Pattern Cutting is one of the most important aspects of shoemaking and the one that probably the one that gets the least recognition but deserves the most respect. You see, the reason why you like a shoe is pretty much boiling down to two things: 1. The shape i.e. the last and it’s cut and 2. The design i.e. the pattern and how carefully it was made. But shoe design is complex. A brogue is not just a brogue. It can be done a million different ways. And a 1-2 mm difference in where the line is placed can make a world of difference in the balance of the pattern on the specific last. You cannot simply transfer a brogue design from a rounded last so easily to a chisel last. If the pattern placements from the round last do not suit the chisel last, a new pattern has to be made and cut.
The skill of the pattern maker, in my opinion, is key to your shoes looking good. That coupled with the shapes of the lasts, you have two things that if not put together well in grand harmony end up creating ugly shoes. And it goes both ways. Great patterns, ugly lasts = ugly shoes. Great lasts, bad patterns = ugly shoes. More often than not, what you find people tend to focus on when speaking about shoes on the world wide web is the making/finishing of them. But again, without the foundation being done well, none of that stuff matters. So why is there not more thought put into it when discussing how ‘good a shoe is’.
Crockett & Jones have proud themselves in making very good looking classic shoes for over 100 years. They never attempted to bend the curve but instead focused on making classic looking gentlemen shoes as best as they could. And so they have done and continue to do. It is very rare that you find a shoe at C&J that doesn’t look good. It might not be your taste in terms of model or style, but it’s never an ‘ugly’ shoe. And they pride themselves in that feat by making well-balanced lasts and spot-on patterns. And it’s no wonder that many brands have copied their models over the years attempting them look as close to a C&J as possible in order to confuse the end client. Yet C&J endures through the test of time by continuing to stay true to their classic nature of making well-made, beautiful shoes.
In the links below, C&J’s pattern maker of 23 years, Mark, shares the insights to being a pattern cutter and what it entails. A good read for those interested in learning what makes a shoe great!