Telling appart a truly artisan shoe and a mass-produced one is not always an easy task. Without basic notions in shoemaking, it all comes down to a matter of trust in the brand or the seller claiming that their product is handmade. However, when looking to buy a shoe of the highest quality, there are some tips that can help.
1 Check for the natural nuances of the skin
At first glance, the look of leather is livelier and maintains a more natural appeal in artisan shoes. The leather in this case is full of nuances, while industrial producers prefer it to be homogeneous. To achieve this, synthetic coatings and equalizing products are used on the leather for factories. The artisan workshop selects instead the most suitable parts or the skins one by one. This natural character can later be seen in the result.
2 The finish: perfect, but with soul
Seen up close, the finish of the handmade shoe lacks the almost robotic uniformity of mass production. Barely perceptible differences in each of the pieces give these shoes a kind of distinctive perfection that can only be achieved with the hands of a craftsman.
3 Pay attention to curves
The silhouette of the shoe made by hand has subtle curves and warps that are not within the reach of factories. Machines are not used in the assembly process, but tools such as pliers, hammers, or nails. With them, the skin can be stretched and worked with more precision. Especially complex lasts discarded in serial production are exclusive to hand assembly.
4 The profession goes inside
Some of the best qualities of artisan footwear cannot be seen with the naked eye. The “chassis” with its internal reinforcements gives these shoes their firmness and solidity. This is noticeable when trying them. The foot feels better embraced in them and, thanks to the Y-shaped shank, a boat effect that follows the movement can be felt.
5 Notice the layers of the heel
The almost sculptural work of the heels is a distinctive sign of the artisan shoe. When observing one, it should be visible that the heel has been raised by layers of leather. Their mirror effect is achieved thanks to the polishing with glass and cloth. Mass-produced shoes, on the other hand, usually have a heel made from a single piece of wood that often imitates the layered finish of leather using a glued veneer.
6 Buy handmade-to-order
Truly artisan shoes take so many hours to complete that it’s almost impossible to keep them in stock for sale. Instead of in a store, they are made to order in a workshop or atelier. This allows a dialogue between producer and customer and increases the chances of getting a personalized product.