Here’s something you might not have given much thought to as you shop around for a pair of custom boots. Once upon a time every boot-maker worthy of the name custom made their own boot soles – it was simply a part of the deal. An important part. After all, the sole is literally the foundation of a boot. Getting this part right is essential to crafting a pair of perfectly fitting custom boots. The only way to ensure this is to custom make each boot sole, individually, in house, to the precise size and shape of each client’s foot.
Surprisingly – or perhaps not surprisingly in these hurry-up times – few boot-makers take the time and trouble anymore to make their own soles, even those who describe themselves as ‘custom boot-makers’. Typically they order pre-made soles in bulk from companies who stamp them out in standard widths and sizes. This means that the boots they produce will either be slightly too big, or slightly too small, for their client’s feet because real human feet do not come in standard widths and sizes. They won’t be true custom boots.
As genuine custom boot makers, we at Jean Gaborit make each boot sole individually, here in our workshop in France, as we have for the better part of a century, each one shaped and sized for your feet and yours alone. We take no shortcuts.
We start by making a pattern based on the measurements you provide us when you place your order. This pattern is then transferred onto a sheet of leather known in the trade as ‘sole bends.’ This is a special leather that has been slow tanned to make it durable and malleable, ideal for boot soles. From these sheets of leather each sole is then hand-cut to the specific shape of the client’s foot, a true custom service that is seldom found these days and a godsend to those with narrow, wide, or hard-to-fit feet.
The soles are then put through a planer to ensure the correct thickness. These are then ‘turned’ in one of our special routing machines to finish the edges. The next part of the process varies depending on the style of the boot. Flats often have a leather welt added around the perimeter of the sole to make a neat finish. They are then sanded, cleaned and stained to the desired color and finish.
We offer 100% natural rubber lug or commando soles, as well as Vibram ribbed rubber soles. These too are tailored to your personal measurements. They are either cut from sheets or delivered to us to be re-cut to the width and length required for each individual pair of boots. The heels are adjusted for width and length, and then the sole is assembled and fitted to the boot. Final shaping takes place using a fixed high-speed cutting tool and the experienced eye of our master boot makers to create a unique custom sole based on your own foot shape and size. The finishing ink is then applied to the edges of the sole and heels. This this is then hand buffed to an immaculate finish.
It’s slow. It’s time consuming. But when you pull on a pair of perfectly fitting fully custom boots, fashioned to the shape of your feet, we know you’ll appreciate the difference.