The Craft – The Gentle Art of Shoemaking
In the strongest possible contrast to the factory-made article, a pair of Lobb’s handmade shoes are a work of art, unique to their owner. They are created by the close teamwork of a number of specialised craftsmen, all of whom have served long apprenticeships to acquire their particular skills.
First, the customer’s feet will be measured and examined by the fitter, who meticulously notes the precise statistics of each foot, recording not only its basic dimensions but every individual feature.
The Last Maker
The fitter’s measurements, tracings and notes will go to the last-maker, whose brilliance rests in his ability to use such data in carving a solid block of well-grained maple, beech or hornbeam into a precisely contoured model of the customer’s foot; outlines, indentations, protrusions and all. The individual last thus created is used to construct a first pair of shoes and will be added to the many thousands of lasts retained on the Lobb shelves to ensure that subsequent pairs can be made to the same standards of closeness and comfort should they be required in the future.
The Pattern Cutter
The lasts are passed to the pattern cutter who will cut patterns to best fit the customers last in which ever style they have chosen.
Another of these trade aristocrats is the quaintly named clicker. He is a lover of leather whose vast experience of the properties of hides and skins enables him to pattern, choose and cut the eight pieces of leather used in the upper part of each shoe. Because of his experience of the various colours, weights, grains and flexibilities of the leathers, only he can help to ensure the smartness and durability of a shoe in which material is perfectly matched to function.
The sewing, stiffening, lining and final shaping of the clicker’s pieces around the last, are the responsibility of the closer, who cuts, skives and stitches the upper part of’ the shoe to ensure its strength and lasting distinction.
The Rough Stuff Cutter
The uppers and lasts are passed to the rough stuff cutter who selects and trims all the material which makes up the bottom of the shoes. This includes parts such as the welt, the stiffeners, the lifting for the heels, the inner and outer soles. Only the best quality oak bark tanned sole leather is used, each part carefully selected and cut.
The maker takes the carefully-assembled upper and adds the essential long-wearing Lobb sole of the best English oak bark tanned leather and the layered, riveted heel. So precise is the work of a Lobb maker that he can tell you the exact number of stitches to the inch needed to give maximum strength to the union of sole and upper on any particular shoe.
The socker fits the thin piece of leather to cover the innersole with the shop’s name and the royal warrants printed in gold on it. He will also fit any padding or metatarsal pads that the customer may require.
The Tree Maker
The tree maker will fit wooden shoe trees exactly to each individual pair of shoes thus maintaining the shape of the shoes and prolonging their life for many years to come.
The polisher brings the shoes to their final pristine glory. Another pair of Lobb shoes has been born; a process which has lasted months compared with the factory articles produced in minutes, yet a process of love, care and attention which has resulted in a unique individual masterpiece – a Rembrandt compared with a penny print.