Did you see the fantastic documentary on John Lobb shoemakers of St James’ in London’s West End? What a superb insight into the workings of one of the finest bespoke shoemakers in the country. At £4,000+ per pair I suspect that most of their customers in the 21st century are likely to be Russian oligarchs, Chinese entrepreneurs and middle eastern sheiks rather than British royalty and nobility.
It may interest lovers of fine shoes that the goodyear method of construction depicted in the documentary is identical to the method of shoe construction used in our Loake, Sanders and Trickers shoes. The main difference is that instead of the painstaking method of hand stitching the soles to the welts and the welts to the uppers our shoe makers in Northamptonshire use a stitching machine. However the crucial skill of the hand and eye coordination of the shoemaker remains the same. Any slip through a lack of concentration and the shoe will be ruined.
The other main difference between the John Lobb production process and that of one of Northamptonshire’s shoe factories which one would notice on a factory tour is that instead of wooden lasts much harder wearing bright yellow plastic lasts are used these days. You can imagine that repeated nailing will soon degrade a wooden last. And the lasts, as the program depicted, are time consuming to make and are absolutely crucial to the fit and look of the finished shoe.
The Loake website provides a fascinating video on how their shoes are made and justifies their £200 shoes as an absolute steal.