My husband is one of those people who has a personal relationship with his shoemaker. (He has a personal relationship with his tailor and eyebrow-waxer, too, but that’s another story. And between you and me, I’m glad I don’t have to remind him to take care of that unibrow.)
I, on the other hand, know of what shoemakers do only vicariously, through him. I never was particularly inclined to attach taps to the heels and tips of my shoes (in clear only!), or give my shoes a proper shine, change their shoestrings, or resole them. Au contraire, a badly broken shoe usually meant–you guessed it!–an opportunity to buy a new pair.
Recently, however, I acknowledged, grudgingly, that shoemakers can and do make a difference.
See, I purchased these Donald Pliner Cybel loafers as a chic, sporty pair for city-wear. I didn’t want something too sneaker-like (in general, not really my style) and these fit the bill. They were colorful, simple but elegant, looked comfortable, and they were by Donald J. Pliner, which is known for quality and comfort. Also, they were 55% off on sale. I’m a sale whore, what can I say.
Unfortunately, the high cut of the shoe didn’t go well at all with my high arch+high instep combo. In fact, I could barely slip them on. They cut deep into my instep, to the point that it became really painful. Still, not deterred by the ill-fit at home, I decided to wear them outside to break them in (they have suede uppers–how hard could it be?), so I couldn’t return them. Breaking them in turned out to be pretty hard. ‘Excruciating’ comes to mind.
So, I was stuck with a pretty and well-made but impractical shoe–which goes to show how much credence you can put in those online reviews (which for this particular shoe were very good). Each woman’s experience is unique. The stiff instep problem was not mentioned once in the reviews on Zappos, and even more puzzling, over 70% of the reviewers described the shoe as having excellent arch support. Why, these shoes are flat as a pancake! Do they even know what arch support is? Sheesh! (My orthotics take care of my arch problems, but still.)
I just had to consider having them stretched at a shoemaker’s, you know? After all, they had cost over $80 and were now bound to be stuck in my shoe closet for ever. Luckily, I discovered that overcoming my fear of shoemakers really paid off. For only $4, they stretched them for me into a comfortable, relaxed fit. Nay, even luxurious. Yes, a luxurious fit describes this well. Now I can trot around downtown for miles without the dreaded instep chafing (which, by the by, happened with thin or thick socks, no exception).
I think I’m going to form a personal relationship with my shoemaker, too. Totally worth it!