John Lobb’s new UES boutique continues the company’s long history of exquisitely made custom footwear.
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Few things are more lasting, comfortable, and effortlessly stylish than a pair of bespoke shoes. And few things come closer than ready-to-wear shoes made by one of the world’s great custom shoemakers. Both are readily available at the new Upper East Side boutique of the venerable English brand John Lobb, arguably the premier company in this rarefied space. We visited director of operations Paul Goring to learn about the rich craftsmanship behind the company’s spectacular double monk straps, Chelsea boots, loafers, lace-ups, and more.
What goes into John Lobb made-to-measure footwear?
To build a shoe, you have to make it on a last [a foot-shaped mold]. In made-to-measure footwear, a last is made of the exact shape of your own foot. The advantage of this process is that once we’ve created a last of your foot, it remains in our workshop for the future. The last takes about three or four fittings to get exactly correct. The process can take as long as eight months to a year until you get your first pair of shoes.
I like to have different styles and shapes of footwear. Do you have to make a new last if I go from a loafer to a Chelsea boot?
If somebody wants a different shape, we can make an adjustment to the shape of the toe. And we can adjust the silhouette. But the overall shape of the foot is the shape of your foot. That stays constant throughout all the shoes.
You’ve clearly been doing this a long time. Why did the company get into the ready-to-wear business?
John Lobb dates back to the 1860s. He was a custom bootmaker in England. Back then, if you owned a pair of shoes, they were custom-made by hand, and we’ve simply kept doing it that way over the years. In 1978, though, the company was purchased by Hermès; it started the ready-to-wear line, which encompasses a lot of the materials and handcraftsmanship that you’d find in the made-to-measure line, just at a much lower cost. As a point of reference, the made-to-measure business starts at $7,800, while the ready-to-wear line starts at $1,100 and runs to $1,700.
Which are your top-selling shoes from the ready-to-wear business?
We are English, so we’ve always been known for our monk straps. Our most classic shoe is called the William, which we do in a William II with some enhanced stitching, as well as a William II boot. And the Philip II, a basic five-eyelet oxford lace-up, is a classic as well. We do a big business with loafers in the United States, especially the Lopez loafer.
When somebody leaves with a John Lobb shoebox from your store, what can he expect?
The best shoes in the world.