This article was originally written back in 2014. Back then I had tried seven bespoke shoemakers, and nothing in Japan. Seven years later, the number has more than doubled, and the spread is wider – also encompassing some semi-bespoke and some remote fittings.
This then is a summary of my experiences with different bespoke shoemakers, meant as a jumping-off point for those new to the area. Have a read of each summary, then use the links to find the articles with more information. Usually there are at least two – one background article and one specific review. Both will be helpful.
This is a partner to the ‘Tailors I have known’, which does something similar but with 55 bespoke tailors. There is also one on shirtmakers (21) here, and one coming on made-to-measure.
I have three pairs of bespoke shoes from Cleverley – brown cap-toes, black imitation brogues and Russian-reindeer monk straps (above). I covered the process of making the first pair in detail, over 13 posts, so there is no lack of detail on them.
I had a few issues with the fit of the first couple of pairs, specifically around the outside joints and my little toe. This was mitigated with stretching – something I should have gone in and asked about earlier. More on that in my update post on the brown pair here.
Surprisingly, Cleverley might be the most distinct shoemaker on this list, as their standard shoe is lighter in construction than anyone else. This means they are comfortable slightly quicker in the morning, but less comfortable towards the end of the day, in my experience. Cleverley also tends to do less burnishing or patina work.
Foster & Son
I had a pair of dark-brown oxfords made with Foster & Son, and they too were surprisingly unusual. The last shape was more curved – ‘banana’ shaped – than any other pair I’ve had, though this wasn’t that noticeable unless you looked at the profile from the top.
The fit was good, better than the Cleverley for a first pair. But there were issues with the finish, where the heavily patinatation began to quickly flake off. Still, this was quite easily dealt with and they remain a very good fit.
Nicholas Templeman is an ex-John Lobb shoemaker, and his approach is best thought of as grounded in that tradition, with a slightly wider appreciation of styles elsewhere.
He made me a pair of grained derbys with a beautiful chain stitch around the apron (above). The fit was very good, and comfortable immediately. I also liked the subtle styling, with no work lacking in the waist or heel, but less extreme than with other makers.
The facings needed to be tweaked a couple of times, to get them to line up better when laced on my foot. But Nicholas was very happy, indeed insistent, on correcting this as much as possible.
Gaziano & Girling
I have had three pairs of bespoke from Tony, Dean and co – a seamless slip-on in hatchgrain leather, an oxford adelaide (pictured above) and a suede slip-on (below). The adelaides were made in the wrong colour originally, and were subsequently patinated to the dark-brown you can see here.
Those shoes are among my best-fitting bespoke. It helped I think that the style is quite a standard G&G one – this was not starting from scratch on a new design. The seamless loafers were beautiful, and one of my favourite pairs from a style point of view. But the fit was trickier, both being new and being a loafer. More on the suede slip-ons below.
Daniel Wegan / Catella
These suede slip-ons were made while Daniel Wegan was at Gaziano & Girling, and they are Gaziano & Girling shoes. However, Daniel made a new last for these, as well as making and fitting them throughout. So now that Daniel is set up on his own, they do provide some experience of his service as well.
The loafers were probably the most beautiful in terms of the sole and heel work I’ve had, with a thin sculpted waist and pitched heel. The shape was also very elegant. The fit wasn’t the best, and we had a couple of tries at stretching them since to improve that. But part of that is probably down to having loafers as a first pair of bespoke.
The Tim Little brand (at Grenson) used to offer a little-discussed bespoke service, with Tim doing the consultation in his shop and the measuring and pattern-making being done by Tony Botterill. The key attraction was the price, which back in 2014 when I had my boots made, was £1950 for the first pair and £900 thereafter (once the last was done).
Tim was upfront from the beginning that the shoes would have none of the delicacies of top bespoke – the shaped waists, pitched heels and so on. But they would be hand-sewn on a bespoke last. And that delivered, in that the fit was good (after an initial fitting where I couldn’t get the boots on!).
However, the materials are still at a Grenson level, and I feel like this is a bit of a mismatch. I wouldn’t use the service again, preferring decent-fitting higher-quality RTW, or an adjusted last from the likes of Saint Crispin’s, if I wanted something cheaper.
These are among my favourite pairs of bespoke shoes, and yet they’re not strictly speaking bespoke, which I think speaks to how important design remains in bespoke shoemaking – as in tailoring.
I had wanted a pair of Yohei’s shoes for a long time, yet he wasn’t doing trunk shows in the UK. So when I visited Japan, I tried on the classic oxford he makes, and asked Yohei to adapt a RTW last as best he could. The result was good – not the best bespoke fit I’ve ever had, but still better than ready-to-wear, and exquisitely made.
Masaru Okuyama is a Japanese shoemaker, based in Hong Kong. He made me the dark-brown oxfords shown above (I know, a recurring style for me, but it is the one I wear the most by far). They were superbly made, and I think reflect at a broader level the excellence that Japanese shoemakers have brought to the industry – whether working in Hong Kong, Italy or England.
The fit was also very good. Not perfect, but then a first pair of bespoke usually isn’t – something that I think should put off most readers that are unsure about committing the time and money. The last was also a little long and there was a bit too much room in the vamp, both of which I would have changed had I commissioned a second pair.
I am rather emotional about my Stefano Bemer shoes, given I was measured and the first pair ordered from Stefano, before he passed away. I have since had three pairs in total: tan oxfords, tobacco-suede oxfords and hatchgrain oxfords (above).
The fit of the first pair was quite good, but we did have issues with the in-step and the way the elongated toe-cap bent the vamp. These were corrected on the second pair, which were a great fit. And the third demonstrated a way that bespoke can be more accessible – they were partly machine made, on my bespoke last, under the ‘Blue bespoke’ offering from Bemer.
Savoia is another Milanese shoemaker, and an old, storied one. ‘Stivaleria’ means bootmaker, and the company was founded by the makers of boots for the Savoia, or Savoy, cavalry. They are also owned now by the famous Neapolitan tiemaker E.Marinella, which has helped bring them more attention.
The shoes that Savoia made me (above) were OK in the fit, but lacked something in the style. This wasn’t just the absence of bespoke touches like fine waists or heels. Lobb and others do that too. It was more the fact that the shoes looked like old-fashioned and perhaps even characterless. I do like rounder, wider shoes often (such as Aldens) but these weren’t to my personal taste from a style point of view.
Rivolta are also based in Milan. Their inclusion here should be heavily qualified by the fact that I had boots made by them 11 years ago, and I’m told their process has changed since then.
They used an electronic foot-scanning machine to make a last for me, which was then made into (beautifully crafted) suede boots. Unfortunately the scanning process didn’t work perfectly, and they didn’t fit. They were subsequently remade, and much improved, but still didn’t work out in the long term. Interestingly, there was a bit of a vogue for these machines back then, with old brand Lodger using one too. This seems to resurface now and again.
I would like to re-try Rivolta sometime, given this was quite a specific experience.
We’re now into semi-bespoke. Saint Crispin’s do offer a bespoke service, but it’s not one used that much. They are better known for a handmade shoe made on an adjusted last – so without multiple fittings – and being cheaper as a result.
I have had two pairs of shoes and two pairs of boots made, with the first being the wing-tips shown above. The make of the shoes has been fantastic, and I couldn’t recommend that more highly, given the price. However, there have been issues with the fit, with the two boots working out a lot better than the two pairs of shoes. The latter have both needed to be relasted, but still weren’t as good.
However if the fit can work for you, it’s the first thing I’d recommend to a reader looking to upgrade on RTW, but not sure about bespoke.
Petru & Claymoor
I put Petru & Claymoor here in the list, because they also make in Romania, like Saint Crispin’s, and are similar in style as well. The shoes above were made for me last year, during lockdown, and so measured and fitted remotely. They do offer full bespoke, but I include the shoes in more of a semi-bespoke section for that reason.
The shoes were very well made, although rather stiff. They also fitted well, which was impressive given the remote process. But that lack of direct communication probably affected the style, as they were made particularly wide in the joints, creating a wide shoe that I didn’t like so much the style of.
I’m not a particular fan of the Santoni style of shoe. But I was interested in trying out the service when it was offered – as part of work for a magazine – because it’s always interesting to see how bigger brands handle a bespoke type of service.
The shoes were nice, but I think more like an extension of the ready-to-wear, rather than the bespoke covered elsewhere in this piece. So although a new last was made, the fit around the arch and heel was not that precise. And that goes for the make too: the welt and sole were hand-sewn, but the look is still very much of a RTW Santoni shoe.
Norman is one of my favourite people in the world – a wonderful person and a great craftsman. We started a project to make a bespoke pair of boots years ago, after a long discussion about boot styles in Madrid.
We did get to a fitting stage, in waste leather, but we couldn’t agree on the style. Perhaps because I had in mind something more traditionally English, and not so much what Norman normally makes. From the start it had been an experiment Norman was trying out with me, rather than a commission by a customer, and not something he was charging for as a result. And in the end we decided to leave it, with the hope of doing something else more Norman, in the future.
Carreducker and Calzoleria Carlino
These last two are holding posts. I am in the process of making a pair of bespoke boots with James at Carreducker, but with two interesting variations. First, the entire process has been done remotely, and Carreducker have been more thorough with this than any other craftsman I’ve seen, from making instructional videos to adding more forms of measuring.
And second, the boots are being made in their ‘Bespoke Manufactured’ service, which is similar to the Blue bespoke from Stefano Bemer. The fitting and lastmaking are done as with bespoke, and the welt is hand-sewn, but the rest of the making is my machine, like a good Northampton shoe. This lowers the price and makes it easier to make more casual styles on a bespoke fit.
Lastly, I recently began the process of trying a bespoke pair of shoes with Calzoleria Carlino, the Italian maker based in Sassuolo, Modena. That too, at least at the start, is being done remotely.
Great post Simon. I assumed Edward Green would be on this list. Any plans to go with EG bespoke in the future?
EG don’t do bespoke – haven’t since Tony ran it. They’ve been talking about doing personal lasts, but even then it wouldn’t be handsewn – ‘factory bespoke’ as I called it in Friday’s piece on Tim Little.
Great article. And i cannot agree with you more about your comments on John Lobb.
But why there is no intro about EG? i have two pairs now, cannot love them more!! super comfortable even after a whole day walk over the weekends.
What do you think about EG?
Clearly I needed to be clearer about this – this is just bespoke shoemakers. I’ll change the title.
If I went into RTW it would be a much longer list…
Interesting to see that, regarding shoes and also clothing, you are not thinking at all about Vienna / Hungary. Not your style?
Not really, no. I’ve met a few of the bespoke makers in the area, and in Poland, but wasn’t particularly taken with them
tell us more gossip about the arrogance in Lobb .. its the weird idiosyncrasies of the bespoke makers that is often more fascinating that the end article of clothing or shoes … which at the end of the day are just that.
I have a pair of slip ons from Gaziano Girling and love them. Only MTO but the quality and fit is wonderful. Dean Girling is an old school friend and lives close by. Wholeheartedly recommend, far more than I can say about other school friends!
hi simon unrelated to this post, but something you have talked about in your previous tailoring posts, specifically one on tailors you have known. you mentioned a tight back in that post, which I have noticed on some new bespoke jackets I have as well. Do bespoke jackets have some give and take time to break in a bit?
Hey Andy. A bespoke jacket will certainly change as you wear it, but pretty much just in the the shape of the chest. The back won’t give any more. If you think it’s too tight, ask to have it changed. But do wear it quite a few times before you take it back – often a bespoke fit can feel tight for a while, as RTW jackets are just so baggy and unstructured.
I’m not sure if he’s someone you’d be interested in, but I have had a very good experience with Perry Ercolino in Doylestown, PA. As one of the very, very few U.S.-based custom shoemakers, he is a one-man (plus apprentice) operation who has been in the custom shoe business for a few decades. While you have a plethora of options in London (and with a bit of travel, the rest of the continent), for your U.S.-based readers it might be welcome for you to stop by and have a chat (or a fitting!) and let us know what you think next time you find yourself in New York.
Thanks Peter, good idea.
Ever fancied a pair of bespoke cowboy boots? There’s plenty of those in the US…
I do, Simon. Every time the rodeo comes to town! While I haven’t had any experience with them, I have heard great things about several makers and hope to get a chance to try them out.
Nice. I can personally recommend Lee Miller – though there is a bit of a waiting list.
Interesting article Simon. One question for you, you commented that your shoes from Stefano Bemer fit better than any other first pair of bespoke shoes. Can you explain this a bit more for me? Is it common that the fit of a bespoke shoe wouldn’t be perfect and would be improved with a 2nd, 3rd pair?
Yes, like anything bespoke the second one will inevitably fit better than the first. The first one may be hugely better than any other shoe you have, but the maker will always learn something about you from that process of making the first shoe, such that the second one is an improvement, however big.
Not something a maker trying to sell you the first shoe is ever likely to mention. But an inevitable part of a bespoke process. You’re likely to decide you made some wrong decision too, which you will correct with the second one…
Hi Simon, great post, thank you. I still can’t work out how I’m going to afford those G&G Adelaides but one day I’m going to get them. One thing you haven’t mentioned is the inevitable requirement to re-sole such high-end footwear. Do you simply send them to Northampton or use a specialist cobbler?
One pair of my RTW EGs are in need of re-soling and i don’t know what’s the best course of action.
Hey – I’d always give a shoe of that level back to the manufacturer. I’d certainly recommend that with the EGs…
Your comments on Lobb are interesting. When I was looking to order my first pair of bespoke shoes about 10 years ago I visited Lobbs (even though I could not really afford their prices) and found them very welcoming. In contrast I found Cleverley rather condescending. Maybe I just caught them on a bad day but I remember thinking ‘they are not getting my money!’. In the end I chose Jason Amesbury over Fosters because he was just that little bit cheaper, but I have never regretted my choice.
Thanks John, I hear and see good things about/from Jason.
You’re right, the reception from a brand is very much a personal and inconstant thing. Then again, I don’t think I’ve ever had anything but a positive experience from my favourite makers/people.
Hi Simon, thank you for this. Perhaps now I will lean towards G&G. Fit is the most important thing for me. It is a bonus that they know how to finish/antique. You have saved me from making some expensive mistakes!
Very good article, thanks. I have quite wide feet, which of these makers (RTW and bespoke) suits that more? I know some have RTW that must take the lasts from ballerinas!
Bespoke – anyone really. RTW best going for a special order from someone like Green or Crocketts
Could you do a post on shapes? Classic, chisel, pointed, round etc. the main shapes, what they go with, what style they indicate and how to wear them would go a really really long way!
Sure, good idea
One often reads that new Oxfords should not completely close so that there is a slight V. After wearing them in the leather should have streched a bit and they should close completely.
However when I look at your bespoke shoes, they are completely closed from the begining.
Can you explain me why?
Maybe not all when I look closer to the pictures, but your
Stefano Bemer’s for example.
You’re right, that is a good guide. Actually, the Cleverleys generally haven’t closed completely, but G&G and Bemer have. It’s something that needs to be changed on my last. The shoes fit fine at the moment, but you’re right that in time they could become a little loose there
Some advice please. I have used Lobb Paris and Messina in Milan in the past for my bespoke shoes. I am thinking of a Suede pair now – any suggestions?
Absolutely Michael, but it’s a very big question. It depends enormously on the kind of shoe you want, the style, shape, and so on. Have you looked through the archive on this site to give you some background and examples on the 6/7 makers I have used? Perhaps if you do that, and then come back with some more specific questions?
Hope that helps
You say due to the fit of the fitting, you disputed about cover – do you mean about payment?
No, there was never a question of payment – he wanted to make the shoes without payment, in order that they could be covered. But he disliked the fact I was going to be honest about it.
I’m due to be going for my first bespoke suit & separates in March (Thom Sweeney), and want to acquire some shoes to finish it off. I’ve been looking at G&G, Stefano Bemer, Silvano Lattanzi, George Cleverley and Corthay. What you you recommend as a 1st & 2nd pair?
I’ll need some more information I’m afraid – I’d definitely pick G&G and Corthay out of that range, but it depends on the style you’re looking for. Corthay, in particular, can be a little racy for English men (though try the Bucy if you want something more conservative)
Hey Simon, following my initial comment, I’ll be getting a charcoal herringbone 3 piece as my first bespoke endeavour. It’s solely for evening, dinners etc as I am not required to wear a suit for work. I’m also 20, so I can get away with most things (or at least I like to think so!). I have narrowed it down to three makers now… G&G, Corthay & Berluti. I’d like to get one from each, however am unsure whether bespoke or MTO would be best. Berluti is £5000 for the initial bespoke which seems insane, but I couldn’t think of going for a RTW model from berluti as I couldn’t justify spending £1350 for a pair of blake shoes that have a massive mark up (unless it was a special order alessandro, of which would be Norwegian welt). Would you say bespoke is worth the price you pay or would MTO suffice?
Certainly don’t pay for Berluti.
I love both G&G and Corthay and I’d say bespoke is definitely worth the price you pay. But be aware what you are paying for:
– A better fit, but a slightly higher chance of mistakes (it’s a one off, a piece of craft, not a honed factory process)
– Superior make, eg hand-sewn sole, which makes some difference to the wear and strength of the shoe, but it’s small
– (Personalised design, but of course you can pretty much get that with MTO)
Okay so Berluti is a big no-no. I’m aware that G&G is £3,600 + VAT (before the price increase this month), but do you know Corthay’s prices by any chance?
Not off the top of my head, no. Pierre’s never made me anything
Dear Simon, I came across your post when researching my first first bespoke shoe order.
Why do you state “don’t pay for Berluti” ? Many of my friends have done Bespoke with Berluti and they are extremely pleased with the result.
The product is very good, but there is a big luxury-brand margin on top. You’ll get similar quality from, for example, Gaziano & Girling, at a lower price. The difference is also more marked in RTW
For a significant upcoming birthday i have decided to treat myself to a pair of bespoke shoes, this will probably be my only pair ( black oxford with a toe cap probably) so considering not only the fit and finish but the enjoyment of the process out of Foster&Son, George Cleverly and Gaziano & Girling which company would you pick and why. I know its a very subjective question but as this will be my first bespoke anything i am looking to someone with the experience of all three companies for guidance.
I can’t really speak to fosters as I haven’t had anything made yet. On G&G v Cleverley, the biggest difference really is the style of the shoe. Northampton vs London City shoe. Have a search for the post on that
Have you ever considered using Bocache?
Are all your bespoke shoes made with Goodyear welts? Do you have any Blake welted shoes?
No, they’re all Goodyear. There’s a lot less point in bespoke Blake given you lose the hand sewing
Any interest in Saint Crispin’s MTO Personal last service? Could that be the ideal thing for someone who wants a custom hand-welted shoe but doesn’t want to spend 3-4K?
Yes, potentially. Actually receiving my first pair this week…
How did it turn out?
Post coming soon. Very good though…
I’m intending to have my first bespoke shoes. Since I’m living in UK, English shoemakers are more convenient for me and I have made my mind to start with G.J. Cleverley. However, since they do not do patina, I wonder if there is any good patina service in UK. Moreover, do you believe that they will achieve a great fit for my flat feet? This is so far my another big concern as most shoemakers are fond of the waist in the middle of the shoes because it is stylish and with flat feet I don’t think there will be any waist in my shoe last.
I wouldn’t worry about the flat feet – just make the issue clear at the start. And as for patina, there are places you can send them to, such as Dandy Shoecare
Are there any Milanese shoemakers left besides Mele?
Simon, any views on The Left Shoe Company? I know they are not technically bespoke, as you cannot choose your style but they seem to be by far the cheapest possible option if you want shoes tailored to your individual size. I have a couple of pairs, and the style is OK, but the fit superb. I have not worn them enough to comment on durability, and don’t know enough to judge the quality of the materials used.
I haven’t tried them, but interesting to hear on the for point – as whenever I’ve tried that scanning technology before, it has never worked (Lodger, Rivolta).
Hello to everyone! I make bespoke shoes and bespoke patina works in Hungary. And i wonder if in your opinion if i relocate myself to UK…especially in Oxfordshire area i will be able to make a living from my craftmanship ? now my bespoke goodyearwelted shoes price are between 350-600 gbp…. and i want to keep this price range if i relocate to. Any opinion will be appreciate… maybe will help me to make a decission.
You cannot move and work in the UK unless 1) you already hold the right to do so (e.g. you’re a British national), 2) are employed by a firm with a licence to sponsor visas, 3) are a top CEO of a firm employing hundreds and brining millions in investment to the UK, or 4) are a sports, rock, film, fashion celebrity.
I would love to see an update on this post, if you have the time. I believe there are a few brands and many pairs of shoes that could be added to this list on its ~2 year anniversary. I’m seriously considering my first pair of bespoke and am hoping to collect as much information on the various brands as possible.
Sure David. There aren’t actually any additions I don’t think – apart from maybe Saint Crispin’s. But the text could be updated
It must have been the Saint Crispins I was thinking of. I was eyeing a tan pair of theirs, until reading your comments about how shoes should generally be darker than the accompanying pants and how tan shoes and therefore too often worn incorrectly.
Who would be the top RTW shoemakers you would recommend that produced near to Bespoke quality shoes ? (G&G ? EG? ect..)
Thank you very much!
And also how would you compare J.M. Weston with G&G for example ?
And last question, sorry! Would you recommend “cheap” bespoke or expensive RTW ?
Again, too big a question I’m afraid. Generally it depends how much you value the superior fit of bespoke (eg if you can’t find RTW that fits well) and the make (hand-sewn welt etc.
Weston are not at the same quality level as G&G or EG, but still very good
A really big question, and not one that can really be answered in a comment I’m afraid.
Thank you very much for your answers! Quite understand that some of those questions are vast. An article on cheaper bespoke vs. expensive RTW would probably be interesting for quite a few readers (in shoes and tailoring actually), as always a hesitation at a certain price level!
One last question: What do you think of generally think of Freccia Bestetti shoes ?
Very nice, although I don’t have any personal experience
Great, thanks a lot!
Very interested in some of the comments in this thread. In particular, Simon, your comment on the finishing by Cleverley. How does that manifest itself – patina I get, but burnishing? The reason I ask is that I took delivery of my first pair of shoes from Cleverley, chocolate brown cap toe Oxfords, and was really disappointed with them (and the service, but that is for another time). I gave them back to be “cleaned up” but having worn them twice the leather seems to be getting small creases behind the cap and along the instep near the top of the shoe. Is that the finish or do I have a bigger problem?
Hoping going this far back in time to make a comment is not a problem!
Not at all, I love adding to these comments and the knowledge there.
Burnishing requires a big spinning wheel and is not something London-based bespoke makers can do easily.
I believe Cleverley have started doing more patinas and finger polishing since this piece, so worth checking
On the wrinkles, it’s hard to know without seeing it first hand, but this might be due to the thinner leathers Cleverley sometimes use. That isn’t necessarily bad – as I say in the piece above
Great – thanks Simon. To be clear on burnishing, this is about… depth of shine? Smoothness of leather?
On the wrinkles, perhaps in my naiveté I made an assumption the finish would be of a certain style. Will wear the shoes and see how they develop – but at the moment, not feeling positive. A learning point for my next pair…..
Burnishing creates dark patches on the leather, with the intention of making them longer older or ‘antiqued’
Got it. Thanks
I realise this article is from a while ago but I’m curious to know your opinion on which of your bespoke shoes have the best fit and are the most comfortable after all these years?
Probably my Stefano Bemers – from the second pair on
Do bespoke shoemakers typically agree or refuse to re-make your previous shoes if your later last-adjusted pairs are better fitting? I’m not referring to trial shoes, but shoes that have already been completed.
They won’t remake them, no.
If possible, I am looking forward to seeing an update on this article. I believe that in the past 5 years, you have had quite a few new commissions from makers that are not mentioned here. It would be great to have your thoughts on those experiences, and about new commissions from those already mentioned here.
Thanks Sol, I’ll try to plan one.
Hi Simon. Happy New year. How are the Templeman Shoes you are commissioning coming along?
Do I hear that Daniel Wegan has moved on from Gaziano & Girling…. Maybe I’m wrong here….
Good, had a second fitting with Nicholas and waiting on delivery.
And yes, Daniel has left G&G
Many thanks Simon.
I may have to consider bespoke as I have sensitivity akin to inflammation in my left foot, which hurts after a day’s wearing, even in the office, while wearing a new pair of Crockett & Jones Bradford plain Derby shoes which have already been worn in. Maybe due to heal slippage so therefore am considering Nicholas Templeman, Carreducker or G&G if this will result in a more superior and comfortable fitting shoe. Looking forward to your report on the Nicholas Templeman shoes when you receive them.
Ok thanks Lindsay. I’m not sure I’ll be able to offer much helpful advice on whether Nicholas could deal with that issue though, as I’ve never experienced anything similar myself
I contacted Daniel Wegan recently and he currently charges around a starting price of £4320 including VAT and trees. This is for a captoe Oxford shoe. £500 surcharge for a first order to cover last making and the fitting process. Given his bespoke experience I may well be checking him out.
I’m surprised you haven’t had anything from John Lobb St James, is there any reason for this? Or have I missed it?
Two reasons really. One, the style never appealed to me that much and it’s expensive for no particular reason.
And two, I’m using Nicholas Templeman instead, who’s ex-Lobb
I observe that you’ve done 3+ commissions at a few makers (Cleverley, G&G, Stefano Bemer, St. Crispin’s) but only single commissions from most others.
Can you comment on what has brought you back to some but not others? I get the sense the reasons may differ. E.g. Cleverley was early in ordering bespoke, and you perhaps went back once time to get the Russian Leather one time. Whereas G&G and Bemer seem to have the style and fit you like.
Also, I think a future post on differences in style from shoemaking traditions of English v. Italian v. Japanese would be interesting.
Yes, you’ve hit the nail on the head with the numbers. It’s mostly time – I had Bemer, G&G and Cleverley all fairly early. I wasn’t travelling to Japan at that time, some people weren’t travelling here, and so on.
That also means the size of the wardrobe affects it too – I’m less likely to order more given the number I have and areas I’ve covered.
Noted on the style differences, thanks
The link to the slip on G&G shoes directs to a dead site.
Thank you, I’ll fix that now
Simon, lovely post.
Appreciate you highlighting which shoemakers offer services remotely.
Can you speak to anything similar for any tailors? I, unfortunately, live in a country with very few tailoring options and so I was interested in trying that as an option. I know Dylan & Son in Singapore offers this service, don’t know too many others.
I’m afraid I can’t really, as I haven’t tried any full remote. Some have been partly remote – eg WW Chan – but only partly
Thanks for the post. You seem to like grained leather and aprons! Is there any particular reason for this? Of this style, the Templeman’s seem to me to be the most pleasing to the eye although I don’t like the laces much. I have the EG Dovers which are one of my favourite pairs of shoes. I pray to God that I’m an easy fit and have a boring taste in shoes…
I certainly like hatchgrains, but not so much grains in general. To be clear, the Pio Mele shoes are also not mine, it’s just a shot of another pair he was making.
The Templeman laces are a little broad. Easily changeable though. And better than the old round, rural-looking ones that such shoes used to come with.
Hi Simon – should Yohei be moved to the semi-bespoke section of this piece, given that you didn’t do fittings?
I know what you mean, but obviously the vast majority of what he does is full bespoke, so I felt it was more accurate to keep it in there
Somewhat off topic question but it may as well go on a bespoke shoe post – I find I have a very high bridge & arches on my foot. The facings on shoes pretty much never line up and on oxfords there is always a noticeable gap (sometimes a very large one, depending on the shoe). I’ve found that this affects how well loafers fit – I’ve tried a few different pairs of loafers but they’ve always been way too tight over the bridge. Does anyone else have this problem? Are there any particular shoes/brands that are better?
When I read your post it appears you often have fit issues with bespoke, some shoes you couldn’t even get on, which has me questioning the value of bespoke for shoes. I am currently sitting in my office wearing a pair of Allen Edmonds black cap to oxfords (Park Avenue or Fifth Avenue was the model if I remember correctly). The are about as comfortable as most dress shoes (at least the ones I have owned) and they fit fine as far as I’m concerned. They are tighter in certain areas an looser in other, but at the end of the day my feet aren’t hurting anywhere. They are pretty conservative, and I have my eye on some slightly sleeker Crockett and Jones black cap toe oxfords for when these wear out, but I guess my question is really where is the value in shoes that are so expensive like your bespoke shoes, especially if you are having the fit problems you mention?
I see the value in a bespoke suit as my first one fits better in the chest/shoulder/neck area by far than any RTW or MTM suit I have owned before, and in fact jacket fit is why I chose to step up to bespoke in the first place (I was fine with MTM trousers, and even some RTW trousers). I’m not sure I see the value as much in bespoke shoes. In comparing your best fitting and most comfortable RTW shoes vs your bespoke shoes, where do you see the value/benefits? Please don’t take this as criticism as I am quite envious of your shoes, but as someone who is a minimalist (at least as far as PS readers go) I’m just trying to see if there is value in considering bespoke in shoes like there is in suit and odd jackets, or if my money would be better spent elsewhere. Thanks as always.
You’re right to be sceptical about the value of bespoke shoes. I certainly think there’s less value than in bespoke tailoring as well.
However, the boots I couldn’t get on where very much the exception. In general, the fit of my bespoke shoes has been better than RTW shoes. You do get that. It’s just that there were still small problems – unlike RTW, we’re basically aiming for a very good, almost perfect fit.
The real issue is that you can get a very good fit in my experience, but it rarely happens on the first pair. It will take a second or third. Which is fine if you only have one maker, and you’re going to buy great dress shoes over your whole lifetime – as most people in the past were. But it makes much less sense if someone is just going to get one pair of bespoke shoes ever, or have lots of makers.
I also think, as mentioned, that what makes sense for most people is a modified last. Because it’s cheaper and more predictable.
On value as a whole, there are many things that are great about bespoke shoes other that fit, including:
– Bespoke look, in waist and heel etc. This is the key area they are different from nearly all RTW
– Quality of make, in the hand sewing but also lots of other areas in the shoe (the only question is when this will tell, if ever)
– Personalisation and unique design
– Ease of stretching and other repairs/changes over time
– Relationship, with a single maker and craftsman
Great article, Simon. Having been very disappointed with the fit, old fashioned look and overpriced offering at John Lobb St James and the condescending attitude of a certain member of the family who wanted merely to stretch a pair of bespoke shoes that were rubbing my feet raw (they eventually admitted the shoes needed to be remade when I asked for my money back (the subsequent pair are slightly too large) I will never use them again. A friend of mine had a similar experience (he ordered two pairs of bespoke neither of which he was happy with). I think that firm has some customer service and complacency issues to think through.
The helpful attitude, fairer pricing and care taken by Tony Gaziano who has made me a beautiful first pair of bespokes is a complete contrast.
Great article Simon, thanks for the overview. More in depth on st crispins you said you had some issues with their fit but could work better for others.
I have a shorter wide foot. Do their lasts tend to favor that type of foot? Or a certain last they make that does? Thanks
There is more detail on Saint Crispin’s elsewhere on the site if you have a look. Use the search function or, to be more precise, go to Brands and click on them there
Corey, if it helps, I have an ultra wide foot 4E (US) and J for EU that measures at about an 8 (UK). Phillip Car from Saint Crispin’s was really helpful in creating a modified last and am really happy with the shoes they provided. They fit quite well despite all the fitting had to be done remotely because of the pandemic.
Thank you Reg, that was most helpful. I will reach out when the time comes to order.
I also have wider feet and also a high instep. My shoes from st crispin are the best fit so far from the RTW shoes I own (G&G, EG, Alden Carmina etc.). I have size 10 1/2 G without any modifications, and I can highly recommend them. I used the classic last.
Amazing. I had no Idea, that you have tried that many shoe makers.
Especially when one knows that with bespoke shoes it might take several pairs to master your last.
I have experience with Antonio Meccariello and Ryota Hayafuji and would recommend both of them.
Hey Simon, I’m not sure where the best place to ask this is, but I’m wondering if you could briefly explain the difference between Stefano Bemer’s ready to wear and that of a Northampton maker like G&G or Edward Green? Is there a major difference in style or make?
Hope your well during these difficult and uncertain times.
Just a little bit away from this article.
Do you know of any Japanese bespoke tailors and shoemakers with operations in London?
They are present in France and Italy as well as their respective country Japan, but why not in the country where bespoke tailoring and shoe making has played a very important role in developing and defining the craft?
Keep up the good work.
I’m afraid not. I don’t know why this is, but there are a few possible reasons. First, Italy in particular is actually bigger in terms of the crafts than the UK – it’s just that Savile Row is more famous. Also, houses in the UK tend to bigger, but there are fewer of them, so they tend to be a little harder to find casual apprenticeships with.
France and Japan have also always had a particular cultural connection around craft.
I don’t know about Japanese working in English tailoring, but there have been quite a few Japanese shoemakers working here over the last twenty or so years. There have been a number of shoe education schools and colleges (Cordwainer being the most famous) here in England with many Japanese students attending. After finishing many students stayed-on and worked either as staff or as outworkers for some of the famous shoemakers. Some of those courses exist no longer, others have changed their emphasis from craft to design.
But, apart from one exception, these Japanese lived and worked here for a couple of years and the moved on, mainly back into their homeland. I don’t know the reason for that, but I heard it was far more difficult to settle permanent in the UK compared to other EU countries. I know currently of two Japanese shoemakers who are staff members of leading shoemakers. (‘Currently’ means pre-Covid, things might have changed in the last year.)
Nevertheless, many Japanese shoemakers had an English training and some like Shoji Kawaguchi (Marquess) can be more English than the English.
The exception is Emiko Matsuda, who did work for some twenty years at Foster&Son and has hung-out her own shingle as bespoke shoemaker maybe eighteen months ago. Her husband Ueki also works in the trade as a bespoke closer (shoe upper maker) . You can see her work on her Instagram account.
Thank you Rolf, that’s really helpful. Apologies I had forgotten about Emiko.
Hi Simon, when you buy RTW from EG or others, would you tend to always get the same last?
No, it depends on the style of shoe. A smarter shoe is more likely to be on a more elongated last, with a less rounded toe.
A nice selection of shoes. I’m curious what you think of burgundy/oxblood shades as I see you don’t have any there.
Have you considered Roberto Ugolini? I think if I had choice of any shoemaker, I would go there.
There’s lots of commentary on burgundy/oxblood shoes on the recent cordovan article here, in the comments. Maybe best to take a look at that rather than repeat it here.
I like Roberto, and do plan to try him at some point.
First I will again say that these articles of yours Simon are very valuable. As I read the article, I perceive that buying bespoke shoes is very risky. And all the while you get three or four pairs of very good rtw shoes for the same price as one pair of bespoke ones, I wonder if tailor-made shoes are worth buying.?As you write it, you must also have several pairs of bespoke shoes for the first pair will never be completely perfect.
Very true Rune. And I would say that bespoke is still worth it, if the price isn’t a stretch, and you’re happy that it’s a longer term process.
But I would dissuade anyone if they are only ever going to buy one pair, and it’s a real stretch for them – something special they’re saving up for.
Although I realise that this post is about bespoke shoemakers, it is in my opinion as good a place as any to make this comment. Several years ago, I decided to up my shoe game from Church’s to Edward Green. The Church’s (3 pairs are 17 years old, still going strong and still loved). I have 4 pairs of EG’s which I absolutely love too. A few of these pair were bought from the EG factory sale.
I am unlikely to be able to afford bespoke shoes but if I did they would have been GG’s based on their style. Some years ago, about 3 years I think, I was at the EG factory sale and got chatting to a gentleman about shoes in general and he suggested that GG would be a great alternative for me based on what I had discussed about styles. I’ve always had a fondness to own a pair of St James II.
When GG had a sample sale, at least 2 or 3 years now (can’t remember exactly), they had the most unhelpful service staff in store. I remember walking into the store on Savile Row and asking for some assistance and being told that all styles were out (that meaning packed in their boxes) and I would just have to look through all of them. The two service assistants then just stood at the back of the shop. I promptly walked out never to return again.
I know that many of your readers love GG but I cannot and will not spend money on high end goods and tailoring, be that on RTW, MTO or bespoke where I do not get good customer service, in the case of GG I got none.
Must have been an off day, JSB. I’ve always had good service at GG on Savile Row and I’ve found both Tony G and Dean G are lovely guys.
Dear Simon, thanks for this wonderful summary. May I ask about the reason why John Lobb Ltd. is not yet on your list? Their shoes are for sure not the most fashion forward ones, but the make and material quality is great from what I´ve seen. A pair from 1960s I own is still like made from yesterday. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
See above in the comments for views on Lobb – both mine and those of a reader (search within the page if you want, rather than scrolling through everything)
Do you think with bespoke its possible to accommodate orthopedic issues while maintaining elegance? I start having some issues with my feet, and I often see older gentlemen at some point switch to chunky orthopedic shoes even if otherwise dressed very elegantly.
For now (I’m in my thirties), I wonder if going bespoke will be any better than just using individualized orthopedic foam insoles in my Edward Greens – I personally have no interest in unusual styles, so bespoke does nothing for me from a design perspective. Thanks in advance!
I’m not sure Ferdinand. I haven’t ever covered the orthopaedic side. However, bespoke can in theory be whatever you want it to be, so they should be always as good as the EGs, and better in any way that’s possible. I’m sure there will be some.
I’d guess it always depends heavily on what exactly your issues are, and how they relate to the shape of the shoe.
In response to Ferdinand’s comment, I have flat feet which ‘pronate’ (rock inwards slightly) as I walk and would say that a shoemaker is not a substitute for a really good podiatrist who supplies inserts made to accommodate specific feet problems. One of the issues I had with Lobb was that they assured me I would not need my inserts as they would make a bespoke shoe that accommodated my flatness, then, after I had paid them, and the fit didn’t work, recommended I put my podiatry inserts back in! The shoes Tony Gaziano is currently making for me are designed to accommodate the shape of my feet and I loaned him a pair of my orthotic inserts so the ‘sock’ (the part of the shoe under the foot) would be an exact fit. If you wish, Simon, I will let you know how this pans out after I’ve worn them for a while, as I think this is a common problem for many men, especially as they get older, and might merit a future article.
Thank you Russ, that would be interesting and helpful
To JSB; the sample sales are not the ideal time to get personal service – last years was slightly better as there was social distancing in operation, but in earlier years it was pretty chaotic. Dean and Tony are both very personable, interested and approachable when in the store, as is, for example, Simon (previous J Fitz).
Definitely dont give up on the shoes, and it’s worth a second chance as I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
It’s probably not something you would consider as you are at ‘proper’ bespoke level, but any thoughts/experience/desire to try any of the new wave semi and bespoke makers such as ACME, JimJun, Wayman, etc?
They are at an interesting price point to, say, StC and as an example, I’m weighing all these up at the moment but cant quite decide who to try. To date, I’ve just spent a lot on RTW from G&G, EG, Antonio Meccariello, etc.
And why is it so damn hard to get a RTW loafer that fits?! There seems to be quite a risk of a first bespoke commission being a loafer!
I don’t have any particular plans to, no. Mostly because a lot of them seem to be just finding their feet – I wouldn’t recommend something that remote until a company really had some experience and consistency. And the one I have tried, Mori, has kind of borne that out.
The problem with RTW loafers is there’s no room for variation in foot shape, no way to tighten the shoe, so most err towards a wider foot, which means anyone with a slim foot – particularly a slim ankle – either slides out of them at the back, or is squeezed in the toes at the front.
And yes, that lack of ability to tighten the shoe makes them a tricky choice for a first bespoke pair too.
There seems to be a common thread with most (every) article you write on bespoke items, they are never right first time or more often than not, ever. Given the huge prices associated with bespoke I would expect a higher level of satisfaction in your reviews. If I was sitting on the fence about having a bespoke pair of shoes, you would have convinced me not to (even though that isn’t your intention). While most are made by the best makers and using the finest materials ultimately shoes are about style and fit. On the first, many don’t look much different from those available as RTW. In respect of comfort, none of your writing suggests walking on air or day long satisfaction. The same can be said for your tailoring reviews. If, like you, one makes a living from writing about the experience then it’s all part of a process (enjoyable or not) but for the rest of us mere mortals, I’m not sure if I can be bothered to pay a large chunk of money up front, wait a long time to receive them, be disappointed about certain aspects of the style, fit or finish, to have them altered, repaired or remade only to find out that they are only comfortable in the morning but not in the afternoon. While I enjoy reading your articles, you do more to put me off buying anything bespoke rather than be an advocate of the process. My Edward Sexton Offshore Bespoke suits experience is far from perfect and can be quite frustrating at times but it’s probably about as far as I want to go (it’s not the price) I simply can’t be bothered (it would simply frustrate me) to pay that much money for something, that I can only deduce from your writings, will never live up to the mythical status that authors over the decades wax lyrical about. Being a West Ham supporter, life is already full of disappointment but I don’t need to spend thousands of pounds to feel that way.
Ha! Nice way to end it Chris.
I think there are two main problems here.
One is expectations: people expect absolute perfection from bespoke, and unhelpfully, often that is what is promised. But that is not what it can deliver. What it does deliver usually is something really beautiful, and much better than the ready-made alternative. That is what it should be judged by.
The second problem is the differences in type. There is a very big difference between what bespoke tailoring can deliver with a first suit, and what shoes can. The value is different – and indeed it’s different for shirts, ties, for anything. Lumping them together is unhelpful.
I think your overall impressions of shoes reflect my experience. But your ones of tailoring do not.
I’ll write a piece on the value of bespoke shoes another time. For the value in tailoring, do read this post if you haven’t before.
I just discovered that Gaziano & Girling are now offering an Optimum Made to Order, where the shoe is handmade, albeit on an existing last affording more ornamentation to the shoes. Is this option worth the money at around £2700?
It depends what you want Lindsay. It’s a bespoke shoe without the bespoke fit, so it depends how much you value the making side of it. But you’re certainly getting good value from what goes into the shoe
I found this article very interesting as I have an extraordinarily difficult time finding shoes that fit me. I was measured to be a 5.5C in Crockett and Jones, but even their shoes in this size do not fit me properly (I believe due to how very narrow my heel is). I have tried insoles, tongue pads, shoes from the women’s section, etc. but to no avail. I’ve tried shoes on at Grenson, Barker, Loake as well. The employees at C&J said they couldn’t even suggest another brand that might fit me.
At this point I feel that bespoke is my only option. The only issue for me is that the cost is quite prohibitive as I recently graduated from university and have only been working for a little over a year. I think perhaps I may just have to save up for a while. It is not even the quality that I am particularly concerned about, although I realise the quality will be significantly higher with a pair of bespoke shoes – I just want something that fits.
Do you have any advice for me?
That sounds very hard. If you can, I would aim for the cheapest quality level of bespoke you can, just as long as you’re getting an original last and so a bespoke fit. Or, try something a step down from that, like Saint Crispin’s modified last, although I’m not sure if you’re extreme would be able to be accoommodated there.
Although it sounds like you’re in the UK, if you have an opportunity to look at American brands, both Allen Edmonds and Alden carry a much broader range of sizes than most UK makers. Allen Edmonds carries down to a 4UK and Alden carries down to 5.5UK.
Hope that helps!
I was gifted a pair of crocodile oxfords that are nice, but the fit isn’t as perfect as I’d like. I approached G&G and Saint Crispin’s about re-making the shoe on a new last (my preference would be a boot with suede upper and the crocodile lower portion) and got pushback from both. Is there any shoemaker out there who could achieve what I am looking for?
I’m not sure to be honest JBW. I think it might have to be a full bespoke maker, and you may have to pay them extra to take apart the other shoe
Hi Simon, I hope you are well!
I visited your popup store and purchased the pair of Calzoleria Carlino suede oxford shoes – I was very happy that it fit me quite well.
Just out of curiosity, could you please let me know more about the shoes and the background behind them which you eventually decided not to wear?
Of course, and glad they’ve gone to a good home. I went through a remote bespoke fitting process with Carlino, which went very well to start with. The shoes were a good fit. I wasn’t a huge fan of the toe shape, but they were great value and well made. Unfortunately when I wore them the fit proved to be not so good and a bit painful. Of course, this is very specific to the fit, and they could be absolutely fine for you. I did ask Carlino to correct them, but after an email or two they never got back to me.
I hope they do you great service
Thanks Simon. I guess that is the downside of having a remote bespoke fitting. I am the lucky one here – thanks for putting them up for sale. I’ll look after them.
Great to know Alex. Enjoy
Simon what do you think about paying more money to coats more than shoes?
Do you think making bespoke shoes is worth than doing bespoke coat?
I think that’s fine – I’d certainly happily spend more on an overcoat than on shoes. However, that’s in large part based on my experience of bespoke shoes, which has been patchy – see article here.
Hello simon do you think bespoke coatis worth than bespoke shoes?
Worth more? I’d say it’s a lot easier to get right, and for that reason I’d do it first before shoes, myself. Bespoke shoes can be very hit and miss (see here)
Thanks i am very confused making shoes or coat collection
No worries, always happy to help, just keep on asking questions