The Shoe Snob Blog

Biography

This section of the blog is dedicated to writing about my journey from college graduate in Seattle, Wa (US) back in 2006 to the shoe designer and company owner that I currently am today, in London, UK (2014). With this story, I hope to inspire others that have the same dreams that I did (whether they be in shoe design or anything else for that matter) and to thus show that where there is a will, there is always a way. I hope that you all enjoy my journey…..

I have always had grand aspirations. As a kid I wanted to be a professional footballer (soccer player). It was my first dream. Nothing excited me more than being out on the field. But alas this was just a dream and nothing more. So when I realized that I was not good enough to become one, I set out another goal and that was to one day own my very own record company as music, in reality, is my first true love, far beyond that of my love for shoes. I actually was able to get my foot into the door of the record industry, for EMI records in LA, but due to personal reasons was not able to take the internship in A&R that I had been offered as a Junior at University. I was terribly distraught from this and vowed to myself that the next goal that I would make, I would achieve it no matter what and never accept failure again. And this is where the story begins.

There comes a point in every college student’s life where they need to ask themselves, “What 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 the industry they aspire to be in, before venturing off and starting their own project. With that in mind I made a goal. I told myself that in two years (from graduation) 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 importantly, so that 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 (Stefano Bemer) 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 pictured in the page titled “Bespoke Shoes I’ve Made.” 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 at Gieves & Hawkes at No.1, Savile Row.

UPDATE (March 30th, 2012): Another year has passed and while the last time I wrote, I thought that by now I would be further ahead than I actually am, I am sad to say that I am still not quite there. But in this time, I have done many things to keep going forward, like brand my own products (laces and shoe care products – found here) as well as create a sample range of shoes that is in the process of being completed. Without being in control of how fast the factory works on my prototypes, I cannot truly give a time frame to when my shoe line will be available to purchase, but I can say that it will not be any later than SS2013, but I am hoping to get them out this year for AW2012.

Since I set off on this journey, I can say that it has been a tough one. Lots of trials and tribulations, but as well as lots of fun and exciting times. It has almost been 6 years since I graduated from university, and while I hoped to be ready in 5 years, there have been many hiccups. Nevertheless, this does not get me down, and all I can do is continue to do my best to progress. I know that my end goal of starting my shoe line is almost here and I thank everyone that has been there following my adventure as well as being supportive. I only hope to provide inspiration for those who were in similar shoes (no pun intended) to myself when I graduated. If you have a dream, GO FOR IT, and never look back!

-Justin, “The Shoe Snob”

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  • Kimfg

    Thank you for helping me! Your shoes are beautiful and your story is inspiring! I’m in my third year in college and I know what I could do for the rest of my life but it’s not my dream. I want to do what I love and it’s time I pursue it. Stumbling upon your blog has definitely enlightened me. Thank you very much. I wish you and your business great success!!!

    -KG

    • TheShoeSnob

      I am really happy to hear that my story has inspired you KG. I wish you the absolute best with it and remember that if you do what you love you are successful!! Go for it and never look back! Thanks for sharing and the kind words

  • Petrov

    This is a wonderful story. I hope you do move forward with making your own line of shoes. Best of luck.

    • TheShoeSnob

      I appreciate that Petrov. I actually need to update this as I do have my own line of shoes now…launched in London in March of this year….

  • jacob mortensen

    very very inspiring video Justin. i wish i could afford every shoe out there. haha.. best of luck in the future

    • TheShoeSnob

      Thanks Jacob, I do appreciate it!

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  • GodSaveShoes

    Great example of working hard to achieve a dream! Justin good luck!!!!

    • TheShoeSnob

      thank you very much for your support!

  • SoleBelief

    Super inspiring read. I’m in the same boat as you were after you graduated college. After working in marketing for 6 months after graduation, I decided designing shoes (athletic/casual) or clothing was my dream and decided to quit and pursue that by eventually opening my own line. I decided to go with trying to create my own menswear line, because I thought starting my own shoe line or getting a job as a footwear designer was much harder than being a clothing designer…for the past 6 months now, I’ve been working in clothing production and now an assistant buyer for a company. I try to sketch as much as I can to practice. Decided not to get a degree as it would cost too much and figured I could just learn myself and gain the experience I needed…It’s hard and takes a lot of patience from me as I want to hurry and get started on my own things, and of course I get feelings of doubt and potential failure. Do you have some advice for me as you are someone who has almost made it to where you want to be? And any thoughts about opportunities as a footwear designer (possibly for companies like Nike, Adidas, Red Wing, Timberland, etc)? Thank you.

    • TheShoeSnob

      sorry for the late reply…answering things like this on my comments section is difficult for me, could you email me at justin@theshoesnob.com Thanks

  • lien

    Hello Justin, i stumbled on your blog looking for info regarding Norwegian-contructed shoes, although i am a woman i find your blog very informative and interesting. I especially enjoy reading this biography part. Thank you for sharing and best wishes to you!

    • TheShoeSnob

      thank you for that Lien. I am glad that you found it and even happier that you enjoy it.

  • Shubham

    Inspiring read Justin… i am happy that you are walking the path you love… I am a Trainer in a Luxury Hotel in India and stumbled upon your blog researching on shoe shine. Glad to say that your blog helped a lot in knowledge enhancement and that I started practising shoe shining using Saphir MDO Wax polish, Renoveautur, Cream polish along with Lincoln and Angelus. Our sole aim was to master Glacage and we are near to our goal. I am now an avid reader of your blog and use it to educate my Butlers on latest trends and luxury shoes…. thaks to you
    Best Regards

    • TheShoeSnob

      thanks for sharing, I am happy that you enjoyed it and am happy to hear that you have been enjoying and learning from the blog

      • JohnZ

        I am so happy I found your blog. Truly an inspiration. I admire that you took the risk and went to follow your dreams. I will be sharing this with my friends and family. Godspeed

        • TheShoeSnob

          thank you my friend, I do appreciate the kind words and support

  • Drew Esau Weaver

    Very Inspiring story! I LOVE your footwear line. A few years ago I decided to start buildnmy own men’s shoe line as well. It’s called Q’Vani (www.qvani.com)…which means to Seek and Exude Excellence! I enjoy great Men’s Dress shoes, but even more I want to bring back the era of being a Gentleman. Classy traditional Men’s dress shoes…but with a twist. I have tastefully incorporated technology with fashion. I would love to introduce you to my brand one day! Haven’t been to London since 2000, but I will make a trip to see your brand one day. I love it when you say you want to see Men wearing better shoes and I concur. I wish you continued success in your brand and in life! My name is Andrew Weaver and I live in Los Angeles, CA. I’m a positive person who escapes negativity by creating a FB page called Trust. Believe. Achieve. (www.facebook.com/trustbelieveachieve) It’s somewhat of a blog where I write positive statements to help others achieve their full potential. It’s spiritually based.

  • tv

    You story inspire me so much and I need a lot of guidance at this moment. I am hoping to join the footwear industry some day, but I am stuck on an obstacle of what school should I attend for footwear design, preferably a school that specializes in heels. I am in progress of currently taking fashion classes at a community college in California. I have no knowledge or skills in drawing yet, but I am working on that.

  • Glen Converse

    Lovely video. I enjoyed seeing someone with a passion for their product and shoes in general. Very inspiring! May you only continue to prosper in your passionate pursuit in keeping the public educated of shoes and their care.

  • Wang Lim

    What about making an entry regarding your past / current possessions? Would be interesting to see which ones are your favourite. Love the blog. Cheers