Foster and Son bespoke shoes #2 – measurements and last making
Taking measurements is said to be one of the most essential parts of the bespoke process. There is only one fitting at maximum so the shoemaker must be very careful and gather as much information as possible about customer’s feet. Yes, it is important to accurately measure both feet because in most cases left and right foot are different. Length, width, height and circumference at various positions at the foot are being measured. Shoemakers prefer to take measurements when the customer is sitting because they believe it will make the shoes more comfortable in the long run. It might happen that when taken in standing position the shoes will in time stretch and get too loose. Every shoes stretches in some way so the shoe based on ‘sitting’ measurements will fit perfectly in the long term.
While taking the measurements at Foster and Son, usually one of the last makers will put customers foot onto his own page in sort of order book, where everything is noted and the outline of the foot is drawn. Certain specific areas and imperfections of ones foot are marked as well in order to be included on the last.
Below you can see a photo of the last and the order page, where last maker noted all the information he needs for adjusting it. He can now start creating a custom-made last.
There is so much history hanging at this Foster and Son’s workshop ‘last wall’. There are hundreds of old customers lasts in there. Fosters big archives, similarly to Lobb’s, make you really think about all the time that passed and all happy customers enjoying their bespoke shoes. I bet most of the shoes are still there, somewhere.
You could probably spotted that some of them have darker marks or pieces of cork attached to it. These are exactly the ‘alterations’ or adjustments made to the basic last. In old days, every last was created from a block of wood by hand. Now, Foster stores many basic lasts and adjust them separately for each customer creating and individual version of it.
Last is an imitation of a customers foot for the time of production and is always prepared in pairs. The last is prepared based on measurements taken and already has some characteristics of the final shape of the shoe. Below, you can see Jon, Foster’s last maker, who is working with, as he called it – last knife. This tool takes quite a lot of space but is essential in his work. I think it is also known as a guillotine. The blade is attached to the work bench at one end but can be moved and rotated freely. After the initial shaping, Jon is then using the rasp to refine it and smooth the surfaces. The last step will be to use sandpaper and complete the shape and any imperfections left.
Last making is also crucial as every next person involved in the shoe making process will use it as a basis of their work.
This post is already a bit long so please see more of this process by Foster and Son bespoke in the next post. Pattern making, clicking and brogueing will follow.