For those ready to consider footwear beyond made-to-order (MTO) and ready-to-wear shoes (RTW) , made-to-measure (MTM) and bespoke shoes are the next step.
The major difference between made-to-measure and bespoke shoes is that MTM shoes are created from a base last. That last is not made from scratch. It was not created to suit your exact feet measurements. These MTM lasts exist as a generic size and was used for prior customers.
MTM lasts are modified to better fit your feet using strips of leather to make room in certain areas. If areas need reducing, parts of the last are carved away using a rasp.
Left: A photo of modified lasts. You can see the multiple layers of scrap leather added to the shoe, some from previous clients. Plastic lasts are more resilient than maple wood lasts, which is why many MTM lasts are made from it.
Right: On the right are bespoke lasts I ordered from an English lastmaker from Springline. You can see the contrast.
Also with MTM, sometimes the shoemaker may alter a previous client’s 2D patterns to make your pattern. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you requested the same style and wear a similar size. But the result may not be as personalized as you may have desired.
Another major difference between MTM and bespoke are the trial fittings. With MTM you may not necessarily receive a trial fitting. With bespoke, there is at least one, or more to find a better fit.
Like bespoke, the MTM option allows you to choose different models, leather, and personalize any details. It’s very flexible in terms of aesthetic choices.
Pricing is rarely listed on shoemakers’ websites. Prices change every few years so the best way is to contact them via email.
Below is an example chart of Hiro Yanagimachi’s current pricing (at time of writing) on MTM and Bespoke.
Mr. Yanagimachi’s MTM average pricing is 3,199.70. Bespoke is 4,113.90, which is about a $1,000 difference.
I would personally choose bespoke because of the individual last and fittings. There’s a higher likelihood of a better fit with bespoke, since you are not using a standardized last. You will also develop a better relationship with the craftsman, who will understand your feet better during the fitting sessions.
With bespoke, you also don’t have to worry about your last being used for another client. It gives you and the shoemaker an archive of your measurements. The last can be used and saved forever.