Many of you who read my blog may already know me and some of you may not as much but the history of how I came to be where I am at now is by far less known. I originally wanted to add a ‘biography’ link to my page but since I am not so fluent in computer technology, i.e. hosting my own website, I decided to just tell my story as a blog post for those of you who are wondering ‘who the hell is this guy that talks all this shit and where does his credibility come from?’
There comes a point in every college student’s life where they need to ask themselves, “What the hell am I going to do when I graduate?” Well that time came for me in the beginning of 2006. Not to take you off track too much but let me preface this by saying that I have always been a fan of dressing nice. Obviously when you are young, your taste is slightly different but nonetheless I have always made sure that what I was wearing was the “cool thing” at the time. Of course this has changed and now I just dress to what I consider stylish as opposed to following some trend that has an expiration date. So that being said let me get back to my big stepping point into reality.
I always told myself that a person is successful in life (in his career) if they love what they are doing every day whether or not they are making money. Now I know earlier I touched on dressing nice as my hobby but what I obviously left out was what really had a hold on me, ‘the shoes.’ I loved shoes and having tons of them to mix and match with every outfit and I was especially becoming quite fond of having ‘nice shoes,’ AKA dress shoes. So I had this profound passion for shoes and this yearning to be my own boss with my own company therefore it was easy for me to make my decision. I then decided I was going to start my own dress-shoe line.
In my mind, a good entrepreneur spends at least 5 years getting to know his industry before venturing off and starting their own project. With that in mind I made a goal. I told myself that in two years I would be in Europe apprenticing for one of the top 5 best shoemakers in the world learning how to make shoes by hand. I wanted to give myself two years so that I could continue working in the men’s shoe department, at a very prestigious department store in America, where I knew that I could learn a thing or two about male consumers and more important, so I could network with other people that might be have been able to help me get where I wanted to go. That was June 2006.
Lets fast forward to the end of 2007. At work, I met an individual whose father was good friends with one of the top shoemakers in Italy and immediately knew that this connection was my way in. From there, the individual and his father kindly agreed to arrange a meeting (in Italy) with myself and the shoemaker to talk about apprenticing with him. In March of 2008, I flew to Italy and with much help from my friend and his father, I was able to land that apprenticeship with the allowance of coming whenever I was able to. I decided that I would work the rest of the summer and go in October of 2008. I did just that and once October came I packed up my entire life, cashed out every dollar I owned and left everything I knew behind in America and went on to follow my dreams in Italy not knowing a lick of Italian and only less than 5 people there.
To make a long story a lot shorter, I spent a total of 10 months in Italy learning how to make shoes, repair shoes and more important than many people may think, learning how to polish shoes. I made a total of 5 pairs which are on the left side of my page. I have now spent the last several months of my life back and forth between the States and Europe trying to obtain a visa to work and live in England as a shoemaker. With this downtime, I decided to create this blog to keep me close to my goals, to share my opinions on men’s shoes and most importantly to provide insight for those lacking it.
UPDATE (January 9th, 2011): I have now been in England for 4 months, living and finally working, legally and comfortably. I work in London and commute for about 3 hours each day and in my down (train riding) time I am starting to free-hand sketch shoe designs so that at the end of this year I can complete my New Year’s resolution of having a portfolio done and 5-10 samples made. I will then be able to take those (and possibly more) to trade shows (Pitti Uomo, Micam, WSA etc.) so that I can get my shoes into stores around the world!
I unfortunately do not have as much time for shoe making these days (due to my lack of tools and actual space for making them) but will always keep it close to my priorities and continue to at least make shoes for myself when I can and hopefully start making them for others when I can get my skills up to par. Thanks to all of you who continue to read my blog and believe in me and I promise that I will create that shoe line, no matter what!!
Meanwhile, if you are ever in London and fancy a chat, you can always find me HERE.
-Justin, “The Shoe Snob”