Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 24 February 2017

Beauty and the beast, the butler, buffing, bespoke and boots

Welcome back shoe fans....all together now....awwww! What a cute chap he is. The cheeky little face above (on the left) is of gorgeous Pug puppy, Elvis, who came for a visit today, with the equally charming and energetic, Charles. What a great end-of-week treat!

Their visit comes at the end of a week which has been all about polishing! 

We were very proud to add butler-training to our Shoemaking School repertoire, as we delivered a short, but comprehensive course on shoe-care to the butler of one of England's great houses. It was very Downton Abbey!

We went through the names used to describe different parts of the shoe, the different styles of shoe and types of leather he is likely to come across, and the range of cleaning and shoe-care products available. We then had a very satisfying session cleaning, conditioning and polishing a pair of well- worn shoes that he had brought in with him. Sadly we don't have a before photo, but the leather was discoloured and caked in old polish. After much care they are returned to their original condition allowing the natural, deep brown beauty of the leather to show through. They will do their owner proud now, when he next wears them.

The butler also brought some beautiful riding boots to refurbish. They were real works of art and we were especially taken with this wonderful hand stitching around the inside top of the boots. Masterful work.

The polishing theme continued as we put a high shine on the toes of this client order. A classic Oxford shoe in deep navy calf.

That's all for now. We were sorry not to join the Independent Shoemakers for the annual conference this weekend, on the Isle of Wight. We would like to wish them all a wonderful weekend exchanging ideas and techniques and generally a great time talking shoes together.

Until next week happy shoemaking!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Last Chance for New York Shoemaking Course

Roll up, roll up...this is your last chance to book onto our traditional English shoemaking course in ultra-hip Williamsburg, Brooklyn this May.

Want to learn how shoemakers have been making shoes for centuries?

To learn from real practising bespoke shoemakers who have trained over 200 students?

To learn a real craft and new skills - hand lasting, hand welting, hand stitching soles and hand building heels?

And a craft that you can keep doing once you have finished the course?
(We sell all of the tools and materials you need to keep making).

Then our Intensive Shoemaking Class over 12 days from 8th to 20th of May in New York, is for you.

Make your own shoes that you can walk away wearing. Skip down 5th Avenue in a pair of handsewn shoes made by you

It is challenging, hard work, and a lot of fun.

Your hands will ache but your feet will sing

Sign up now by downloading a booking form here

And read our Shoemaking School brochure here

Go on, treat your self - make a pair of shoes!

If you have any questions, email us on

Happy Shoemaking!

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Sheffield and new styles on the way

After a wonderful week at the workbench it was on the train and off up to the North of England for me, to Sheffield. 

Sheffield is in South Yorkshire, England and derives its name from the River Sheaf, which runs through the city. In the 19th century, Sheffield gained an international reputation for steel production and was known as the Steel City, but international competition saw a steep decline in the 1970s and 1980s, and today Sheffield is undergoing extensive redevelopment with a thriving University and home to the English Institute of Sport. 

We work with a family-run manufacturer up there and my mission was to get our new Winkers Resort Shoes sampled and to brief in a new Kickstarter style! It's great to see British manufacturing doing well and although it may not be a return to the heyday of steel, we're proud to be working with a firm that is building a good reputation for itself in shoe manufacturing, proving Britain does still make things well.

Here's my photo diary from the day: 

Grade II listed Park Hill dates from the 1950s and is currently being renovated returning the colour to its facade
Sheffield's tallest building St. Paul's Tower  

An interesting mix of architecture from across the centuries

Celebrating Sheffield's industrial past

and looking to the future...

Building new

Here's a quick glimpse of details from the next Kickstarter style to come...

Stitched foxing for strength


Non-slip rubber sole

Sleek lines

Comfortable toe shape

Ergonomic foot bed

That's it for now. Until next week, happy shoemaking!

Friday, 3 February 2017

A Movie!

Hello again, dear shoe friends. We hope you have had a good week.

A simple post this week - our film from the Design Museum, The Brunswick. It charts the making of a pair of boots from preparing the insole to doing the finishing by hand. We tried to show all of the processes in a dynamic and engaging way by focusing in on the hands and the detail of the work

This is what Camilla Corr, our talented filmmaker says about the film

At its core, The Brunswick had to convey clearly the care and attention inherent in making a pair of handsewn shoes, as well as the technical mastery at play. In order to focus the audience's attention, Corr filled the frame with a mixture of close ups and extreme close ups of the boots, the tools being used, and the shoemaker's hands. The dominance of hands in the composition encourages the audience to engage with the sensory nature of the making process - the weight of the tools, the feel and texture of the leather, the soft, melting wax used to finish the heels. The editing also echoed the the shifting tempos of the process, with more lingering shots allowing the viewer to appreciate the slow sweeping motions of skiving long expanses of leather in sharp contrast with quick cuts to mirror the staccato hammering of nails in the heel building section.

One of the central aims of the film was to represent the methodical, flow-like state of the creative process by confining the visual narrative solely to the process with no cutaways of incidental curios from the workshop. The emphasis was squarely on craft, method and the beauty inherent in the pared down nature of both. The removal of extraneous details from the frame was intended to deliver an immersive, intensely focused experience for the viewer, mirroring the hyper-focused craft undertaken before them

I couldn't have put it better myself, Camilla

We are very proud of the film and hope you like it.

Until next week, happy shoemaking

Friday, 27 January 2017

On The TV

Hello once more, dear shoe people. We hope you have had a good week and that you are looking forward to a lovely weekend.

Here are some images of the shoes our students made. I hope you will agree that they are excelent. Well done to all of them.

This week it is short and sweet. I had my 15 minutes of fame this week, on BBC 1 prime time, 7.30PM on Monday night on the Inside Out programme

It is quite a moving story

There was an amazing bespoke shoemakers in Oxford called Ducker and Son who started in 1898.

They made shoes for all sorts of famous people - JRR Tolkien, Evelyn Waugh, Laurence of Arabia, the Red Baron, the list goes on.

So after nearly 120 years they were closing and the BBC wanted to do a short film about them. Their very clever researchers found another bespoke shoemaker called Ducker (me) and asked if we were connected and whether I wanted to present the piece

So, of course, I said yes and we filmed an introduction at our workshop.

 And then we went to Oxford to film.

We interviewed Bob Avery who was running Duckers and various of his customers who came in to say thank you and goodbye.

It was very touching to see the years of custom and loyalty that these clients had. And sad too. Sad that an institution like Duckers had to close (the reasons are many and various), but such an important part of the social fabric of the city deserved more. A great shame.

I'm really sorry, but I'm not sure that if you live outside the UK you will be able to watch it, but here is the link just in case

It's available for 26 days so check it out

It was a lot of fun making the film. Don't tell Deborah, but a new career beckons?

The last image is of the credits with my name writ large - mind out, please, enlarged ego coming through! I couldn't resist.

Until next week, happy shoemaking