Nowadays I get suggestions from some readers and clients on what my next post could be. One such suggestion was to recommend how and where to start building a capsule collection of goodyear welted shoes. The idea sounded interesting and challenging because style is very subjective, but I got thinking about this and the whole appeal of classic shoes is that it is timeless. With these 5 shoes, you should be able to style out the rest of you with ease and not have to look outside the 5 for footwear options.
no.1 Of course, the black cap-toe oxford is first on this list. Preferably on a round of almond toed last. You never tire of it, you need it for the formal meetings, to pair with dark slacks, or suit up and look sharp but not dressy. My personal play on this is to make it a punch cap oxford. Purists will cry out loud that a cap-toe should be plain and simple. If there is only one shoe you can have or the first you must have, this is it.
no.2 A derby plain toe or blucher in dark brown or if you feel a bit more adventurous in an earthy tone for the casual look with chinos or jeans. Not to be worn for work if you can avoid it, but nowadays, these rules don’t apply anyway. Double sole will give it a long life and a nice tough side profile and a model with storm welt if you want it casual.
no.3 A wing tip oxford in brown, to pair with textured trousers like tweeds or herringbone patterns but also looks at home with a pair of jeans or evening jacket to the neighborhood store. This can be with a rubber sole so on days with inclement weather, this could be the pair that looks good for work and practical to get to.
no.4 A pair of dark brown suede loafers. Best for weekend wear with light coloured chinos or linen tousers but also look great to wear for a casual evening out for a meal or a walk by the beach. While many fear that suede is difficult to take care of, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Its one of those myths that need debunking asap. They feel soft and comfortable from the first wear, the matt effect of suede keeps it understated and versatile over a wide range of colours and textured trousers.
no.5 Chelsea boots in burgundy full grain or suede for the weekend in the countryside but look just as sharp to wear for a casual meeting on weekdays. There is extraordinarily little said about how easy it is to get in and out of Chelsea boots as they are the only slip-on variant of boots there is!
That’s it for my capsule 5. I have an extended collection that I will talk about soon but just with these classics, I could style myself for any occasion with a wide variety of outfits for years to come.
As a made to order brand, we get many requests for customization which we are happy to oblige if its not much trouble in terms of the process of making but sometimes, clients go beyond to ask for changes to patterns, even changes to shape of the last that they assume can be made since they shoes are made to order. So here is a post to clarify the spectrum of production types, what each entail and how this usually is an indicator for the price you pay for what you get.
RTW Shoes made to stock give good value to the maker and the customer in terms of price
Ready-to-wear (RTW) is as the name suggests, already made and ready to simply put on, try for size and purchase. The shoes would have been in advance in batches, small or big, across sizes and some colour options possibly and a selection of styles. The customer gets to choose from what is in stock. It could be that the shoes have been made any where from a week ago to also months or even years in advance, waiting in a box to be bought and worn. This option gives the greatest value to the manufacturer because they can produce in bulk and tap on economies of scale in production but also to customers who want a pair to wear immediately and not have to wait. It helps keep prices in check and hopefully pass on the good value to the consumer.
MTO is produced in small batches sometimes even just a pair. It gives the shoemaker the time to care for smaller details even in a factory setting. Small changes like in the case loafer where we interchanged the tassel for a leather lace was accommodated for a client as it requires no pattern changes
Made-to-order (MTO) are made only after this purchase is confirmed. This means a pair has to be cut, sewn, lasted and finished in batches or sometimes even singularly as in our case sometimes. This is great to keep a check on rising inventory from pre-produced stock, but it also means you miss out of customers who want a pair to purchase immediately. While a certain about of customization is possible, a different type of sole, or a leather option not normally available in that style could be made upon the request of a client this is where the level customisation stops. Anymore and it goes to custom-made territory. This process from start to end depending on the type of construction and readiness of materials and factory can take between 2 days to 2 weeks or more so customers must wait a bit. It also means that the shoe has been made solely for you which means the manufacturer is trying to not stock shoes which can be costly and lead to unsold stock in sizes that are rare or styles that are not as popular. Exchanges should be possible upon request for size issues if a prior fitting was not done.
A custom made seemless wholecut and a chukka boot where the customer wanted a higher boot than our running style so we did a pair just for him
Custom-made- where materials can be chosen to more-or-less what you want, a certain amount of pattern changes even but usually not making changes to the last. In terms of value in the manufacturing process, there is more time involved here to collect materials, spend time in changing some patterns with a pattern maker or designer and finally going to production. In an MTO, depending on the seller, exchanges might be allowed given that the style is their own and they might be able to sell the shoe to someone else who wants it but in custom-made since the pair is made as per a client’s customisation and taste, the pair normally won’t be exchangeable.
Made-to-Measure (MTM) Changes to last might be entertained but to a limited extent. Things like a higher instep or a wide bunion on a toe can be accommodated for by adding material to the last and making small changes to an existing pattern. This will require the inputs and time of a last maker, pattern maker, and a careful hand of a shoemaker so this is a more expensive process. Your measurements will be taken and matched to a stock last and any changes needed to the measurements will be made on them keeping in line with the style and aesthetic you want.
In bespoke as the joke goes, the last comes first! All kinds of customisations can be made and best of all, allowances for any irregularities of the feet will be made
Bespoke, the holy grail where everything is customizable because you go to the basics and build the shoe step by step starting from the last. The toe shape, all measurements from your foot and small differences between your left and right foot are also taken into consideration. The fully customized last is basically a mould of your foot and your foot only. There is also the process itself where everything will mostly likely be handmade. The patterns will be drawn on your last, hand lasted, welted and stitched. Since this method has no precedence in the shoe making process, it will take a couple of fittings and possibly one or two shoes made in the interim before the final pair is made and finished. This of course is reflected in the price of the shoe and the time it takes from order to delivery can be any where between 3 months to a couple of years depending on fittings, where you are and where the shoemaker is, his/her order book and other such variables.
As it is quite obvious by now, the price is reflective of the time spent in the preparing and making of the shoe besides the obvious other considerations like material, experience of the shoemaker, popularity/ rarity that will dictate the price too. Hope this helps to clear any misconceptions of customisations and sensitise people about the time it takes to make a pair of shoes. It all depends on what you want, and what you are willing to pay.
While seasoned goodyear welted shoe users know this, a lot of first-time users of this construction have a few questions usually about the concept of breaking into your shoes. Mostly the why and the how.
The Why- The materials used to make the shoes, vegetable tanned insoles, outsoles, the welt, cork and some upper leathers all tend to be a bit stiff to start off with. This is simply down to the nature of the material and perhaps it has been made and sitting in storage over some time. From the time the leather bends was made in a tannery, to being made into a pair of shoes and then perhaps lying in a shoe box for a few months, can be anywhere from 4 months to a year or more. This makes the leathers a bit stiff while it is waiting to be used or ‘broken-into’.
The How- It is recommended not to wear your new pair of good year welted shoes for a long time the first time you wear them. The very first wear can be around the house for up to an hour. The next day a couple of hours and step out with it. This will help roughen the sole bottom if it is a leather sole. Then give it a break for a day and perhaps wear it the next time for half the day. By the end of it, you should now be starting to soften the insole and outsole but the upper might still be a bit stiff depending on the type of leather. Suedes will be soft from the first wear, but box calf type leathers soften with body temperature and sweat over extended periods of wear.
It is said that about 10 hours of wear is what it takes to break into a shoe. This is very subjective as it depends on the materials, the environment of use, the weight of the user and other variables. But this should give you a ballpark figure.
Once you have broken in, the insole will have an impression of your foot which will deepen with time and darken in colour due to the character of vegetable tanned leather. The cork below it will also start to mould to your feet and by now hopefully they are starting to feel comfortable!
Also, remember to rotate your shoes and not wear the same pair every day. This gives the shoe, time to breathe and restore itself, hopefully in a good shoetree. Of course, it also elongates the life of the shoes.