Some men choose to use their spare time and money learning to play golf. Others learn sailing; car mechanics, DIY and one field sports or another. The least enterprising simply spend it down the boozer. But something interesting and very different came to my attention this week, and I’m sorely tempted to have a go.
On Thursday I visited Deborah Carré and James Ducker, who together form Carréducker Shoes. Specialising in beautiful bespoke shoes for men, and now women, the pair also run a courses in the UK and New York on which you can learn the art and artistry of English handsewn shoemaking. It’s an intensive full time course running consecutively over 12 days. And it’s very much hands on. You’ll be taught the 200 plus processes to making a hand made shoe. This includes selecting and preparing the leather for the soles; hand lasting, skiving and sharpening knives; making threads, hand welting and sole stitching; edge trimming and setting; building heels and finishing.
At the end of the course you’ll have a pair of English Derby shoes made under expert guidance with your own hands. And it’s amazing the kind of people that have been attracted to the course so far. Some are seeking a career change or are students of fashion, but many are people just looking to learn something new and create something beautiful.
Now, I don’t really do holidays and I love to learn things, particularly in relation to my interests. I spend hours reading books and blogs on the art of men’s clothing, but there is only so much you can learn by reading. There is a lot to be said for simply doing something.
A course like this isn’t cheap, but then neither is a fortnight on the Inca trail, or a set of golf clubs and lessons. At £1350 (London) and £1790 (New York) it’s comparable to all sorts of holidaying and free time pursuits. But you get quite a bit for your money. The fee includes full shoemaking notes for the course; a pair of leather uppers for the student’s shoes and a set of tools for the student to keep – lasting pliers, awls & handles, tape measure and knife. A pair of lasts will be provided for you to use during the course. All you have to supply is a heavy duty, long bibbed apron, pencil, ruler and notepad. They also suggest you bring a camera to capture the different stages of the shoemaking process. All the details are available on the Carréducker website.