Having shoes made to order, bespoke or otherwise, is the only way I know to build a substantial wardrobe of shoe styles. But the experience is not always perfect.
No Edward Green novice, as the rows of shoes in my closets will attest, I ordered a pair of monks from EG's London store in the Fall of 2005. I take a 9D oxford, and, since monks can differ, I had the fit checked at the store beforehand. Of course, I wanted the 82 last for its long elegant toe and there was not a monkstrap in that last available to try. That had never been a problem in the past, so I went forward.
Now the ideal MTO order program would have a supply of trial shoes in every model, last and size at the retailer to ensure proper fit. But that's expensive for the maker and Edward Green does not follow this practice. They should.
Sure enough, when the shoes arrived four months later they were too big. The 82 is a bit longer than the earlier generation of EG lasts and there was a half inch gap behind my heel. I couldn't keep them on during a step. So back they went to the store with a request that they be re-made a size smaller.
Four months later, a familiar brown package was delivered and I was excited as I ripped open the box. My excitement turned to dismay when I found the shoes seemed exactly the same as they had been. No-one knows precisely how this occurred as my email was specific, and this inattention to detail ended my relationship with the London EG store (they had delivered my previous order in dark oak calf instead of dark oak willow grain).
The shoes sat in my closet for a few weeks until I noticed that there would be an Edward Green trunk shoe at Malouf's in Burlingame, California. I drove 75 miles on a Sunday with my monks on the appointed day, where Robert Godley, Edward Green's representative, examined the fit and agreed that I needed a smaller width. After several emails, back the shoes went to England for an "expedited" re-lasting which took the same four months as any other order (another thing that could definitely be improved by the company).
When the shoes arrived for the third time, it was ten months since my purchase (perhaps fifteen months since the order was placed) and the fit was better. There is still a gap behind my heel, and I can still remove the shoes by flexing my foot and stepping out of them. But they are wearable.
Now throughout this series of unfortunate events, Edward Green had its usual commitment to customer service. If I'd been willing to continue to absorb the cost of returning the shoes to the factory each time, I believe the company would have continued trying to adjust the shoes. However, life is too short and I gave up. Shoes are not meant to spend their life sitting at a factory waiting to be re-lasted, and mine are in my closet where I can wear them.
I love the look of the Yardley's long mottled brown hand stitched toe under a pair of grey flannel trousers, but the experience left a lot to be desired. I think of it about once a month when I wear my monks, as I did yesterday.