The Shape of Shoes

I wish better language existed to describe the exact shape and style of a shoe.

It’s simply not enough use the word “style,” because style can also encapsulate the patina, finish, and other characteristics of a shoe besides shape.

Shoemakers use words like “almond” and “chiseled” to describe toe shapes, but we need better vocabulary to describe the various forms of shoes.

Just as we assess people based on their height and body stature, we judge shoes based on their curves and forms. It’s the definition of that shoe. Someone with a discerning eye can look at a shoe and pinpoint the nationality of that shoemaker.

French shoes with pointed toes; Photo by Aubercy

Because each nation generally has its own aesthetic. French shoes feature long, slim bodies which sharply taper into pointed toes.

Italians give more room to the ball of the foot, but their lines can be more flared and angular than the French.

Crockett & Jones’ rounded almond toes

English shoes look more conservative and proportional with round, almond toes.

American shoes possess more girth and look more rounded and country.

What interests me are the aesthetics arising from cultural hybridity: e.g. what happens when a Japanese apprentices in England, and then works in Paris. Dress shoemaking is nascent in Asian countries, which has given rise to the phenomena of Asian apprentices learning abroad in Europe.

Take Yasuhiro Shiota from Aubercy. From Japan he was recruited by the Aubercy family to make their French-style shoes. Every company’s lasts evolve and change slightly through the decades, but it’s interesting to compare Aubercy’s old collections to Yasuhiro’s creations now.

These traveling shoemakers are really bringing something new to the shoe world. Some had multiple teachers or worked in different firms, which is part of the reason why their styles vary so much. Cheers to an exciting new generation of shoes.

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