According to the census of 1851, there were 28,000 shoemakers in London, or roughly 2% of the population. The machine age put most of those people out of work, and today there are but a handful of firms making bespoke shoes by hand.
One of those firms is Gaziano & Girling, whose partner Dean Girling was in town last week with some new bespoke shoe samples as well as the good news that the company's first made to order shoes from last Fall's launch are finally in customer hands. After we enjoyed a cup of coffee, we spent a few minutes going through the bespoke ordering process.
From the customer's perspective, the process of having a pair of shoes made hasn't changed in decades. First I stood on a sheet of paper while Dean traced the outline of each foot and measured its height at three different places.
Once measurement is complete, the customer is asked to describe the shoe he envisons. It helps to arrive with an idea in mind, but this is also where the maker's supply of bespoke sample shoes helps illustrate the possibilities. For example, a reversed calf elastic sided brogue looks great with suits and odd jackets, and a man won't see many shoes like it in the United States.
Of course, a pair of Adelaide semi-brogues like the shoes pictured might be more practical. And then there are the details to specify. Espresso calf. Smart round toe. Fiddleback waist. Cuban heel. Steel toe caps. Natural beech shoe trees. And perhaps a plum colored lining.
Once the order is written and a deposit taken, all that remains is the waiting.