With so many options for shoes, brands are vying for shoppers’ attention. Teams of marketers and designers from any given brand get together to determine what their bases will want and need from footwear in the seasons to come.
Speaking only for myself and my brand, I’ve found that one thing consumers will always appreciate is a well-made pair of shoes. And the way I, and some other small brands like mine, have delivered that high-quality product is by employing handmade methods in the manufacturing process.
Authentic and sincere, the best handmade shoes and boots are made with excellent craftsmanship and attention to detail executed over days and weeks, rather than in a matter of minutes, as is the case for off-the-rack shoes. Because consumers are taking a more intuitive approach to shopping, this is the general reason why handmade shoes have lured the eyes of so many consumers and trended in the footwear market.
Shoppers care about high-quality materials.
As with any type of footwear, apparel or accessory, materials used factor into the quality of the product in question. European skins elevate the look and feel of leather shoes, and any decent shoemaker will use them because of the value they add. For example, BerlutiⓇ uses materials like calf and alligator leather for its dress shoe and sneaker offerings alike, and such refined materials are handled with care by knowledgeable craftsmen. Some designers avoid using animal-based materials and instead work with synthetic materials. These are more than acceptable, depending on their source. It’s worth noting that such options are not always biodegradable; oftentimes, they’re plastic.
In terms of how and where the materials are allocated, not many companies use a leather sole, which maximizes comfort, because leather adapts to the way you walk and therefore breaks in quickly and effectively. Other companies use less refined materials that sacrifice comfort and quality in the process—they may use insoles made of sponge or cardboard, which either lose rebound after a while or never break in. Oftentimes in these cases, makers will glue the insoles to the shoe structures, rather than sew them, which makes them more prone to deterioration.
In the handmade process, leathers may be treated with dyes to achieve a unique finish, sewn together to create a structure and massaged onto a last (or a mold of a human foot).
The handmade process involves much thought, creativity and attention to detail, which makes a difference in the finished product.
Leather goods that take time to make are generally considered luxuries, and it’s important to remember that true handmade footwear, no matter if it’s bespoke, made-to-order or already stocked, is made by skilled shoemakers from start to finish.
The handmade shoe-making process takes time because it is, after all, made by hand rather than automated machinery. There are countless steps the cobblers must follow to complete your handmade shoes, but the process ensures that no element of your shoes has been mass-produced or 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 depending on the complexity of the shoe design in question, their work could take days to weeks.
The artisans assigned to your shoes cut and trim the leather or fabric with precision in mind, gingerly sew them together, mount the materials onto the shoe mold with care and stain the leather to your liking. If your shoe style has perforations, they hand punch the holes. They’re working on the shoes every step of the way and therefore being mindful of the quality and workmanship of the item they’re creating.
Employing such intricate steps comes at a greater cost to the brand, but handmade shoemakers accept this because of the value provides to their clients. (It’s far more expensive to employ a craftsman than it is to buy and utilize a machine for production.) But when products are made by skilled shoemakers through and through, there is an assurance of exceptional quality and unique details.
Here’s the They last a long time, which makes for a great value.
According to the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, a trade group that represents more than 500 companies, the average wholesale cost of footwear rose in May to $11.04 per pair, the highest May level on record, driven by a 10.2% jump in the cost of children’s footwear imports. (In a letter to President Biden earlier this year, the organization highlighted that kids’ shoe prices have now reached the highest in over 70 Anything that’s considered of the highest quality should last a long time. Famed handmade shoe designers like Berluti, Salvatore FerragamoⓇ and John LobbⓇ use a Goodyear welt—a layer of material sewn to the bottom of the shoe separating the insole and the upper from the outsole, which allows for shoe resoling. The welt can be unstitched to detach the sole without causing damage; once that’s done, a new sole can be added to extend the life of your shoes.
Plus, they’re as unique as the wearers. And what’s better than one-of-a-kind?
The best handmade shoes are perfectly imperfect, not boringly pristine. Of course, they’re crafted with the best standards in mind, but what the artisans will achieve is only the kind of perfection that is manmade, not machine-made with every stitch being exactly the same, down to the quarter-nanometer.
Your own taste and preferences play a role in what you might expect from a pair of handmade shoes, which is great because a lot of handmade shoe brands offer made-to-order services. MargauxⓇ welcomes its clients to design its Demi style with hand-painted details. Meanwhile, cult sneaker brand Golden GooseⓇ , which bills traditional shoe-making techniques as the means behind its unique aesthetic, encourages clients to customize their footwear using charms, crystals, studs and handwritten messages.
Perhaps the best news is that anything you like is pretty easily obtained, once you’ve nailed down what you’re looking for aesthetically, what feels good to walk in and what you’re willing to spend (handmade shoe pricing ranges from roughly $100 to $4,000). But when all is said and done, the best pair of handmade shoes will be a closet essential to you—one that you can enjoy for many events from both a style and a comfort perspective. And that’s so worth it, don’t you think?
Ready to order 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.