One common pitfall of proper leather footwear can be mercilessly rigid construction. No matter how impeccable the aesthetics, I find the process of wearing in new shoes to be extremely painful. But everything changed recently after a chance encounter en route to New York.
Seated beside me on the plane was an immaculately dressed man in a poplin shirt and trench, wearing a pair of simple but beautiful brogues – black leather, hand-stitched with mauve thread and fastened with bright red laces. I could see that the shoes were numbered, marked with initials – bespoke. I saw they were worn often, with visibly eroded soles. When I asked my flying partner where he’d purchased his shoes, he scribbled “Esquivel” for me on a paper doily. Shortly afterwards, I found myself purchasing my first pair of “made-to-order” shoes (from $950; full bespoke prices start at $4,500).
My initial fitting revealed I have a leftward-leaning right toe, so the problem was addressed during manufacture. I was asked how I’d like to personalise what we’d created—with my name, a motto, or a date etched on the shoe’s interior or sole – I chose some simple initials on the sole.
I wear the resulting shoes, a variation on the Hobo style, at least once a week and am regularly asked who made them. Esquivels always have a twist – the toe is different; a motif is subtly visible; the laces, also made in the workshop, are hand-rolled from cotton and polyester to create a lustrous texture.
Label founder George Esquivel is fond of French, Italian and English shoe design, which influences the shape of his shoes, but when it comes to manufacture he and his craftsmen work to a “Made in California” mantra, operating out of an Orange County workshop. “The ‘California feel’ means soft leather,” says Esquivel. “I make shoes for guys and girls who want their feet to be comfortable on a plane journey to a meeting but also want to look immaculate when they get there.”