What Makes a Shoemaker?

For me, a shoemaker is someone who can construct a pair of shoes from scratch. This means that given a wooden last, a shoemaker can properly construct a pattern, sew the uppers, last the shoe, and build the bottom.

Some may argue that truly excellent shoemakers make lasts themselves, which requires an additional set of skills. It is definitely ideal if your shoemaker is also your last-maker, if they possess the skill. But I won’t add that as a necessary qualifier, since last-making is, with most shoemakers, predominately separate.

Pattern-making: Constructing a pattern out of the taped last. Some wrap thin paper around the last instead of tape

In other words, the process goes from: pattern-making, clicking, upper-making, lasting, to bottom-making. A consummate shoemaker possesses all these abilities.

Bottom-making: Constructing the bottom, which includes the welt, sole, and heel

But what about people who work in factories? Are they shoemakers?

Factory workers typically have specific jobs, whether they are sewing the uppers, or corking the bottoms. They usually complete a fraction of the shoe-making process, as an entire work force exists to execute other tasks. In my opinion, they are not shoemakers, but can be upper-makers or bottom-makers, clickers, etc. depending on their station.

Essentially, being a shoemaker requires knowledge of the entire shoemaking process. Sometimes people make the mistake of calling themselves shoemakers, when they lack knowledge in fundamental areas.

Shoemaking takes a few years to learn. People I’ve spoken to say the minimum learning curve to learn the basics is two years. And because shoemaking is so varied, many great master shoemakers are still learning. So keep persisting and stay curious!

What are your thoughts on what makes a shoemaker?


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