So, now you are thinking, ‘wait, what?’ Doesn’t exist? What does that mean? Well, it means that this slogan can only apply to you and your opinion. No one person can label the best shoemaker in the world as the idea of what makes a shoemaker good is completely subjective. Let’s take a look at the things that make up a good shoemaker, point by point, and dissect how everything can be interpreted subjectively.
- Quality/Execution of Shoemaking – So, here is when you start breaking down technical stuff like stitches to the inch, handwelting versus Goodyear welting, cleanliness in finishing, the perfection of adding the upper to the last, whether in production making or handmaking. The issue is while someone might say, ‘well, whoever can stitch 20 stitches per inch on the sole must be the best’ is assuming that this is what everyone holds dear as ‘the best shoemaker criteria,’ when in reality it is only one part of the very large process and feature that makes up the shoe. While some people love a Japanese shoemaker that makes something look laser cut and flawless, others see that as overkill and precious and not what a ‘real’ shoe should be like and assume the Austro-Hungarian style of making is far superior. Who is right?
- Style – Clearly this will be the most subjective as style is solely judged by the eye of the beholder. Some people like the Japanese style. Some people like the British style, while others like the Italian style and another the French style. When you have so many different styles of shoemaking based on cultural identity how can one label one style better than another? Personally, I love a style of shoemaker that actually blends two or more countries styles of shoemaking/design together in order to create something that is not easily labeled by country of origin. Gaziano & Girling is a great example of doing that as they refined the idea of ‘heavy, British shoes’ to create elegant pieces of art not defined by country but rather by the quality and design execution.
- Pattern/Last making – Up to a certain level, one cannot be better than another. The perfect pattern maker adapts his pattern to the last flawlessly. There are many pattern makers at this level so it is hard to say that one person is better than the other. And last makers, well the idea of liking a last is also very subjective. Some people like pointy lasts from France, others more robust, round lasts from England and others the more elongated style from Italy. No one can say which is best as it is all simply preference.
So when people want to debate if Saint Crispins is better than G&G or Bestetti or Bemer or Corthay or Edward Green or even Yohei Fukuda RTW/MTO etc. there is no correct or definitive answer and no one can label one better than the other in reality. It simply cannot happen. One can only state their favorite, which is a more appropriate label to use when bloggers attempt to differentiate between makers.
I have been asked many times throughout my time in the shoe industry who my favorite shoemaker is and well, as you might have guessed from the photos, it is Gaziano & Girling. And before you think that is because I have personal ties with them as friends, which doesn’t really matter anyway, I can say that I have been a huge fan of the brand long before I ever met Tony or Dean. The reason they are my favorite brand is that they tick off those 3 points, to me, better than anyone else does and on top of that make a shoe that cannot be pinpointed by country of origin through their look and that, for me, takes a skill few possess.