Traditionally Made Shoes

Nowadays, a fair response to the question of how shoes are made would be along the lines of “By robots in a factory in China”. It’s not always been like that though, and here in the UK we have a rich tradition of shoemaking. If you’ve ever wondered why Northampton Town football club is known as The Cobblers, it’s because in the past the town was the centre of the UK shoemaking industry. Even though most of what we buy today is mass produced overseas, there is still a thriving industry making high quality footwear using the traditional methods. So how do they do it?

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Traditionally Made Shoes
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Every great pair of shoes starts with leather, and the first part of the process is to cut the pieces of the shoes out, much as a dressmaker would cut out fabric using a paper pattern. This is one of the most skilled parts of the whole process as the “clicker” has to ensure that all pieces are cut accurately, that the colour of the leather does not vary from one piece to another and that waste is kept to a minimum to keep control of cost. Some shoemakers use electric cutters to carry out this part of the process, but most still do it the traditional way, by hand.


Once the pieces for the shoes have been cut out, they then need to be sewn together. In the shoemaking world, this is known as closing. The leather is first thinned out at the edges to stop the seams from being too bulky and then the separate pieces are sewn together using special sewing machine needles which are strong enough to go through layers of leather. Eyelets for shoelaces are also put in at this stage and any raw edges are treated to stop the leather from deteriorating.


After the pieces have been sewn together, they are then put onto a wooden shaper, known as a last, which helps the flat pieces of leather take on a foot shape. The insole is put into the inside of the shoe, and the outer leather sole is added too. The leather is polished up, the laces are added and the shoes have a final inspection to make sure they are good enough to go on the shop shelves.


It’s fairly easy to tell which shoes are handmade and which are mass produced. Handmade shoes can be more expensive, but there are opportunities to pick up bargains at places like the Loake shoes clearance store. Quality, well-made shoes are designed to last a lifetime, and given that you can pick up a great pair of shoes at the Loak shoes clearance stores for the same price as a mass produced pair, the decision should be obvious. We have got into the habit of throwing away shoes once the sole wears thin, but these sorts of shoes are designed to last, and taking them for repair at the cobbler will keep them looking good for many years to come.

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Morag Peers
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Morag Peers is a mother and regular blogger who writes on a number of interesting topics. Check her out now on Google+