Gaziano & Girling bespoke 2
Part 2: The measuring
Interestingly, Tony had me stand up on the G&G-branded measuring paper, rather than sit down as other bespoke makers of my experience had done. But then the difference is just a question of adjusting for the fact that the foot will swell slightly when subjected to greater pressure, and push the toes forward. The maker must also account for the time of day you are being measured (as feet swell during the day).
Measuring techniques do vary. While most English shoemakers take a similar number of readings, illustrated by the pictures here, Italians tend to take more notes and the Japanese scribble all over the place. Tony Gaziano believes this makes little difference, however.
“The most important thing is not the measuring but the first fitting,” he explains. “In exactly the same way as bespoke tailoring, you can only tell so much before you place something on the customer and see how it fits.”
At that point, communication is the key. For unlike tailoring, the bespoke shoemaker cannot see every aspect of the fit. Even if he cuts apart the shoe at the fitting, the information is not precise. Leather reveals so much less than worsted, at least at this stage.
“You need to make sure the customer is comfortable with telling you everything about the shoe,” says Tony. “He needs to realise that it may not be perfect at this point, that a lot can still be changed, and that every aspect of how it feels is therefore worth communicating.”
Apparently customers are frequently surprised that a shoe can be altered. These are usually the ones that have never seen one being made. For as long as you are prepared to re-sew the welt, there is nothing to stop the shoemaker taking apart the shoe and relasting it, to be snugger or looser in any part of the foot.
Indeed, with a first-time customer Gaziano & Girling will often have two fittings, to make sure the last is perfect. The second may take place after the shoe has been worn for a few weeks – beginning with three hours a day, then building it up to eight or nine. “It’s really only after this period of wear that you can get a real feel for the fit,” says Tony.
In the next post, we see the shoes being made at the G&G workshop outside Northampton, England.
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