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.
7 thoughts on “The Best Shoemaker in the World”
Interesting article. Just wanna share my thoughts.
Weren’t you not one of the judges in the world championship of shoemaking?
Perhaps some of the method, metrics can be used as well to measure “the best shoemaker”.
Though I would think that for shoe brands, price must be calculated into consideration, therefore it would be better if instead of choosing the best shoemaker, how about best/recommended value shoes in a tiered price range.
From leather, the welting, etc. Then price range from under $250, under $450, under $1000, and so on.
And, one factor shouldn’t be the definitive factor as well.
In addition, style and fitment shouldn’t be counted as people have different taste, feet, and perspective.
For example I’m quite disappointed with the leather quality of my handwelted Italian shoes, but my goodyear welted English shoes have much better leather, however it also cost 2-2.5x as much.
That being said, another my handwelted Italian shoes that has similar price to the English ones, the leather is the same if not better, hence better value IMO.
Thanka for sharing your thoughts. I do appreciate it. And yes I was one of the judges to the “Bespoke Shoe World Championship.” Even so, with metrics involved I know that subjective feelings trump objective ones. The winner was not unanimous. For example, I did not vote for last years winner. The point of this is no matter how we try and scale it with metrics and criteria that subjective ideologies based on culture or simply style preference will forever make it impossible for one person/brand to be unanimously crowned “best shoemaker in the world”. Also in our contest many of the worlds top shoemaker do not even participate.
Yeap, reading your blog made me spend a lot of money for shoes .
Wow thanks for your openness about the judging process. I did wonder why the “perfect” shoe didn’t win.
Just in my impression, the competition force the shoemakers to make extravagant, can’t be worn shoes instead of perfectly executed shoes, if they want to win. Hopefully it would be better next year, tho long wing brogue derby is far from my liking (style preference as you pointed out).
Ideally the world’s top shoemakers are sponsored to they are more willing to invest their time to participate. Perhaps you could join as well.
I also agree with your idea that a perfect shoe (one that can be worn) should be made but I dont make the rules. Finding someome to sponsor the “top” shoemakers would be challenging. But it would be cool to see some of the top Japanese shoemakers take part. I couldnt make a shoe if I wanted to now. Long forgotten that process ðŸ˜‰ thanks for your support in the blog!
Ha, ha, ha, Justin! You didn’t even mention Paolo Scafora Napoli He is the best shoemaker in the world. I say this by having had bespoke shoes made for me by Gaziano and Girling, the late Stefano Bemer, Saskia Wittmer and several others around the world, including from the most recent incarnation of Ricardo Bestetti. On all your criteria and more, Paolo Scafora Napoli is the best, bar none.
You might be better served by asking, “Who are SOME of the best shoemakers in the world?” In this way, you would achieve a better discussion and more productive feedback from your provocative question.
Again, on all counts (that you elucidate) and more, Paolo Scafora Napoli is the best.
Hey Don, not sure if you completely understood my entire point which was that there cannot be just one objectively. It will always be a subjective experience and opinion. That was my point. For you Paolo Scafora has fulfilled all of your needs/desires better than anyone else. Not everyone will share that same feeling though. That was my point. Paolo is a great guy though so happy to hear your comment
THow would you rate these shoes: Antonio Meccariello, Paolo Scafora, Gaziano & Girling, Stefano Bemer?