How a Bespoke Shoe is Constructed – GJ Cleverley

Next week I’ll write the article for my finished GJ Cleverley bespoke double monks (articles on design and first fitting are here and here respectively).

Before that, here are a few photo’s of some of the raw materials involved in the construction of the shoes, to give a better idea of how the whole picture comes together. The images which follow are a mixture of my bespoke double monks under construction, as well as untouched leather blanks for different parts of shoes yet to be made.

The leather insole with a channel cut in to it. In to this, the lining, interlining, upper, welt and plastic cover are sewn with a waxed linen thread (which you can see Teemu pointing to). Just above Teemu’s hand (a few inches long, running from the centre of the heel, towards the toe) is the plastic stiffener, put in for the fitting. It has since been removed and replaced with a leather stiffener on the finished shoes.


A piece of outer sole material. This part is made from oak bark tanned cow hide and comes from the part known as the bend. The bend is the very inner most part of the hide on both sides of the backbone.


The stiffener is resting on top of an insole. Stiffener is made from a similar part of the hide to the toe puff (see below), only they have been left slightly heavier in weight through the shaving process. The insole also comes also from the shoulder part of the hide, but is left almost at full weight, with the exception of the top surface being shaved off. This is important; if the top surface is not removed, and the shoe used, the perspiration from the foot would cause the insole to crack because of the hard top layer.


A piece of leather which makes the toe puffs, the reinforcement in the toe of the shoes to keep the shape. Made of oak bark tanned cowhide from the part known as toe puff belly, which is actually the side of the hide.


Teemu and I holding the welt, the thin strip of leather which runs around the permitre of the sole. Together with the insole it forms the very foundation of the shoe. Once the welt has been sewn onto the insole, the outer sole will finally be stitched onto the welt. This also comes from the shoulder area of the hide. On the shelves behind us, you can see numerous blanks for the different components of the shoes.

It’s a complex, time consuming process, made entirely by hand and using only natural materials (aside from the glue), but the result is a lightweight, incredibly resilient shoe which can be repaired countless times and will, if looked after properly, easily outlast its owner.




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