I always wanted to make footwear for movies. Not like a thousand sandals (although the income from that is mentionable), but something visible on the screen. At least for a few second… I mean after let’s leave a little room for actresses and actors as well right?
Well, it happened recently. For confidential reasons I am not going to share much about it, although the experience was unique. Not because I had 3 days to finish the shoes. I can do that – especially fitting wasn’t involved. Which was involved – an authentic 19th century technique: the pegged construction. And it wasn’t enough to do it, they wanted me to “overdo it” – whatever it means in case of a wooden pegged boot. The story was actually funny – these guys just wondered in to my workshop, looking for a little repair for a product, then started to admire my tools, my set of equipment – from the one second bag repair (which actually I don’t even do usually), we quickly moved to a one week collaboration around the clock.
The boot wasn’t too bad. They suggested that I cut all corners to make it fast, but I am not the corner cutting guy – I can’t imagine I make a footwear which is only a prop. What if someone from the crew wants to wear it later? Those boots have my work in them – let’s make them proper. Let’s make them the way my 19th century ancestors would have made them… as much as its possible. Why?
1. we don’t use the same lasts anymore. Those narrow boots are quite impossible to wear nowadays.
2. We don’t have the same leathers. Some would say they were way better than nowadays, although I use an outstanding one: JR. (Sorry for promotion – but they deserve it. 12 month pit tan, all natural ingredients, strict quality control, I have never seen any poor pieces from them. I can’t say the same about… well. others).
3. I don’t have the same quality pegs. I have a lot. Seriously a lot. Probably over a hundred pound. What should I say – I a ma hoarder. (although when it came to movie prop rental it came very handy – they probably got around a thousand tools and it was unnoticeable in work. The wall was a bit sad though)
4. Time. Big factor. Even in that period a hand sewn upper would have been more appropriate – I decided to use a sewing machine. They were around from the middle of the 19th century, so let’s say they used it, OK? (or at least let’s hope that not many footwear expert will watch that scene… like the Adam Sandlers “Cobbler”, when he used a pather for sole stitching. That bothered me a lot.)
And here is the sad thing… As their role was a used shoe (I know), they needed to be aged. It was heart breaking to mess up my own work, right away from the last. To be honest it is not even that easy that it sounds. Of course you can mess up a shoe in one quick second, but the circumstances are special – 19th century people took care of their shoes. They used trees, oils to renovate the leather, shoe cream, they got them to a cobbler to repair. It wasn’t like nowadays, when people mess their shoes up, big time and buy another one. In those time, peasants even took off their shoes when they walked places where nobody seen them, so they could save a little wear on the sole. So – aging a shoe into these circumstances – that needs some thoughts. Wrinkles – obviously. A little bit of sole bending – sure. Discoloration – yes, please. A few stains… after all post industrial revolution.. steam engines everywhere.. so, yes! Wear off – it takes a fine sandpaper and some TLC (tough love and careless in this case). Inside the lining – hmm… a bit of discoloration (alcohol, leather dye mix, spray – done). a few stain marks from polishing – done. A few last scratch and stain with a wax piece – looks like n… old.
Job, done. Looking for the next one.