What are bespoke shoes?

In a nutshell, bespoke shoes are the ultimate footwear indulgence. Though you may have heard the term in mainstream fashion dialogues nearly a decade ago, with Nike iD’s introduction of Nike Air Force 1 Bespoke, this type of footwear is centuries-old.

To be more specific, bespoke (a.k.a. made-to-measure) shoes are made just for you, incorporating your foot measurements and aesthetic preferences to be as unique as their wearer. To learn more about bespoke footwear and how you might go about procuring a pair of bespoke shoes, read on.

Bespoke goes beyond the basic guidelines of made-to-order.

Bespoke and made-to-order shoes are often confused because both can be described as “made for you.” However, there are differences in the lengths that a designer will go to address certain customizations.

For an everyday shoe, a boot or a dress shoe, the bespoke shoe-making process calls for your foot measurements to make personal shoe lasts (plastic or wooden replicas of one’s feet) in addition to your pick of style, material and color. The idea is that to truly create your pair of perfect shoes look-wise and comfort-wise, they must tailor-make a shoe for each of your feet based on your precise specifications.

Made-to-order shoe designers, on the other hand, use standard sizing when creating a pair of shoes for you. They keep the customizations cosmetic by making changes to a pre-designed shoe style. (If you’re interested in learning more about made-to-order footwear, see this guide.)

Still, what’s similar in both categories of shoes, and what sets them apart from off-the-rack shoes without a difference, is the attention to craftsmanship. For each pair of bespoke and made-to-order shoes, every element is stitched, distressed (having simulated marks of age or wear) and otherwise manipulated by hand.

Bespoke shoes are handmade and entirely one-of-a-kind.

The term “handmade” has quite the allure in today’s age, but alas, it’s largely overused. To be clear, true handmade footwear is made by skilled shoemakers from start to finish. These artisans cut the materials, dye the leathers to your liking and hand punch every perforation, to name a few steps. And since they’re minding the shoes through and through, there’s a certainty that no detail will be missed.

These craftspeople rely on traditional shoe-making techniques because they’re known to assure longevity. For example, distinguished bespoke shoe brand John Lobb often uses a Goodyear welt or wooden-pegged construction, both of which allow for reparability again and again. Hiro Yanagimachi and Antonio Meccariello, on the other hand, are known to prefer hand welting, a less-used approach that makes for equally hard-wearing footwear.

Bespoke footwear is great for those with hyper-specific needs.

Bespoke designers, and the custom shoes they make, take a client’s style, physical features and lifestyle needs into account. That said, this type of footwear is the best possible accommodation for those with particularly big, small or wide feet as well as for people with podiatric (foot) issues or lumbar (back) issues. It’s also ideal for those with needs that have to do with foot length, width or arch support (i.e., if you need orthotics).

If these things aren’t concerns, you don’t have as much need for bespoke shoes and might want to consider made-to-order shoes, which give you the same luxe experience for a fraction of the price.

Bespoke shoes are more expensive than your typical made-to-order shoe because they require more work.

As with the made-to-process, bespoke clients may decide on fabric and color and request shoe art like personalized tattoos or engravings. But again, the bespoke process goes farther than cosmetic customizations because a shoemaker is creating a product meant to mold to each of your feet completely.

Overall, bespoke footwear requires more time and effort to assess fit, in addition to the time initially spent on creating personal lasts for the client’s two feet. It’s only through multiple fittings that clients can assess and reassess the fit until it meets their satisfaction. For all of this work, the cost for bespoke footwear runs at least double that of made-to-order.

You’re ready to order your pair of bespoke shoes.

Be sure to note, these are just guidelines for acquiring bespoke shoes. With over 20 years in the fashion industry, Esquivel Shoes takes pride in being a quality resource for shoppers. To learn more about bespoke shoes, made-to-order shoes or any of the products we offer, send us a message through this link. We’re here to give you peace of mind and help you make the best buying decisions for you.

George Esquivel

George Esquivel

George is a Southern California-based designer and craftsman who designed his first pair of shoes in 1994 and began honing his craft thereafter. For over 20 years, he’s operated his namesake brand, Esquivel, which specializes in handmade shoes and accessories. In the last decade, George served as Creative Director of renowned luxury bag and luggage brand Tumi Inc. and as Creative Consultant for Italian heritage brand Fratelli Rossetti, and has collaborated with many others for his own brand. George was a 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist, and has been a CFDA member since 2010. When he’s not working alongside his team of artisans at his atelier, Esquivel House, in Downtown Los Angeles, George is enjoying time with his wife and high school sweetheart, Shelley, and their three grown children. He also loves mountain biking and hosting good friends for dinners and fêtes.