The footwear market is filled with shoes at all price points. Of course, there’s generally a method to how shoe brands determine the price of their merchandise, and how certain makers justify elevated price points.
So, what makes handmade shoes so expensive? Standards considerations for off-the-rack shoes are mass manufacturing, marketing and any sort of cutting-edge footwear technology. But for handmade shoes, it’s the time, energy and attention to traditional craftsmanship that plays a role in the cost. They’re unique, and mostly considered luxuries, because they blend creativity with durability, comfort and great workmanship.
It’s difficult to give a definitive range because the final price of a pair of handmade shoes will be determined by choice of style, leather and finishing. You should also expect any extras, like tattooing or rubber soles for better grip, to run additional costs. Though, you may best understand what to expect with handmade shoe pricing by understanding the process.
Read on for more about what makes handmade shoes so expensive.
As with any type of footwear, apparel or accessory, materials used factor into the quality, well, cost. High-quality—not necessarily Italian, but certainly European—skins elevate the look and feel of any pair of shoes. BerlutiⓇ, for example, uses materials like calf and alligator leather for their footwear.
In terms of how and where the materials are allocated, not many companies use a leather insole, which maximizes comfort. (Leather adapts to the way you walk and therefore breaks in quickly and effectively.) Some brands use sponge material; others use cardboard. The problem is that the rebound of such a material slackens after a while, and the latter is too stiff and will never break in.
The best handmade shoes and boots are created over days and weeks, rather than in a matter of minutes, as is the case for off-the-rack shoes. And of course, products that are thoughtfully designed and handcrafted are luxurious, or of the highest quality.
Luxuries are expensive. And particularly when the handmade shoes in question are customized, it’s up to the artisans to execute those visions with accuracy and precision. This time and care spent on them are also factored into the pricing.
But don’t be fooled—many times, makers will use the term “handmade” loosely; that is to say, they may use some artisanal techniques and supplement with automated machinery to cut time and costs. For true handmade footwear, however, skilled shoemakers handle the materials from start to finish; they cut the materials, dye the leathers to your liking and hand punch every perforation, to name a few steps.
The process ensures that no element of your shoes will be exactly the same as any other pair crafted by the same designer, particularly if your shoes are custom-made, or made-to-order). And the time artisans spend on a pair of these shoes depends on the complexity of the shoe design in question.
Again, there’s a high level of thoughtfulness that goes into a pair of handmade shoes. If a designer wants to make a pair of handmade shoes feel like a slipper, they can do that, because humans can be conscious and capable of tending to details in ways that machines cannot.
This is especially true with custom or bespoke footwear since the designer can make tweaks to a style based on the individual wearer’s needs.
A lesser-known value of handmade shoes is their extreme durability; that is to say, artisans rely on traditional shoe-making techniques because they’re known to ensure long life.
For soling, Salvatore FerragamoⓇ and Berluti often use a Goodyear welt—a layer of material sewn to the bottom of the shoe that allows for resoling after much wear. (The welt can be unstitched to detach the sole without causing damage, and once that’s done, a new sole can be added to lengthen the life of your shoes.) 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.
Ready to purchase a pair of handmade shoes?
With over 20 years in the fashion industry, Esquivel Shoes takes pride in being a valuable resource for shoppers. To learn more about our own handmade shoe collection or any other products we offer, send us a message through this link. We’re here to give you peace of mind and help you find the best handcrafted shoes for you.
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.