Sticking with Yohei: Commissioning black oxfords

Monday, June 26th 2023
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Readers will be aware that I have become a little sceptical about bespoke shoes in recent years. As I detailed in the article ‘Are bespoke shoes worth it?’ my experiences have been a little patchy, and looking back on 13 years of commissioning, it’s hard to make a good case for them except in certain circumstances. 

One experience that pushes against that, however, has been working with the Japanese shoemaker Yohei Fukuda. The shoes he made for me fit as well as any other bespoke I’d had, despite not even having a fitting (and therefore, not even really being bespoke). 

As I never tire of saying with bespoke clothing, it makes a world of difference if you can see and try the product first - it does that crucial but often underestimated thing of closing the gap between the customer’s and the maker’s expectations. With Yohei I was able to do that, fitting on his ready-made shoes both to inform the fit and to understand how the shoe would look and feel. 

So when I was in Japan a couple of months ago, I took my first pair of shoes to him to analyse, and commissioned a second. 

I’m also writing this now because he is making one of his rare trips to London at the end of this week - he’ll be at Hackett on Savile Row on June 30 and July 1, before also then travelling to Geneva on July 7 and 8.

Given how well my first pair of shoes fit, it was interesting to see what changes Yohei proposed making for the second. 

There were quite a few, even if they were only a matter of 1mm or 2mm here and there. For example, my big toe is quite tall at the joint, while the other toes are rather lower. This creates some hollowness on the shoe above those other toes. 

Yohei proposed reducing this space; I was hesitant because I knew ready-made shoes that are too low in this area bite rather on my big toe. Yohei considered and amended, but still removed 2mm from that area on my left foot and 2.5mm on my right, while adding 1mm and 1.5mm above the big toes respectively. You can see that marked in the image below.

Now space in this area where the foot flexes is always going to move around - you’re not going to create a sculpted shape for the joints, as the leather is too soft. But changing the contours of the area will make a difference. 

(As with my potential pain points, I know this from experience - which is one reason why bespoke shoes make most sense in the long term, ideally with one maker.)

The other marks on that fitting sheet indicate reductions in the last through the front of my arch (2mm less on each side), 2mm less in the top line around each ankle, and a slight narrowing at the heel. 

The numbers alongside the laces indicate how large the gap was between the facings of the shoe when they were laced up. The two sides shouldn’t be closed - because that’s your room for adjustment during the day, or over the years - but aesthetically you don’t want them too far apart. 

These changes made me reflect on what I thought was a ‘good fit’ given there were so many little things that could be improved. 

It really comes down to a shoe that you can wear all day, not suffer any pain, and look good doing it. Some guys wear really big shoes as it feels more comfortable, but they sacrifice the look. Having good support for your feet is important too, and stops them being tired, but for me that’s usually been a bonus. 

It made me realise that the bar I set for bespoke is actually pretty low - and perhaps some makers push the look or the fit details too far, trying to perfect the shoe but in the process undermine that simply good fit. 

My second pair of Yohei Fukuda shoes will be black cap-toe oxfords. A different toe shape - softly rounded, shown above - but otherwise very similar to my first pair, just without any broguing and a bright red lining (I had that on my Cleverley ‘imitation’ brogues’ and really liked it).

That Cleverley pair is my other black bespoke pair, but they are quite a pointy style, and that combined with the broguing makes them less versatile. The shape is a little too much for anything but smart suits and jackets, and the broguing prevents them being worn with things like black tie. 

I’ve always said shoes should be simple and versatile, with the beauty coming from things like the delicate make and curved waist, rather than design details or colour. I’m finally learning my lesson and going for the most versatile black oxford possible.

As I mentioned in this piece on the difficulties Japanese shoemakers have had in recent years, Yohei has expanded his range of ready-to-wear and made-to-order shoes, partly in response to the demands of Covid, when so many more people were ordering remotely. The loafers above are examples.

This further enhances the case for ordering from him, in my view, because there are more shoes you can see in person and even try on. All three types of shoes are also available at the trunk shows.

Aside from the upcoming trip to London and Geneva, Yohei also now travels to Paris, Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong and around Japan. Most are only once a year. Details are usually announced on the websiteThe current lead time for a pair of bespoke shoes is 18 months, with one fitting after 6-7 months. Made to order is 6-7 months, with no fitting. 

Current prices:

  • Ready to wear, from 260,000 yen
  • Made to order, from 300,000 yen
  • Bespoke on existing style, from 480,000 yen
  • Bespoke with different style, from 560,000 yen

RTW and MTO shoes are made in the same way as bespoke, expect for using a standard last and sewing the sole by machine rather than by hand.

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Hi, in case anyone is interested for the Geneva Trunk show, it will be hosted like last year at Revenga :


“Some guys wear really big shoes as it feels more comfortable, but they sacrifice the look.”

Another reason for bigger shoes can be if you have to put them on an off many times a day, like me.

But then walking longer distances in them is not a good idea. Sometimes I keep a second pair in the car just for this reason. And it is really nice to put your feet in a fresh pair of shoes after walking.


What’s the shirt in the last photo? I thought you decided to scrap the peach PS ocbd, did you change your mind?

Lindsay McKee

Many congratulations on another great article,Simon!
Interesting you’re going in for black bespoke Oxfords.
That or a “lazy man” shoe will be my next MTO commission sometime in the future.
What do you think of a lazyman shoe Simon?
I’ll be staying with Gaziano & Girling and, correct me if I’m wrong, staying loyal to one reputable shoemaker. Rico Fernandez is a great guy who has given me great help and advice.
We have agreed on a few changes for any future MTO commissions.
I found that the heels of my current shoe were pretty accurate but the toe box was way too tight.
I want readers to note that this is where patience comes in. The obvious thing is to wear in the shoes very gradually, building up time and never ever wear the same shoes two days in a row.
I had to send my shoes back to G&G for widening and this has helped considerably. That was duely noted and will be factored into the next commission.

Bespoke for me eventually? Maybe not … what about you Simon if you don’t mind me asking?
I would love to try bespoke but for the fearfully high prices. It’s out of my budget, I’m afraid.
I can get by with MTO and having G&G note the changes needed for any future pair of shoes. They are a great bunch of guys.
I think that patience and loyalty is key here!!!

Lindsay McKee

Many thanks.


The big issue for me would be resoling bespoke shoes. Presumably, you will have to mail them back to Yohei in Japan. Some information on cost, logistics and time scales would be valuable to prospective customers.


To be slightly contrarian, even with the greater versatility of a rounded shape, what else would you consider wearing these cap-toes with besides “smart suits and jackets”? I can see how the shape would make those combinations slightly more relaxed, and the increased suitability to black tie, but does it open up any new possibilites below that level of formality?


No worries Simon, your second response is exactly what I was getting at so thank you for taking the time. I can see what you mean with the Fukudas being more congruent with that kind of smart but not classically formal tailoring, so I hope they end up just as expected.


It’s fascinating to think that bespoke shoes require adjustments of millimetres meaning as a bespoke product it’s a questionable endeavour .
Considering the expense, time and effort to make a bespoke shoe I would want it to look outstanding, offer enduring comfort and last a lifetime.
The fact that it looks outstanding but doesn’t offer comfort to an extraordinary level, given the cost (£3/4k), almost means bespoke shoes are more a form of art then a practical item.
The sheer complicated shape of a human foot is probably something left to the advancements of 3 D printing, AI and other manufacturing technologies to develop more customised lasts which can then be hand/machine made to give great comfort and excellent form.
Technology aided bespoke is something I’d certainly want to hear more about particularly given my ‘wonky flat feet’.
Having said all that I am in awe of the craft of shoe making.


It’s interesting that your early enthusiasm for bespoke shoes has waned.
In my experience this almost always happens (speaking as an elegantly ageing older flaneur).
My most expensive and painful bespoke experience was with Berluti some twenty odd years ago.
Impressed by the fact that one of my sartorial heroes worshipped said ‘cordonnier’ I visited their Parisian atelier brimming with enthusiasm.
Several months and an eye watering sum of money later I was presented with a pair of shoes that were so painful they could have been safely used as an implement of torture.
Buyer beware !


Great piece, as ever Simon. If you don’t mind the suggestion, I think you could do more shoe and boot posts. I like the suit stuff, but I’m less and less interested in wearing them post-covid. The posts on jeans and the geekyness on denim weaves were right up my street!
When it comes to shoes I often find it hard. I’m small, with 6.5 feet that are wide. What I find is that the shoes I buy fit well when I buy them, but when I’ve done a day of walking they are too small. My guess is that it’s a common problem, but one that complicates the buying process. What I try on in the shop on Saturday morning might not feel right by the evening!


My own observation is that in mid summer (= over 30C) I almost wear half a size up, which is a serious problem with loafers since they offer no adjustment.
I have a pair of Meermin which were slightly too close fitting in Autumn but which I can’t wear at all in the warmer months, and I basically ended up never wearing them.

So last year I bought a 9UK pair of TLB Artista loafers during summer, and decided to exchange for 9.5 as it was slightly tight (though neither was perfect honestly, in hindsight probably the last wasn’t for me) and I didn’t want to repeat my past mistake.
Then, when I tried them on again in late autumn, I found I couldn’t really wear them unless I used thick wool socks, as they were clearly large.
And now that it’s summer again, I feel like I can wear them again with dress socks or even no-show socks.

All considered though I can’t really say I’m satisfied with the fit of nearly any of the dress shoes I have, which is demoralizing given how much they cost. It certainly made me lose interest in buying shoes over the Internet.
But the problem is, I personally feel a very serious gap in the market for mid-priced shoes (let’s say, 250-500€?) in Italy. Almost all makers interesting to me in this area seem to be from Spain or Portugal (or manufactured there anyway), and nobody stocks them here.
It seems that if I want to buy locally I only have the choice of low-end mass market shoes (which is indeed what literally everybody I know wears), or really high-end (800-1000€+) which will finally be enough for either the usual suspects (C&J, EG, Alden) or good Italian shoes (e.g. Bonafé). And many Italian shoes often focus more on weird patinas and dandy detailing than balanced lasts too, to make it worse.


The fit of loafers are really problems to me. Never feel comfort after a day walking. Not for sure that a MTM or bespoke shoes could help me.


Do you mean you’d tend to stick to RTW for loafers?


Thank you Simon, I need to buy my first derby shoes I think.


Has Yohei started offering larger sizes? Wanted to order a pair circa 2018 but wrote him off because my size 11/11.5 UK wasn’t offered in RTW/MTO

Alden Fan

Looks great!


Hi Simon. Yohei makes beautiful shoes. Did you go with a Balmoral seam or a Gooseneck for your new black oxfords?

Since these will be rounder than Cleverlys, would you say they are closer in look and style to Lobb London? Out of the boutique markers, Nicholas Templeman coming from Lobb and Daniel Wegan (Catella) from Gaziano & Girling – do you find Yohei’s house style is somewhere in the middle? I’ve only had RTW shoes (Edward Green, John Lobb Paris, and C&J)…but articles like this do make me interested in bespoke.


Thanks, Simon. Yes, a big decision and investment. Something to think about down the line.
Congrats again on 15 years. Wish I was in London for the the “Open Day” today. I’m sure it will be a great time!


Are your new shoes from the bespoke or the mto service?
Your first pair was mto with some alterations added to the last through online consultation if I understand correctly?


Hi Simon, a little bit unrelated, I received the Alden tassels which were supposed to be dark brown but are so dark that they’re pretty much black. Alden won’t do anything about them as they put it down to “natural variation”. In your opinion how versatile would this colour be and would you suggest I keep them or find a new home? Also what’s your take to Alden’s response to this?


Yeah, that picture is super accurate to real life. Here is an example below of the same shoe in the store in SF (prior to me purchasing these as they didn’t have my true size in store). Honestly, Alden is very much take it or leave it these days, either because of their huge success in the past decade or two, or that they are really struggling and cheapen out on customer service. Really disappointed.


… and to avoid any confusion, the photo of the pair in store were much truer to brown than the pair I purchased online (initial photo).

Paul B

Thanks for another very honest and informative article Simon.


Amazing shoes. I saw Fukuda-san when he was still in Hong Kong and was seriously tempted to go for something similar but unsure because of the investment and the fact that I was wearing formal outfits less and less. 3 years later and I wear a suit only once a week, max, and I certainly do not need any new formal shoes at this level for at least another 10 years, probably the rest of my life. I have a nice little collection of quality shoes but many of them hardly see the light of day nowadays because of how covid and modern times radically changed the dress code (even in my relatively conservative law firm environment). I am surprised you’re going for this after reading how your dress has changed too over the years. In my life, black cap toe oxfords (my only truly bespoke pair from Ugolini) are really only appropriate maybe once a month? The rest is loafers/suede/brown stuff and probably sneakers/tennis shoes half of that time!


Thanks for your response, Simon. I turn to the same types of colours nowadays – partly just copying you, partly because it just feels more modern and elegant – but my (beautiful) black calf oxfords almost always feel like too much. I have 3 pairs of black suede shoes nowadays that I grab instead (loafers, chukka and derby). Might be different again in a few years from now so I will keep all of them 🙂 Enjoy your beautiful shoes!


I’m curious about Fukuda’s preferred shoelace length for his five-eyelet oxfords. It would be helpful if shoes came with a guide that includes information about the ideal length of laces as well as whether waxed or unwaxed, round or flat laces are most appropriate for the particular shoe.

Nicolas Strömbäck

Hi Simon,

On the issue of fit I think all (or most) dress shoes are non-conforming rather than conforming to the natural shape of the foot. Hence, with such a shape it is difficult to not feel pain, unless perhaps the shoe is unlined and has more flexibility.
I wrote and asked you a while back if you knew any maker that does proper “minimalist” dress shoes, with a zero-drop construction. At that point, neither of us knew of such a maker. Alas, late last year I found the Last Shoemaker in York, that does this very thing, along side traditionally shaped shoes. I have exceptionally wide feet and instep, such dress shoes where more of a problem to me than I realized having finally received a pair of shoes that actually fit my hobbit feet and I can wear them all day free from pain. I saw Kirby A and Justin F did a piece on these guys a while back and it would be interesting to hear your opinion about them, given you extensive experience with bespoke makers.
For anyone with very wide feet, I highly recommend checking them out, especially if you are UK-based:


Thanks for the article Simon. I would add that for 50,000 Yen Yohei will have the sole on an MTO shoe hand sewn (which would then align the overall level of make with bespoke).


Informative article, thank you Simon. Was the price of Yohei’s a big factor in choosing the overseas maker over the local ones? As you probably know, Yohei’s pair costs half of what big English makers (eg Lobb, Gaziano, Catella) charge. However, I guess if customers’ countries charge high import tax/duty (around 28% in the UK), the advantage in the price difference may disappear – something that keeps some potential overseas buyers hesitant about switching to Japanese makers. Don’t know about Yohei but some put much lower value in the customs declaration.


From your experience, how would you describe a good bespoke fit? As we can’t see what’s going on inside the shoes, I find it extremely difficult to set a standard. For example, would you say that you’d be able to walk several miles with your first commissioned Yohei shoes without any discomfort?


Thank you. I have been noticing how much my feet swell in the summer – I’d say around half to one full size (not length though). Some shoes, esp loafers are comfortable one season but get too big during winter. Would good fitting bespoke shoes be comfortable all year around? If so, I think that could be another reason to go bespoke.


Hi Simon, do you think your view on black oxfords – that it gets less wear than dark brown for you – has changed since writing the article on building bespoke shoes wardrobe? On what sort of occasions do you plan on wearing this black captoe oxford? Do you think the toe shape could affect how you style the black plain captoe? Thanks in advance.



On the point about your interest in bespoke shoes waning, if you could do it again would you go bespoke or rtw for chucka boots? (On a related note, is there a case for Lora Piana’s desert walk boot as an alternative to a chucka boot or is that a bit too fashion forward to be worth investing in?)