole was almost gone up to the welt) but I find them to be irritating at times. Especially on the pair with a very soft “felx-welt” sole I can feel the metal tipps while walking and on some flooring they do make a sound.

Also, have you noticed that those tipps damage wood floors and rugs? The edges of the metal tips do feel quite sharp at times.

Felix

Simon, beautiful shoes. Is that a plain calf or a museum calf leather?

Veit

Great review Simon! Going back to the european makers how would you compare Stefano Bemer bespoke to Saint Crispins in terms of quality and making?

Nezar

Hi Simon,

I wonder how Yohei hides the sole stitch on his shoes. I purchased a pair and for the life of me cannot see a welt stitch on the fudged lip going around the shoe. I have seen that stitch on every other shoe, including on Saint Crispin’s shoes.
Kind regards
Nezar

Talal Altuwaijri

Hi Simon, i just ordered a MTO shoe from Yohei – A round toe Celeste Oxford on the no. 18 last in Misty Claret, i am worried about the fit this is the first time i order from Yohei, i gave him my measurements in G&G shoes and he recommended the size, i believe Yohei is one of the best if not the best shoemaker in the world.

Richard Baker

Nice shoes by a master maker. I was in some discussions in early 2020, but left it to the side without travel.
Do you know the tannery where the leather originated?
On his website it says leather “chosen by client” – what options were you presented with?

Richard Baker

Thank you. I will contact him directly as its something I enjoy to know as part of the process and provenance when ordering bespoke or MTO.