Obviously I’m biased. No doubt. I love everything handmade, especially handmade shoes. In fact I avoid mass produced shoes unless I need them to perform a particular function, like keep my toes out of the hot beach sand, or to get traction on the football field.
But why should you choose them over mass produced shoes? Below are the biggest reasons, for me.
- Supporting small business, supporting local
We hear this all the time, “shop small business, shop local,” but why? Why is it important to a consumer? Well, economically it’s one of the best things you can do for your community and country.
When you purchase mass produced shoes you are typically supporting an economy outside of your own. Meaning the money that was created here and earned by you, is now in another country, thus depleting the wealth of your own country. If instead, you trade that money for a good or service locally, it will then benefit the wealth of your community. That same money will be passed around, invested, and produce more money in the end.
Another reason it’s important to shop local/small business is you are supporting an economy of sustainability. You see, when a country can make, manufacture, and produce its own materials, supplies and products, it has less reliance on other countries for the things it needs. Evidence has shown, that when a country loses its ability to produce, it loses its ability to make money, thus losing its ability to obtain products from other countries.
It works this way in communities as well. A good example of this is Detroit, which lost its ability to make automobiles, and in turn still hasn’t recovered from its economic collapse. Every time you purchase mass produced goods, especially those not made in the US, you are supporting economic collapse. And if you can find local makers (like us!) of the things you need, you are supporting the economic health of your community.
- Quality of materials
Mass produced shoes are all about the bottom line. There is no thought of creating a superior product. It’s about selling as many shoes as possible at the lowest cost to the company. This means sourcing the cheapest leathers and synthetics, as well as using the less desirable parts of those materials.
With leather in particular, the same hide will have variations in thickness and stretch and imperfections. If you’re starting with a low grade leather typically there is already a lot of stretch throughout the hide as well as big differences in thickness.
We hand choose all of our leather so that we pick hides with the tightest grain, most uniform thickness and the least amount of imperfections. This allows for a longer lasting shoe.
- Personal service from the maker
Shopping small businesses allows for more personal care and service. The line of communication is much shorter, and all of the departments talk to each other so that the “right hand knows what the left is doing.” In fact, you might speak to the very people who make your shoes, as is the case for us.
In a corporation however, you might pay for an item only to receive several emails or calls reminding you to pay for the item. And if you call them with a simple question, you’ll likely be on hold for 15 minutes or more, just to get transferred a few times, and wait on hold some more. When you finally get to speak with someone, you might find that person is not in the country you are.
When you talk to a small business, you’re likely to be received more warmly and with quicker, personal service. The path is more direct. Here at Standard Handmade, we find this to be one of our greatest strengths.
Mass produced shoes don’t take comfort into account. Unless we’re talking athletic shoes or work boots, but even those – the comfort of the sole is the only concern. And even then, the manufacturer suggests you replace the shoes every six months to a year.
Handmade shoe companies are looking at the comfort of the sole, as well as the heel, the toe, the waist, and everything in between. Your whole, individual foot, is taken into account at the time of construction. And many, comfort friendly leathers are used in conjunction with the leather on the outside of the shoes to aid in this. In fact, we use 7 different types of leather in each pair of Standard Handmade boots or shoes.
- Long lasting
Handmade shoes are built to last. Whenever I tell someone that a handmade shoe takes as much leather to construct as a large tote and about four times the labor, they are astounded.
Our society truly doesn’t know what it takes to construct a shoe. I think much of the reason that shoe manufacturing is so automated now is because of the difficulty and long process of making them.
We makers spend countless hours on just one pair. That’s why we need them to last. If I wanted your shoes to last just a season, or half a year, I would not make them. It takes us about three weeks to make a single pair, if we only had one pair to work on.
With that kind of labor we want your shoe to last. I can tell you from my conversations with other makers, that they feel the same.
As a note, at Standard Handmade we design our boots and shoes to last through at least three full resoles. That’s about a minimum of a ten year life span (if you wear them everyday). However, through our unique design, we are able to replace components of the outsole, without requiring a full resole once the rubber has worn through. This adds even more life because the inner workings of the sole aren’t tampered with during the repair.
- Interesting design
While I think much of the design of mass produced sneakers is very progressive and interesting, the design of boots and dress shoes is much the same as it’s been for the last 100+ years. Even with sneakers, the design has to be mass produced, so many design risks are avoided in order to appeal to the masses.
I get it, but aren’t we as people more interesting and diverse than that? Don’t we all have different opinions of beauty and aesthetics? Since handmade shoe companies are only creating a limited amount of any one design they are more free to take design risks, thus producing more interesting/progressive footwear. There is less loss in small batches.
We, and most of the companies I have been fortunate to meet and chat with, typically have a different business/life philosophy than that of a corporation. In fact, much of why companies such as us choose to make our shoes by hand is because we want to bring back a sense of integrity to business, while adding more value than is normal.
At Standard Handmade we put an emphasis on our business ethics, which are extensions of our life’s morals. We stand for integrity, transparency and honesty in our company. We treat our business and our clients like we treat our family. We don’t lie, we take care of our messes, and own up to our faults. We treat our suppliers and clients with respect and fairness.
We want you to have the best experience and we want you to feel well cared for. We believe that the way we live our lives has effects on the types of clients we attract as well as any venture we have.
- Extended service
Handmade shoe companies don’t stop their service with the sell. They are with you throughout the life of your shoes and will offer repair and polishing services. Often at a price less than that of a shoe repair shop since you are already a customer.
At Standard Handmade you can contact us anytime with your comments or concerns. We will help you with caring for your shoes for as long as you have them. We even like to invite local clients to the shop for complimentary shoe polishing, and even a chat over a beer, or wine.
When you purchase your next pair of shoes consider the impact of buying handmade. I believe the difference is real, and the gap is wide between what companies like us can offer and what companies who mass produce their footwear can offer.
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