This is the first fitting on a pair of bespoke slip-ons by Gaziano & Girling. As explained in a previous piece, they will be a one-piece shoe with no seam, made using a single circle of leather. The leather is a mid-brown hatchgrain calf and the only decorative details are a simple band and a medallion on the toe.
At the fitting, Tony (Gaziano) admitted he wasn’t sure about how the hatchgrain had turned out after the lasting. Because of the extent to which the leather had to be pulled with the one-piece technique, a lot of the cross-hatch texture had been stretched out. It was still visible across the vamp and unchanged on the band, but invisible around the heel and toe.
But I rather like it. The texture is subtler than in the shoe I originally picked the leather from, but I prefer the look. The only change I think we will make is to reduce the crosshatch on the band, so the contrast with the rest of the shoe is reduced. This can be done with some simple heat treatment.
A good fit
The shoes were ‘braced’ for the fitting, which means that the upper is quickly stitched to the bottom, as you can see illustrated above, rather than attaching the welt – which requires more stitches and of course the welt itself. A rough heel is also attached to make them simple to walk in.
The fit was good, both at the front of the shoe and – crucially on a slip-on – around the ankle. In a few places it needed tightening however, specifically across the vamp on the front and at the back of the heel. Tony indicated these changes on the shoe with a stitch marker – a small silver pen whose marks can easily be rubbed off.
“Unlike a tailor you can’t mark on little quarter inches or half inches though,” said Tony. “A lot of it has to be done by eye and by memory.” Shoes are tricky buggers in that respect.
A beautiful colour
I thought the colour of the shoes was wonderful. This is something that sets Gaziano & Girling apart from most English bespoke shoe makers, largely because of their experience working in Northampton. The burnishing and antiquing effects are often much more highly developed in factory production – because they are often used as a selling point and because the manufacture needs a consistency bespoke makers don’t require.
Edward Green (where Tony used to head the bespoke operation) was one of the first to push these techniques in Northampton and they slowly filtered down to Alfred Sargent, Crockett & Jones and the rest. They usually involve burnishing or antiquing. The former is done by pressing the shoe onto a revolving wheel, whose bristles have had clear wax applied to them; the friction of the wheel burns the leather and creates dark patches. Antiquing is done by hand, with a sponge that works coloured cream into the leather in regular circles. Italians tend to handpaint more, but that can look a little streaky.
Next time we see these shoes they will be finished. Expect some loving photos here on The Rake.
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