Recommendations for low-hassle, low(er)-cost bespoke men's shoes.
July 31, 2014 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have recommendations for a bespoke shoemaker who charges a fair price and will work mail-order to the US? I'm looking for boring, business-casual men's shoes, e.g. split- and moc-toe derbies and undecorated penny loafers made from durable low-maintenance leathers in black and burgundy.

After spending decades struggling to find shoes that fit, I've finally conceded that I'm probably a good candidate for custom shoes. (My heel is comfortable in a 3E width but the ball of my foot is far wider, and my arches are absolutely flat and perfectly happy being that way.) Among the shoemakers with websites, it's nearly impossible to tell which ones are reasonable and which ones require $5K/pair and two trips to London. Forums dedicated to bespoke shoes are full of woo and anachronistic fetishists who care about things that don't matter to me. I'll take all the cost-saving measures and modern materials I can get, so long as the shoe fits.

Extra points if they do business in Chicago. Half points for Los Angeles or San Francisco. I'm also keen to hear about ready-to-wear options with extra-extra-wide toeboxes, though I've already exhausted the styles available from Allen Edmonds, Florsheim, Bass, Propet, Hush Puppies, Nunn Bush, Aetrex, and New Balance, and tried pretty much everything Zappos and ShoeBuy have to offer.
posted by eotvos to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wesco does custom shoes (based on a tracing of your foot and some other info) and has one men's dress shoe. What they show here should be customizable in terms of a dressier leather, a single color and a dressier sole.

Rancourt also does custom fittings based on a tracing. They have a variety of men's shoes and have just added the linked wing tip.

I have seen Wesco products and they are very nice. I own two pairs of rebranded Rancourts, which are well-made and attractive. They are very "American" shoes, meaning that they're not especially sleek or refined, but they're good quality shoes and the leather is soft.

Dehner does a few custom shoes. They look nice and I've heard good things, plus you can often go to a higher-end riding shop and they can fit you and set up the order. (Or at least you could years ago when I was considering a pair - I wore women's shoes at the time and was very hard to fit, but switching to men's has meant that I don't have the same problems.)
posted by Frowner at 9:51 AM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

My husband, who has difficult feet, swears that his shoes from Flexible Footwear are the most comfortable footwear he's ever owned. (Ugh, that site is unhelpful. But you could do worse than to call them.) A review. Husband says that he ran into them at a convention, so you might want to ask whether they're sending out any reps to events in Chicago.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:52 AM on July 31, 2014

Sara's Shoes is based out of Chicago. Sadly, she's no longer taking orders, but I would email or call and ask her if any of her students would be available for a custom order. (Or, you could learn to make them yourself!)
posted by umwhat at 10:20 AM on July 31, 2014

As the owner of a pair of 7 1/2 EEEEE feet with a high instep, this is a tree I've been around a time or two. If you end up going down the road of bespoke shoes, I will eagerly await your results. It's something I have considered for many years, but everyone I knew with experience in this area suggested that I would have to pay at least $1,000 to get shoes that were better than what I could purchase pre-made.

Anyway, pretty much the gold standard in wide men's shoes is Hitchcock Shoes. They are based in Hingham, MA, but do the vast majority of their business via mail. I've been wearing their shoes exclusively since the mid-1980s. They don't carry a huge variety of styles, but I would be willing to bet they have lasts and sizes that would work for you.
posted by slkinsey at 11:33 AM on July 31, 2014

Perry Ercolino in PA. I know Hollywood types who wear his shoes.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:03 PM on July 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I second trying Rancourt, Quoddy or one of the other USA handsewn people. You'll have a hard time finding derby's but the penny loafer shouldn't be a problem.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:55 PM on July 31, 2014

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