The winner for best sole finishing, for me, goes to Graziat Taipei. While I have always liked their sole work, their very recent new style of finishing that incorporates a quilted design using a heel iron decorator is simply something else beyond this world. And in my book, bumped them to the top of the tier. I was floored when I first saw these photos and the more I see the more I continue to be impressed.

I am partly biased due to my appreciation of the quilted design in general as it is one of my favorite ‘looks,’ not only in clothes but also shoes and apparently, now, in soles as well. It is also impressive because it is hard as heck to do this kind of work. Anyone who has added this iron design to a heel can tell you just how difficult it is to keep those lines on track and even the tiniest little slip can really put you back to square one, or even worse, ruin it altogether. That is also why I am so impressed because it may not look it but it takes a lot of skill to make this happen. It is about 45 minutes per shoe, 1.5 hrs to pair. That is almost like welting it twice.

On top of the great design work with the iron decor, what I also really love is his style of coloring the sole with this very antique-looking patina that has so much variation and depth to it. And I imagine that this can be customized to different color palettes too, such as a green or dark blue variation. I would love to see those done and am sure that after seeing this post, one of you will be bold enough to order one! It would be so cool if he did enough variations to almost represent the color spectrum. I say blue and green, but also a nice plum, a deep red and even a variation of shaded/antique black/grey would be cool.

It is nice to see shoemakers creating niche details that separate them from the rest. It is also refreshing to see something so brilliant and unique, even though I have mixed thoughts on sole work being that the reality of it is that it gets immediately destroyed. But the idea of it being a blank canvas to show artistry is one of the perks of its presence and helps to allow the top makers of the industry to show their skills and creativity and help to differentiate themselves from one another when making basic models like a wholecut or a full brogue. You can only re-define those so much. The sole always you to define yourself. Some will find that ludicrous, some who appreciate art will understand. Either way, this is one of my favorite details of 2021.

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