10 April 2011

When Last is for the Best in Shoes

Most people will agree that men have it comfortable when it comes to shoes. However this was not the case in Ye Olde Days as both men and women suffered when it came to footwear.
The worst culprit was the last – a three dimensional model of the foot used to mould the leather over to create the shoe shape. Up until the mid 19th Century, one straight last was used to make both the left and right shoe, and so not fitting either foot properly. It made having two left feet sound like heaven!
But those days are over and separate lasts are now moulded in the shape of a left and right foot, bringing comfort and joy to the feet.
Shoemakers will have a variety of lasts in sizes and styles, but if you can afford it, then why not splash out on a pair of bespoke leather shoes made from your own bespoke last?

John Lobb Paris Monk shoe with special hammered buckle

John Lobb is famous for bespoke shoes and their London shop at 9 St James’s Street only sells handmade to measure shoes. Prices start at £2620.00 plus VAT.
Here your feet will be measured and examined by a fitter. His measurements and notes will then be used by the last maker to carve your very own last as a precise contoured model of your foot including indentations, protrusions and all. The last is then stored waiting for your next pair to be made.
But you have to be patient as a bespoke shoe takes about 6 months for the first pair to be finished and then about 3 months for subsequent pairs.
And to keep your shoes in shape they will make a hollow hinged wooden shoe tree approx £508 plus VAT.

Tim Little Rolling' and Tumblin' whole cut shoe
Tim Little is an independent store at 560, Kings Road, London, who also offers handmade bespoke shoes using bespoke lasts. The 1st pair starts at around £1550 and then subsequent pairs will be cheaper at around £775. It can take about 12 weeks for the first pair and then 8 weeks for the next pairs. Tim’s bespoke shoe trees cost approx £450 and are made of Obeche wood, a dry desert wood which will absorb the sweat left in your shoes.

This Rollin’ and Tumblin’ whole cut in burnt pine is from Tim’s ‘Black Sole’ range which are left to rest on the last for at least 30 days allowing the Italian calf leather to adopt the perfect shape of the last and hold that shape over the years. And the name? Well Tim loves the blues

Lodger's April shoe of the month
However if your savings won’t stretch that far then go for the next best thing – the custom fit shoe.
This is great for you guys who have wide or narrow feet and the standard shoe width doesn’t fit.
Lodger offer a custom fit service for their shoe of the month where they will take exact measurements of your feet to ensure the shoe fits just right. They take a classic style shoe every month and give it a slight twist. After the month is over that particular shoe is no longer available to buy, so you have a kind of limited edition pair. April’s shoe of the month is the Burlington Country Brogue in brown. Instead of the traditional eyelets, Lodger have given this brogue a Tyrolean hiking boot twist with classic hooks for lacing. Price starts from £450.

Also Lodger makes sure you can treat your shoes with tender loving care and includes in the price a pair of bespoke shoe trees, a bamboo shoe bag, photo ID tag and a storage box. This is not just for the shoe of the month but all their shoes. Their shop is 15C Clifford Street London.

So now it is just women who tend to suffer. And I can hear you say that’s because we are slaves to fashion rather than comfort. True, but again in days gone by, it was the men who were avid followers of shoe fashion rather than the women (yes even I find this hard to believe) whose feet were covered by their long skirts.
The more outrageous styles men wore were:
The poulaine with extremely long pointed toes – it was more tripping over your feet than tripping the light fantastic.
The duck-billed which were very wide at the toes (and often made the wearer waddle) with slashes to pull out the coloured lining for decoration. In fact Queen Mary passed a law restricting the width to 5.5 inches.
The red high heels with red soles made fashionable by Louis XIV. – maybe the first Christian Louboutins?
It wasn’t until the 19th Century when men’s shoes became more conservative in their styles, bringing comfort in to the equation.

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