Goodbye, Hippie Sandals

After making 3 or 4 pairs of sandals based on Jonathon Ervin’s book, I decided that since I happened to have a stash of fashion leather left over from a stint making leather jewelry to sell (without success), I wanted to use that to make sandals.

I talked to a local shoe repair man, Mr. Kim, who started making shoes about 40 years ago as a 14-year-old in Korea. I had already gone to him to purchase soles for my hippie sandals, so I showed him the results of my new experiments, and he gave me some tips on lining the fashion leather, on reinforcing the straps, and other stuff. He was encouraging and unfailingly nice, but he’s pretty busy and I didn’t want to wear out my welcome.

blog--sandal pre shoe school 1

This model didn’t stay on very well, and it felt awful between the toes—there’s too much material in that spot.

blog--sandal pre shoe school 2

The sole on these is pretty wide–it looks like I’m wearing a paddle! I wore the hell out of them anyway. I wasn’t documenting anything back then, so they look a little rough in this photo.

blog--sandals pre shoe school 5

These still look pretty cool to me, even now that I’m making far better constructed sandals, but they hurt along the top of the toes. I didn’t know how to finish that edge.

blog--sandlas pre shoe scool 5a

blog--sandals pre shoe scool 3

The split and curvature of the back straps isn’t terribly elegant, but I love the fuchsia snakeskin and the noise the bells make.

blog--sandals pre shoe school

I took vacation time from my office job with the aim of seeing if I could pump out 5 pairs of sandals in a week, all in my size. Once I could tell that I wouldn’t succeed, I finished one pair and was disgusted to find that my toes hung over the edge…they were all too short! And I never completed the rest. I later made this style into two pairs of wedding sandals–one in a metallic off-white and one in a dappled forest green.

For the next year or so, I proceeded by trial and error, feeling my way, making sandals fitted to my own foot, or that of a friend. Back in the early days, I would wrap aluminum foil around my foot and try to draw a pattern on it with a Sharpie–I shit you not! Eventually it came to me that if I bought a last and covered it in masking tape, I could draw a sandal pattern on the tape, pull it off the last, and make a pattern from it. It also occurred to me that it might be useful to have lasts in different sizes to make patterns for feet larger and smaller than mine.

I had no idea that a last could be used in any other way. I spent $200 on Tim Skyrme‘s book Bespoke Shoemaking, which I could tell was jam-packed with great information, but it was far too advanced for me to learn anything from. I wasted a good bit of money on tools and equipment that just weren’t right for the job, but I also got some that worked out perfectly. I talked to other shoe repair men. I accumulated a lot of fashion leather. And I kept searching for the ever-elusive 3-in-1!


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