From the founder, Chad Kimball –
I did not originally set out to start a business making footwear and accessories, I wanted to make them for myself and for my loved ones, should I be successful at it. I’ve always been fascinated with how things work and are put together. As a boy I’d spend hours taking apart my remote controlled cars to understand them and rebuild them with Legos and glue because I thought I could make them better. I’d spend weeks making tree houses after having scavenged for scrap wood and nails. I must have made twenty or thirty out in the woods, some of them interconnected like some Peter Pan hideout.
Eventually my dad had to lock up his tools and buy me my own (!).
I did not know any other ten year olds with their own set of real tools. I felt like a king and I treated them like treasure. When I was twelve, maybe thirteen, my grandfather bought me a set of woodcarving knives, gave me a lesson and a few tips, and handed me a box of wood. The first thing I carved was a cowboy boot about two inches tall. It was terrible, and I was hooked. After a while I began selling my carvings to my schoolmates; roses at Valentine’s, Santa's at Christmas. Later, when I was in need of new knives but lacked the funds for them, I decided that I would make them instead. It was a lot of work filing down scrap metal by hand, but it also felt empowering to know that I didn’t need power tools. I felt that I really earned the knives through the amount of time it took making them.
I had such a personal attachment to my handmade knives, as anyone would do, I decided that they needed sheaths to protect them. The problem with handmade knives is there are no store-bought sheaths that fit them. I had no such guide. I decided to make them myself.
How My Fascination with Leather Shoes Began
I had no idea that I would enjoy working with leather so much. None. Who knew that it could be carved like wood and molded like clay? Who knew that it could be sewn and glued in so many combinations?From the moment I started working with leather I gained a solemn respect for shoes. How are those made? How do you get that shape? Why do they look the way do? And how do they stay together with such wear?
I was amazed.
Soon after, I learned that they are made nearly 100% with machines. I decided in my heart, not my mind, that one day I’d make a pair by hand. When some time passed and I had the time to think about it again, I decided to give it a try.
The Journey To Become A Master Shoemaker
I went to google for instruction. Google gave me nothing useful. I looked for books on Amazon, videos on YouTube, visited several libraries and emailed some local boot makers. I didn’t find much, and what little I did find was written in a style of Old English we no longer speak. These relics had many diagrams and pages missing. When I reached out to local boot makers, they were not eager to share much over the phone and were too busy to hold a Q&A with me. During all of the searching, I tried several times to make the shoes on my own. Never did things pan out completely. I needed more!
The mystery and intricacy of hand making shoes started to draw me in, deeper and deeper, until it became my top priority. At last, I discovered a school in Arizona that taught shoemaking the way I wanted so badly to learn. I enrolled one summer. Bada boom. When it was all over, I walked away with my first pair of shoes handmade by me. It was at that point I knew I wanted to make them over and over, share them with my loved ones, and possibly even offer them worldwide. Over the next few years I experimented with several different techniques to maximize quality and efficiency of construction.
Standard Handmade was born.