What is a last? What does it have to do with shoemaking?
I pride myself on the fact that Standard Handmade hand-lasts every shoe. You’ll hear me say “hand-lasted” often.
So what do I mean by that?
First, we have to talk about what a shoe last is:
A last, in relation to shoe work, whether it be making or repairing, is the solid mold that gives a shoe its shape, and size. Lasts will have a general shape of a foot, but with vast styling such as various heel heights, or toe shapes. A last is a fundamental element in shoe making and many shoemakers are quite proud of their collection of lasts (my collection is not so hot, but it will be, one day). Many of them have storage sheds full of them.
When I say my shoes are hand-lasted I am saying that I take the completed shoe-uppers, soak them in water, and I stretch them onto and around the lasts. I use lasting pincers (curved pliers) to pull and stretch the leather into place. It has to be monitored for centering and placement on the last. Then I begin to nail the stretched ends to keep the leather in the right place. Once I have almost 100 nails in place to hold the stretch of the leather, I leave it alone for 3 days so that it will easily hold the shape after the nails are taken out and the leather dries.
In factory made shoes the shoe-uppers are sat on top of the lasts, then placed on a machine that pulls each side to stretch the leather. Usually the machine also places a few staples to keep the shape. The whole process takes about 5 minutes.
So why do I pride myself on my hand-lasted shoes? Why wouldn’t I want a machine to do it for me and save me about 2 hours per pair?
It’s like putting a good meal together. You could use garlic salt instead of cutting up and cooking fresh garlic into the dish. You’ll save time and effort, but the flavor will not permeate the same way. It will feel, or even taste somewhat artificial.
The real thing will always taste better when coming from a seasoned cook.
It’s the same when I hand-last my shoes. Every detail is meticulously aligned. I am able to get all of the stretch out of the leather so that your shoes don’t have much stretch over time. I patiently and painstakingly hoard over every pair of shoes I make, so that they are my best work every time. I choose patience and quality over mass-production. I have an 83 step process working with the leather and the lasts that produces unmatched quality when compared to the machine.
When choosing hand-lasted over factory made shoes you are essentially choosing tonkatsu ramen from a restaurant over the $0.25 ramen packages, often sold 10 for a dollar at the grocery store.
You might like those little packages – and they may even serve their place – but ramen from a restaurant will change your life! I think we’ve handed over the responsibility of making our shoes over to machines for so long now that we can’t picture the difference. Remember when restaurants we’re cooking with frozen spinach? Would we ever want to go back to that?
Truly, there are huge differences between hand-lasted and factory shoes. If you want to learn more shoot me a message. Our shoes are built for comfort, fit, and longevity. We offer superior quality and are committed to the integrity of our process and our business.
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