Bespoke footwear – known to most as “custom” or “made-to-order” footwear – is a complicated arena in which to shop. The classical route is to find a custom shoemaker who understands your style, takes the time to get to know you, and then discusses in-depth what kind of shoes to make. This is true “bespoke” as it began in England.

Should you choose to go the truly bespoke shoe route, you can expect to spend, quite literally, years waiting for your shoes. If you go the other, faux-bespoke, made-to-order direction, the shoes aren’t likely to last quite as long and aren’t going to fit with the same precision, but you can have them in a reasonable time frame, and they will be expensive, about half to one-third the price of their more labor-intensive counterparts.

ALFRED & SARGENT’S

Since 1899, A&S has been crafting shoes in the old style, with their business lurking in the Northamptonshire area; home of classic English bespoke.

Refusing to bow to many trends, they specialize in men’s traditional dress shoes, and that focus is apparent in their work.

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ANDREW MCDONALD

Australia is too laid-back for customized shoes, but Andrew McDonald – formerly of Hermès in Paris and John Lobb in London – took them there anyway.

A workman on a second-story shop in Sydney, he’s brought European tradition down under, offering shoes for men and women that have a distinctly Aussie sensibility with a classical dedication to quality.

BALLY

Switzerland is mostly known for banks and chocolate, but Bally proves that masterful leather-working should be included on that list.

With options for men and women, you can expect several fittings to get the shoes perfect, but when they are, they’ll put a spring in your step.

BERLUTI

Each piece is cut by hand, sewn by hand, and even burnished by hand.

As much status symbol as they are striking bespoke shoes, you’ll pay dearly, but it will be worth it for the heads you turn when you wear a pair of Berluti.

BUCHANAN BESPOKE

Made with even more love than hand-crafted bagpipes, the mixture of Tartan and Leather fabric at Buchanan Bespoke offers a distinctive level of showmanship for a pair of shoes.

You can pick your own combination of materials, allowing you to mix and match for honest individuality.

HEEL THE WORLD

Heel the World seeks to single-handedly bring back the bespoke shoe.

Based out of Africa, the company itself is philanthropic in that they train unemployed workers to craft shoes, giving them a valuable skill while also giving the world gorgeous, truly bespoke shoes; and saving lives.

JOHN LOBB

John Lobb supposedly walked hundreds of miles in a pair of shoes he made himself to seek his fortune in London.

That was 1851 and since then the shoes coming out of the company he made have been at the top of bespoke shoemaker lists the world over. Owned now by Hermès in Paris, John Lobb shoes are the best of French and English work combined.

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