Having been heavily involved for some time now within the bespoke world of both shoes and suits, I have seen my fair share of the end results to customer orders. Sometimes I see the most plain-jane type of things: a black cap-toe oxford, a brown 3 eyelet plain-toe derby or just a notch lapel 2-button, plain gray cloth suit. Other times, I have seen blue suede chukka boots with pink stars stitched into the leather or green cordovan leather soled derbies. It makes you see who goes bespoke for fun and to thus get something no one else will have and who goes bespoke for the pleasure of being able to afford it yet still wanting to be on the practical side of things. But then I get the feeling that there may be times where you have someone who goes for their first time and might want to get that impractical thing, but might be timid to ask for it. I am sure that many tailors and/or bespoke shoemakers will impose their ideas and/or opinions onto their customers (those who are not firm in their desires) and that it can be quite daunting when they do (as they are the "expert") but allow me to tell you, that you are the customer and ultimately have the choice to what you get. If you want a pink leather python skin shoe with a cuban heel and studs on it, then by all means, that's what they need to make you if they want to make the money.
So, if you happen to be one of those people who might be a bit shy and have bought something that you didn't really want or are thinking to go bespoke but don't really know what to look and/or ask for, allow me to shed some light on what it means to have bespoke and all of the sweet little details that can be had because of it! So let's go through the list of possibilities:
|Gaziano & Girling|
When you go bespoke, the possibilities of design are pretty much endless. They will be limited by the depth of your imagination and the skill (or stubbornness) of the pattern maker. Most things can be achieved, but obviously there are limits to what will turn up good and what will look like crap. This will be better understood by the maker. But don't think that you need something that has been done before. If you can draw something up that you think that you want, then by all means, use that to give to the pattern maker who should then be able to make a pattern out of it. Or if you want something that's base exists but with a change of detail, say for example a full brogue but with diamond punches instead of circular ones, then this should be accessible. And remember, thread comes in all colors, so the stitching of your upper can be whatever you want it to be.
Leather or Fabrics (colors/types):
A good shoemaker should not be limited to a simple swatch. They should be able to get what you want, whether it be that pink python, some kind of tweed fabric or whatever it may be. Now, this might not be readily available and most likely will cost extra if not on premises (as they will have to get a whole skin, which you will have to pay for), but that doesn't mean that you can't get it. And if they tell you otherwise, well, they are just aren't willing to work that hard for the sale, which should tell you something. Every color in the world has been put onto a leather, but just in case they really can't find what you are asking for (like some crazy shade of teal), just ask for a crust leather (unfinished) and then send the end product to a patina maker, like Paulus Bolten.
|Anthony Delos (2 directly below as well)|
While the sole usually gets ruined with a day or two of use, it is nice to have little details added to it in order to set your shoe apart. Some do this with fiddleback waists, others do it with color and some even like to add a million nails in it to create some sole design. I would personally recommend not going to heavy on the nailing of a sole, as it will cause you to slip. I nailed my initials into the heels of one of my bespoke shoes, and I always have to tread lightly as not to wind up on my ass. There are also hump waists (not sure that this is what it's called, but it's what I call it), whereby instead of adding that beautiful curved V (fiddleback - above), you add a rounded hump (as shown below on the red sole).
2 Above both by Saion (green & blue sole ones)
As you can see by all of the examples presented, literally anything can be done, should you wish it. Don't get me wrong, if all you want is a black cap toe, then so be it. But I hate the thought that someone ventures into bespoke, pays a lot of money, but then doesn't get what he/she truly desires for fear of asking and/or it not being able to be done. But like I said, most things can be done and you will never get if you don't ask. So please, use this as your reference to your next crazy bespoke purchase!
Oh, and by the way, a gentleman by the name of Timothy has started his own quest into the world of shoemaking, trying to learn and absorb as much he can, while at the same time documenting it. If you too have the desire to do such things, then by all means, check out his documentary blog: