How to Become a Bespoke Shoemaker in 2024: A Comprehensive Guide to Learning the Craft

Bespoke shoemaking is an art form that combines precision, creativity, and a deep understanding of materials. In 2024, this centuries-old craft continues to thrive, attracting individuals who are passionate about creating high-quality, custom-made footwear. However, mastering the skills required to become a bespoke shoemaker is no small feat. It involves years of training, practice, and dedication. This blog post will explore the various avenues available for aspiring bespoke shoemakers to learn the craft, from traditional apprenticeships to modern educational programs and online resources.

Traditional Apprenticeships

The Value of Apprenticeships

Traditional apprenticeships remain one of the most effective ways to learn bespoke shoemaking. Apprenticeships offer hands-on experience, allowing aspiring shoemakers to learn directly from experienced craftsmen. This method of training is invaluable, as it provides practical skills, insights into the trade, and an understanding of the nuances involved in creating bespoke shoes.

Finding an Apprenticeship

Finding an apprenticeship can be challenging, but there are several strategies that can increase your chances of securing one:

  1. Research and Network: Research established bespoke shoemakers and workshops. Attend trade shows, industry events, and exhibitions to network with professionals in the field.

  2. Apply Directly: Reach out to bespoke shoemakers directly. Express your passion for the craft and willingness to learn. Be persistent and prepared to demonstrate your commitment and enthusiasm.

  3. Professional Organizations: Join professional organizations such as The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers in the UK or the American Boot and Shoe Institute. These organizations often have resources and connections that can help you find apprenticeship opportunities.

Formal Education Programs

Shoemaking Schools and Institutes

In addition to traditional apprenticeships, several schools and institutes around the world offer formal education programs in shoemaking. These programs provide structured learning environments, access to experienced instructors, and comprehensive curriculums that cover various aspects of the craft.

  1. London College of Fashion (UK)

    The London College of Fashion offers a range of courses in footwear design and production, including a specialized program in bespoke shoemaking. The curriculum covers everything from pattern cutting and construction techniques to leatherwork and finishing. Students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and are taught by industry professionals.

  2. Ars Sutoria School (Italy)

    Located in Milan, the Ars Sutoria School is renowned for its footwear design and pattern making courses. The school offers intensive programs that focus on both theoretical knowledge and practical skills. Students learn about materials, design, production processes, and the latest technologies used in the industry.

  3. Savannah College of Art and Design (USA)

    The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Accessory Design, which includes specialized courses in footwear design. The program emphasizes creativity, innovation, and technical skills. Students have opportunities to work on real-world projects and gain industry experience through internships.

  4. Institut Français de la Mode (France)

    The Institut Français de la Mode in Paris offers a Master’s program in Fashion Design and Accessories, which includes a focus on footwear design. The program combines traditional craftsmanship with modern design techniques, providing students with a well-rounded education in bespoke shoemaking.

Online Courses and Resources

Advantages of Online Learning

With advancements in technology, online learning has become an increasingly popular option for aspiring bespoke shoemakers. Online courses offer flexibility, allowing individuals to learn at their own pace and from the comfort of their homes. They also provide access to a wealth of resources, including video tutorials, instructional materials, and virtual workshops.

Recommended Online Courses

  1. Shoemaking Courses by Carreducker (UK)

    Carreducker, a renowned bespoke shoemaking company, offers a range of online courses that cover various aspects of shoemaking. These courses include video tutorials, step-by-step guides, and detailed instructions on techniques such as pattern making, lasting, and stitching.

  2. MasterClass: Marc Fisher Teaches Footwear Design (USA)

    MasterClass offers a course taught by Marc Fisher, a prominent footwear designer. The course covers design principles, material selection, and the creative process involved in shoemaking. While not exclusively focused on bespoke shoemaking, it provides valuable insights into the design and production of high-quality footwear.

  3. Shoemaking Workshop Online (Netherlands)

    This online platform offers comprehensive courses in shoemaking, covering everything from basic techniques to advanced methods. The courses include video lessons, downloadable resources, and access to a community of fellow learners. Topics include pattern making, leatherwork, sole construction, and finishing techniques.

Books and Publications

Essential Reading for Aspiring Shoemakers

Books and publications are valuable resources for anyone interested in learning about bespoke shoemaking. They provide in-depth knowledge, historical context, and practical tips that can enhance your understanding of the craft.

  1. “Handmade Shoes for Men” by László Vass and Magda Molnár

    This book is a comprehensive guide to the art of handmade shoemaking. It covers every aspect of the process, from designing and pattern making to construction and finishing. The detailed illustrations and step-by-step instructions make it an invaluable resource for beginners and experienced shoemakers alike.

  2. “Shoes: A History from Sandals to Sneakers” by Giorgio Riello and Peter McNeil

    This book offers a fascinating exploration of the history of shoes, from ancient times to the modern era. It provides insights into the cultural and social significance of footwear and highlights the evolution of shoemaking techniques and styles.

  3. “The Bespoke Shoemaker” by Tim Skyrme

    Tim Skyrme’s book is a practical guide to bespoke shoemaking, written by an experienced craftsman. It covers the entire shoemaking process, including last making, pattern cutting, stitching, and finishing. The book also includes valuable tips and advice for aspiring shoemakers.

Workshops and Short Courses

Intensive Training Programs

Workshops and short courses offer intensive, hands-on training in specific aspects of shoemaking. These programs are ideal for individuals who want to gain practical experience and learn new skills in a short period.

  1. West Dean College (UK)

    West Dean College offers a variety of short courses in traditional crafts, including shoemaking. These courses are taught by experienced professionals and cover techniques such as pattern making, leatherwork, and hand stitching. The college’s beautiful setting and well-equipped workshops provide an inspiring environment for learning.

  2. I Can Make Shoes (UK)

    Based in London, I Can Make Shoes offers a range of short courses and workshops for aspiring shoemakers. The courses cover various aspects of shoemaking, from beginner to advanced levels. Students learn techniques such as pattern making, lasting, and finishing, and have the opportunity to create their own pair of bespoke shoes.

  3. The Chicago School of Shoemaking and Leather Arts (USA)

    This school offers workshops and courses in shoemaking and leatherwork. The programs are designed for individuals of all skill levels and include topics such as pattern making, hand stitching, and sole construction. The school’s hands-on approach ensures that students gain practical experience and develop their skills.

Internships and Industry Experience

Gaining Practical Experience

In addition to formal education and training, gaining practical experience through internships and industry placements is crucial for aspiring bespoke shoemakers. Internships provide opportunities to work in real-world settings, learn from experienced professionals, and develop a deeper understanding of the craft.

  1. Luxury Footwear Brands

    Many luxury footwear brands offer internship programs for aspiring shoemakers. These programs provide hands-on experience in design, production, and marketing. Brands such as John Lobb, Berluti, and Gaziano & Girling have internship opportunities that can provide valuable insights into the world of bespoke shoemaking.

  2. Independent Workshops

    Working in independent workshops is another way to gain practical experience. Many bespoke shoemakers are willing to take on interns and apprentices, providing them with the opportunity to learn the craft in a real-world setting. Interning in a workshop allows aspiring shoemakers to develop their skills, build a portfolio, and make industry connections.

Online Communities and Forums

Connecting with Other Shoemakers

Online communities and forums provide valuable platforms for aspiring shoemakers to connect with other professionals, share knowledge, and seek advice. These communities offer support, inspiration, and a wealth of information on various aspects of shoemaking.

  1. The Shoe Snob Blog

    The Shoe Snob Blog, created by Justin FitzPatrick, is a popular online platform for shoe enthusiasts and professionals. The blog features articles, tutorials, and discussions on bespoke shoemaking, shoe care, and industry trends. The accompanying forum provides a space for aspiring shoemakers to ask questions, share experiences, and connect with others in the field.

  2. Styleforum

    Styleforum is an online community dedicated to men’s fashion and style. The forum includes a section specifically for discussions on shoes and shoemaking. Aspiring shoemakers can participate in discussions, seek advice, and share their work with a community of like-minded individuals.

  3. Reddit: r/goodyearwelt

    The r/goodyearwelt subreddit is a community focused on high-quality footwear and shoemaking. Members share photos, tutorials, and advice on various aspects of shoemaking. The subreddit is a valuable resource for aspiring shoemakers looking to learn more about the craft and connect with others who share their passion.

Industry Events and Trade Shows

Attending Industry Events

Attending industry events and trade shows is an excellent way for aspiring bespoke shoemakers to learn about the latest trends, innovations, and techniques in the field. These events provide opportunities to network with professionals, attend workshops and demonstrations, and gain insights into the industry.

  1. MICAM (Italy)

    MICAM is one of the largest footwear trade shows in the world, held biannually in Milan. The event showcases the latest trends and innovations in footwear, attracting professionals from all over the world. Aspiring shoemakers can attend seminars, workshops, and demonstrations, and network with industry leaders.

  2. Lineapelle (Italy)

    Lineapelle is an international trade show for the leather and fashion industries, held in Milan. The event features exhibitions, workshops, and seminars on various aspects of leatherwork and shoemaking. Attending Lineapelle provides aspiring shoemakers with valuable insights into the latest materials, techniques, and trends in the industry.

  3. The London Craft Week (UK)

    The London Craft Week is an annual event that celebrates craftsmanship and artisanship. The event features exhibitions, workshops, and demonstrations by skilled craftsmen and women. Aspiring shoemakers can attend talks, meet professionals, and learn about traditional and contemporary shoemaking techniques.

Scholarships and Grants

Financial Support for Aspiring Shoemakers

Pursuing a career in bespoke shoemaking can be financially challenging, especially when it comes to funding education and training. Fortunately, there are scholarships and grants available to support aspiring shoemakers.

  1. The Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST)

    QEST provides scholarships and grants to support the education and training of individuals in traditional crafts, including shoemaking. The trust supports aspiring shoemakers who demonstrate exceptional talent and commitment to their craft.

  2. The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers (UK)

    The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers offers scholarships and awards to support students and apprentices in the field of shoemaking. The company aims to promote excellence in the craft and support the next generation of bespoke shoemakers.

  3. American Craft Council (USA)

    The American Craft Council offers various grants and scholarships to support individuals pursuing careers in traditional crafts, including shoemaking. These grants provide financial assistance for education, training, and professional development.


Becoming a bespoke shoemaker in 2024 requires dedication, passion, and a willingness to learn. Whether through traditional apprenticeships, formal education programs, online courses, or hands-on workshops, there are numerous avenues available for aspiring shoemakers to develop their skills and knowledge. By taking advantage of these opportunities, connecting with industry professionals, and gaining practical experience, individuals can embark on a rewarding journey in the art of bespoke shoemaking.

The craft of bespoke shoemaking continues to thrive, thanks to the commitment of skilled artisans and the availability of diverse learning resources. As we look to the future, the tradition of bespoke shoemaking remains a testament to the value of craftsmanship, creativity, and the pursuit of excellence.

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