Bespeaking a pair of shoes is about imposing your aesthetics on very practical piece of clothing. The design might seem limited compared to say, a bespoke jacket, as the shoe has to bear so much weight and work; but the acceptable colours, textures, materials and designs actually present greater potential. Few gentleman would wear a bright red or black patent blazer. But they might wear those tones in a brogue or a slipper.
There is, to my mind, no greater place to go for this mission of imposition than the minds of Tony Gaziano and Dean Girling
. I have written before in The Rake – concerning the launch of their dashing Deco line – that these guys have proved successful at pushing English style to its very limits, without becoming too Italian or (even worse) French. Theirs are shoes for very English dandies.
That applies to their bespoke line even more than made-to-order. For here their inventions are given free rein, without concern for cohesion or broad appeal. It is my hope that my design for my first pair of bespoke shoes from Gaziano & Girling reflects this creativity. Without quite being bright red or patent black.
First, the leather. While not wanting an exotic skin, I was interested in the potential for some subtle texture. And so I looked to a bespoke example in the Savile Row showroom that used a cross-hatch pattern on a cedar-coloured calf (pictured top).
The effect is similar to that used to pattern old reindeer hides (though today reindeer is usually printed rather than scored with razor-edged rollers). Unlike reindeer, though, the calf will have high-shine potential and smooth out nicely at the toe and heel where there is greater tension in the lasting.
Second, I was after a model that allowed Tony and Dean to fully demonstrate their bespoke prowess. This meant a seamless shoe – a whole-cut with no seam in the heel or anywhere else.
This requires a long period of moulding the leather over the last, and designing the pattern afterwards – the opposite way round to how a shoe is normally made. Most shoemakers find this impossible, and certainly if they have no experience in hand lasting. As an incidental effect, it also allows a lovely patination around the heel (pictured above).
The shoe will be a slip-on with no elastication. Again, this will demonstrate the bespoke skills of the pair because the fit will have to be so precise. It will have a band across the vamp, but a clean toe being a seamless model. There will then be a personalised medallion on the toe, to give it some texture.