Going to London in the Late 70’s and visiting the shoe department in Aquascutum of Alan McAfee for an interview, where I then started the following week. There was a very large antique table with a lion sculpture standing on it and the shoes were placed all around it on the table, it was beautiful.
When was the moment you have decided to be shoemaker?
After leaving McAfee Shoes after 10 years, there was an opportunity as a last maker open-i took it and learnt last making as a trade.
Who had the greatest influence on choosing your career?Who was the first person that influenced you the most in shoemaking?
My career, was influenced by a man working at Alan Mcafee, it was the time when a lot of these exclusive stores were more like gentlemen’s clubs, it felt comfortable and good. In shoe making, the man who influenced me the most in the early days was Mr. Terry Moore, I learnt a lot from him, he was regarded as the best in London.
Where did you learned the craft?
I learned the craft of last making from Mr. John Carnera when he was at New & Lingwood on Jermyn Street, later I learned more from Mr. Terry Moore of Foster on Jermyn Street.
What memories do you have of your first order?
My first order under ‚The London Shoemaker was a whole cut black calf shoe with a medallion design punched on the cap, very elegant and clean cut design.
Looking back at when you first got into the shoemaking, how does what you are doing now compare to what you thought you would be doing after this many years in the workshop.
I have just moved The London Shoemaker from England to its present location in Boyce Virginia. I have always worked for other people so being able to open my own actual store is very exciting, something i have always wanted.
The legendary bootmaker Charlie Dunn said once that “Bootmaking is an art that’s gonna be lost before too long“. Do you agree with him?
I think that may have been the thought a few years back but now there a re a lot more younger people coming in to the trade, i don’t think it will be lost.
How do you find dress in US differs from Europe? What about shoe style?
Dress in the U.S does differ slightly from Europe, but not much. I think they tend to wear more casual a style than Europe, but then again, things have changed a little everywhere so style tends to lend itself to the way people live nowadays.
What does ‘quality shoe’ mean to you and how a person can recognize quality shoes?
Quality relates not just to construction but to the leather and materials used in the process. Its easy to put a brand name in something but that doesn’t automatically mean it is of quality. Look at the materials used and if unsure ask someone. Check the outer, inner and sole material, then decide if it is what you are looking for.
Which other shoemakers do you like in US and in Europe?
How many people work in your workshop and what are their roles?
In my workshop it is down to me, I measure, I hand carve the last with rasps and surform, I can also make the patterns and cut the leather.
How would you describe a typical day of a shoemaker?
A typical day is measuring clients, last making, pattern making and cutting leather. It also involves designing, repairing and making sure everything is all looking good.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
It’s that sound you get when you put a shoe on a customer of the air ‚whooshing’ out as you put their foot in the shoe.
What’s the most difficult part of your job?
Sometimes there is a foot that is a little more awkward than others, sometimes I just put everything down, have a cup of tea, then when I go back with a fresh pair of eyes I can see what needs to be done.
In bespoke shoemaking is customer always right?
Not always! But there is a way of making them right. I think guidance with customers is important, with the shoemakers guidance it is down to us to guide the customer in making the right choices, and therefore they end up being right.
What was the most extravagant shoe that a client has ever ordered?
I made a combination elastic sided shoe with black calf and alligator, it looked fantastic and the combination worked very well.
What shoe would like to make in the future that you have not made yet?
What shoe style do you prefer the most?
I love the combination of a correspondent shoe-classic and classy at the same time. Grey buckskin and black calf is a favorite of mine.
The key elements of a good men’s shoe would be…
Welted construction, leather lined, a dovetail ¼ rubber tip on a leather stacked heel and of course a style that is pleasing to the eye. To finish a great hand made shoe tree to keep the shoe in shape.
What are your favorite places to spend your evenings?
My back yard, it has a park like feel and living in the country it is very peaceful.
It is about producing the best that you possibly can with no exceptions.
What is your favorite word?
Hello! Not hi, or anything else, old fashioned Hello is always nice.
What is your least favorite word?
Awesome! It is used so widely and not really how it is supposed to be used.
What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?
Ladies shoes, there is so much that can go in to a ladies shoe that you just look at them as works of art.
What turns you off?
What is your favorite curse word?
Bollocks! Its a nice word, but save it for special occasions, when no ones around!
What sound or a noise do you love?
The sound of cows mooing at night in the summer when the windows are open and there is nothing else to be heard, one of those peaceful sounds.
That sound of windshield wipers screeching across the windshield and there’s nothing you can do about it.
What profession would you not like to do?
A septic tank cleaner!
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Great shoes Paul, i’m ready for my next pair!