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Bespoke shoes at Cleverley: Part 10

1 October 2010

The penultimate stage of my Cleverley shoes, now – the making of the heels and stitching of the soles.

The process of stitching the sole is very similar to that shown previously in attaching the welt – same type of stiches, just a little more attention on their aesthetic appearance. The sole runs all the way along the length of the shoe, from toe to heel. It’s a little easier to stitch on than it may look, as there is a little excess around the edge that is filed down afterwards, depending on the welt requested by the customer (see my first post).

The bevelling of the waist is created by the shape of the filling (cork and glue), over which the sole is stitched, as well as the filing of the edges. A bevelled waist is generally used on dress or casual shoes – a square waist is stronger and therefore usually used on walking shoes.

And why is it stronger? Because to get that angle on the waist the stitching has to be looser, four or five to the inch as opposed to 10 or 11 elsewhere. In fact, in a supreme moment of geekdom, apparently around the waist it is ‘sewing’ rather than ‘stitching’ because of that drop in the number of stitches. The shape of the waist also makes it more flexible and delicate.

The same spectrum of delicacy affects the style of the shoe’s heel. Smarter or more casual shoes tend to have lighter heels – made of both thinner strips of leather and fewer of them. A walking shoe has more, heavier strips. You can see the difference in the images of Cleverley’s store here.



Most Cleverley dress shoes have a heel that is 1 1/8 inches high. When George Cleverley began making shoes, the industry standard was 1 inch. His subtle addition tipped the shoe forwards slightly and, to his eye, made it more elegant. Again, what the customer actually has is of course up to them.

The heel is also pitched – sloping inwards at the back to follow the natural line of the heel cup above. This is probably a more distinctive sign of a bespoke shoe than the bevelled waist. The heel stack is square when first constructed (gluing and then nailing those layers of leather together) and the maker has to file down the back to get that pitched angle.

Nonetheless, some Cleverley customers demand both a square waist and a square heel. ‘What’s this funny-shaped heel?’ they ask. ‘I want one like that ready-made shoe, nice and simple.’ George Glasgow is very understanding – the heel is replaced, the customer gets what he wants. But what a pity.