A lot has been said about the advantages of custom shoes. According to most writers (and cobblers) they offer supreme fit and as they are handmade their quality is unsurpassed by even the best manufacturers of welted footwear. I’m afraid that I don’t agree.
First of all, not all custom shoes are great. A lot of them don’t fit properly. Others don’t look elegant and some are not well made. Thus it would be more honest to state that custom shoes are fantastic if they are built around a fit that lasts and if the craftmen know what they are doing. If this is not the case custom shoes are a nightmare and worse than the average factory product.
I don’t want to offend all you cobblers out there. I just don’t want people to be deeply disappointed by a very expensive product that might not meet their sky high expectations. Of course a well made custom shoe will not hurt your feet, but if you compare it to a welted shoe from one the top manufacturers in the US, the UK, France or Italy you will not get a 100 percent increase in comfort and looks.
So before you think of ordering custom made footwear you should find out why you would want to do it. Do you have problems with your feet? Do they ache after a long working day? Or do want to pamper yourself with something that is made just for you? Or do you look for a shoe that cannot be bought off the rack because it is made of red ostrich skin?
Very often men are motivated by a mixture of all of these desires. Not all of them need the custom product to be satisfied. Most of the old established manufacturers offer different types of lasts for different shapes of feet and various fittings and sizes. Some of them will make single pairs of shoes in special types of leather. A few will even deliver pairs of shoes in two different sizes for people who’s feet differ extremely in length. So if you dream of spectators shoes in pink and emerald you might be able to get them from your favorite company. A number of shoe stores are up to that kind of customer service.
It’s part of my ethics as a journalist that I don’t write about things or services that I haven’t tried. I have had custom shoes made. Not by an obscure cobbler somewhere in the middle of nowhere but right in the heartland of gentlemancountry, in the West End of London.
My feet were closely inspected and measured and some months later I was invited for a fitting of my try-on shoes. They fitted well and so the cobblers went ahead and finished the pair of brown suede oxfords I had ordered. I remember the first day I wore them. It felt great. Yet I can’t say whether this sensation was the excitement of knowing that I finally owned custom shoes or the supreme fit. I think it was rather the experience of exclusivity that I enjoyed than the fit.
It was okay, but not that much better than the fit that I knew from the Goodyear welted shoes I was wearing already. To know that one wears shoes that were built around your feet and handmade just for you by craftsmen with old fashioned aprons and a lot of wrinkles in their kind faces (think of the old men we always see in the ads of custom shoemakers) seems to be the greatest kick out of getting custom shoes created.
Some people may say that I haven’t tried the best shoemaker. Otherwise I’d be hooked. I don’t know. Maybe my views on clothes and shoes are too rational and too little romantic. When I compare $600 shoes with custom shoes that will cost $6,000 I must ask myself whether the latter are really ten times as good…and I would have to say no.