It’s been a while since my third post on Sapatero Manila. This is because I’ve been traveling and could not get my finished pair. The long gap should not be interpreted as the length of time it takes to make a bespoke pair of shoes although some shoemakers do take their time. That aside I finally have my pair and can give my thoughts on it.
Based on the fitting I felt that three things needed to be changed. The width of the shoes were too wide by a few millimeters and I preferred a closer fit. I am confident with the natural stretch of the leather so this should not be a problem. The side stiffeners hampered movement and flexibility so they had to be removed. I like my dress shoes to feel like dress shoes so it should have a thin layer of foam or none at all. In this case Sapatero Manila used a thin layer of foam as the feet need to be shielded from the holes and stitching inside.
A few days after my fitting Raymond of Sapatero Manila told me that they experienced issues with burnished calfskin leather and that they would be remaking my pair using vegetable-tanned calfskin leather. I wasn’t a big fan of burnished calfskin leather to begin with so I’m glad that he was going to use a much better kind of leather. The vegetable-tanned leather is beautiful and can easily take a shine. It is sturdy and can take minor scuffs without looking too bad. It is soft and does not dig into the feet.
The first thing I noticed when I wore my finished pair was the perfect fit. The width was not tight nor loose. It does not gape near the arch of my foot. Something that I experience with slimmer ready to wear shoes because of my slightly flat feet. The advantages of handwelting is evident in the comfort and flexibility. It doesn’t require any break-in and is relatively lightweight. The toe spring or the distance between the toe and the floor is just right. The toe is not elongated or extended so it does not drag when walking.
When it comes to aesthetics there are a number of things that could be improved. I prefer a more pronounced welt and Sapatero Manila trimmed the welt to make the shoe look more sleek. The distance between the welt stitching could be closer and more consistent. They were able to do a beveled waist, however, it could be more pronounced. I feel the proportions need to be tweaked to be more pleasing to the eyes but I can’t seem to put my finger on it. This is what sets apart experienced shoemakers and is Sapatero Manila’s weak spot.
Sapatero Manila’s shoes are well-made and the materials excellent. One can debate the quality of the leather upper but at the prices he’s charging it’s as good as it gets. The fit is excellent and is comfortable to use throughout the day. The shoe could look better in terms of the shape but is not entirely Sapatero Manila’s fault. I chose the last and wanted to challenge their skills by modifying a standard last to my specifications. This is tricky if the shoemaker is not familiar with the last he’s working on as is the case here. Overall, I am impressed with my pair but would caution those who would commission a pair to not drastically alter the lasts for the time being.