The Shoe Snob Blog

January 9, 2012

Written by , Posted in News

To Go Bespoke Or To Not Go Bespoke

To Go Bespoke Or To Not Go Bespoke
Bespoke model made by my friend, for his friend

Let me first define what bespoke means. By definition from a dictionary, in what would be termed as ‘old speak,’ it would mean ‘spoken for.’ As in, a garment that is spoken for by someone, is owned and was created specifically for them and no one else. It will fit them perfectly (at least in theory) and should not fit anyone else in that same manner as we are all shaped differently.

Now that we have the definition out of the way, we can begin to talk about what it means to go bespoke, whether or not it is better than RTW or MTO and whether or not it is worth it’s price. First off, you will have to bear in mind that I have made , I own several pairs of them and wear them regularly, so in a sense, I am somewhat bias on the subject at hand, but will try to be as objective as I can be. And to also make a point of clarification, let’s say that bespoke is strictly going to be something that was made by hand, not by machine, as I believe that this coincides with the true definition of what it means to be a bespoke product (at least in terms of shoes and suits…).

To Go Bespoke Or To Not Go Bespoke
Riccardo Bestetti bespoke model

Is it worth it?

To answer this question will very much depend upon you, the person who is in prospect of buying them. You will have to ask yourself several questions:

1. Do I have messed up feet that cause me pain?
2. Is it extremely hard to fit my foot into a ready to wear shoe?
3. Can I afford it without blinking an eye?
4. Do I care about what goes on my feet?

You will usually find that the common consensus is as follows: If your feet are fairly straight forward (i.e. they are normal and can fit very comfortably into most RTW shoes, then you truly do not NEED a bespoke shoe. Now this has nothing to do with wanting one but simply the fact that if you have good feet then you do not fall under the category of people that get bespoke for health purposes. Because of this, being worth it or not will be entirely up to how you perceive the importance of fit, design, and the ultimate in superior quality. I cannot answer this for you, but can tell you that the bespoke shoes that I own, fit me better than the rest of the shoes that I own, and because of that are therefore more comfortable. But then again, I do have a slight problematic foot that is relatively flat, narrow and very low volume, which makes it hard to fit into RTW shoes that don’t have narrow widths. 

To Go Bespoke Or To Not Go Bespoke
Gaziano & Girling bespoke shoe

Why is it so much more expensive (and time consuming)?

People often seem incapable of fathoming the concept of paying upwards of $3000 for a pair of shoes, yet will happily pay that and even more on a suit….I have never understood this, but will hopefully be able to explain to you why the prices are as so. First off, you have to understand that it is rare that a bespoke maker is able to do the entire process all by himself/herself. You will find that many jobs these days (like closing) are outsourced. And more times than not you don’t have all of these people under one roof, so therefore time constraints start to take place as the shoemaker finds themselves waiting for others.

The process is as such:

1. The last maker (and/or pattern maker) comes to measure your foot. At that same time you decide what  shoe you would like to have (i.e. design) and look at the coloring, leather, materials etc. that you like. If you choose something unique, you are creating more work for the pattern maker who will have to cut a new and unique piece of work.

To Go Bespoke Or To Not Go Bespoke

2. They then take those measurements to create a precise mold of your foot, what is called a ‘last’

3. After that, the pattern maker will design your pattern by way of the last. That means he uses your specific last to then create your specific pattern. If this design is something unique to you, the pattern maker might take extra long to get it right.

To Go Bespoke Or To Not Go Bespoke

4. After the pattern is cut, they then cut out the leather and give it to the closer to sew all together. This part is usually outsourced so therefore they need to wait on them to complete it.

To Go Bespoke Or To Not Go Bespoke

5. Once the upper is sewn together, they will attach it temporarily to the last to create a trial-fit shoe for you, to make sure that the last fits the way that you would like it to. This process involves you coming back or them coming to you, which increases the total amount of time for the process.

6. Once you have sorted this out (assuming there are no adjustments to be made), you then have to have the shoe ‘made,’ by the maker (this is the bit that I learned, and as you can see is just one part of the entire process).

Let’s just assume that before taxes a bespoke shoe costs £2500 (which is close to the average out here in England). Now let’s assume that at best, the shoemakers (owners of the company) take £1000 profit out of that, after all expenses. Now let’s just assume that it’s a two man firm and they can make 100 pairs a year (which is a very good number in bespoke shoe terms). That equates to £100,000 a year, but divided by 2, coming to a total of £50,000/year for each person. Now, this is all best case scenario, so let’s just say that this is a good year for a pair of bespoke shoemakers. So, considering the amount of work put into a year’s worth of doing this, it’s not all that glorified in terms of making A LOT of money, is it? So, when you ask yourself why a bespoke shoe cost so much, you will see that a lot of work goes into it, a lot of hands touch it and there is not as much profit as you may think….it’s far more for the love of making quality shoes then it is for the ambition of becoming rich!

Shoes Below: George Cleverley “Churchill” model, one bespoke, one RTW, can you tell which one?
(Pictures Courtesy Of: Leather Soul)

To Go Bespoke Or To Not Go Bespoke

To Go Bespoke Or To Not Go Bespoke

Can you tell the difference?

Okay, well let’s now assume that you don’t have problem feet and that money is not an issue. Do you still go for bespoke? Well, I certainly would and the reasons are because, for one, I am a shoe freak. Not only do I want a shoe that no one else has, a shoe that is unique to me, my taste and compliments my wardrobe perfectly but also a shoe that stands out as being made from the best materials around. You instantly see this when you see a bespoke shoe. It’s not like you can spot them a mile away on someone’s feet but when up close and personal with one, the distinct qualities that make it bespoke are evident and to me speak wonders about the shoe and the person, i.e. someone who appreciates fine footwear. And maybe I am bias saying this because I have spent so much time around both bespoke and RTW shoes, but not only can you tell the difference aesthetically but also in terms of psychologically, as I believe that wearing something that is made for one’s self provides a feeling of pride and happiness, much stronger than any RTW shoe can give you….but hey, that’s just my opinion! You will have to decide this for yourself…

Shoes Below: Gaziano & Girling (one bespoke & one RTW)

To Go Bespoke Or To Not Go Bespoke

To Go Bespoke Or To Not Go Bespoke


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