Cold Days, Warm Shoes

Here is an old customer’s order, and the first step of making a pair of shoes. Personally I thought that the upper pattern for a chukka boot seemed easy, but it is really not. There are plenty of small details, which can make your life miserable. You make a perfect pair, then you realize the the wind can easily blow through the sides of the laces. Oh yes, it happened the first time (years ago) when I made a chukka for myself. Since then, I always make a pair for test from any new idea. (Which means: many shoes go into my own wardrobe. But someone has to get this job done too, no? 🙂 ).

The big difference – take notes aspiring colleagues! – the overlapping between the laces and the tongue. It is not just big, but enormous, compared to a normal derby. On the other hand, the “instep” size is also important. Chukka is casual, if you make the instep small, the customer won’t be able to wear it casually. It will more look than an orphan shoe. (so make sure you measure the instep, divide by two, and measure it from heel to laces – than you can go and carry on with you own style – open laces, close laces, loose fit, tight fit – whatever you want.)

Anyway, the first step is the “pullover” as we call it. It shows all the problems. The first one you will recognize, the chukka design simple, but definitely not symmetric. Again: NOT SYMMETRIC. You can try to make it like that, but you will have a hard time to last. That being said, let me correct myself: on most of the modern form last it is not symmetric – you can find old, symmetric ones. Those didn’t have elongated toes and deep shanks.

a chukka boot under desing

Ok let’s check the other details!

1. Opening. Please, allow your customer just jump in to this shoe! He doesn’t want to use a shoe horn for a chukka! (who the hell would?). So make sure you set the opening deep enough!

2. Lasting allowance. Oh yes. I set a quite big one on it, didn’t I? First: this is a pullover from a stretchy material (the final one will be made from French boxcalf). Second: why not? This is the phase for design. You can change whatever you want, then modify the meanform – that’s what I did.

3. Proportion – this is the tricky part for many of my new colleagues. Don’t worry about rules! They are old, and aren’t meant for new lasts. I give you 3 new rules, on how to create perfect proportions: try, try and try.

4. Backseam. This must be made the most accurate way. You can imagine, as the backseam of the lining and the thick upper leather comes to the same place. For sure there are some tricks. (That I will talk maybe later.)


5. Finally: find a nice style for your shoes! Designers only worry about the upper, but a shoemaker must take care ALL the details, like sole, heel, finish, etc. I would suggest to make a double – or at least a half-double – sole, and minimum 4 sole-attaching technique but not English welt. (You can see English welted chukkas in stores. The reason is because most of the factories have machines that can produce that solely, so they use it for everything. Like a chef, who has tons of mashed potatoes, and use it for everything – familiar? 🙂 )

One thought on “Cold Days, Warm Shoes

  1. Hi Marcell,

    Love your stuff and respect your thoughts. A question: What is the “4 sole-attaching technique” and why is it better than English welting for a chukka?

    Also, I would love a shell cordovan George boot with a Danite sole. About how much would such a boot cost?


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