The slender elegance of a high heeled boot is wonderfully easy to see and admire – who can help but notice! – but have you ever given thought to the design, craftsmanship and engineering that goes into creating the heels themselves? Or the careful consideration that goes into selecting the right shape and height of heel for the style and size of boot a client wants to have made?
We have, of course – as boot-makers and boot lovers it’s our business and our passion – and so we thought we’d share with you today a little of what goes into creating a custom pair of beautiful, well-heeled boots from the ground up.
We start with the construction of the heel itself. They have to be delicate enough to look sleek and beautiful on a dainty pair of boots in size 34 and yet be sturdy enough for a guy who takes a size 48 and might weigh upwards of 120 kilograms. There can be no skimping on design, materials or construction. In this regard the Italian heel makers, from whom we – and indeed nearly all the great fashion houses – source our heels, are the very best, artists and sculptors in their own right.
For a high heels especially, the high-tensile rolled steel pin that runs up through the centre of the heel must be of exceptionally high quality and perfectly positioned in the heel itself. This is usually done by hand, and requires a steady nerve and a good eye by the injection press operator when the heels are being made.
While the same general styles of heel can be used on either a shoe or a boot, the heel has to fit the angle of the footbed, which will vary with size, and have a large enough ‘seat’ so it can be screwed or staked securely onto the shoe or boot.
After the technical requirements have all been met the next consideration for us, as custom boot-makers, is styling – making sure that the style of heel suits the toe shape of the last and is in harmony with the overall shaping and appearance of the boot, and works with the type of leather and the colours that have been chosen by the client.
Finally there is the finishing. Most of our heels are finished in leather. For this we use fine thin leather, between 0.5 and 0.6mm thick, which we cut it to a pre-prepared pattern. Applying it to the heel is a skilled task. The trick is to make certain there are no air bubbles between the leather and the injection moulded plastic of the heel itself. To do this the front face of the heel is slightly roughened to allow the leather to grip and bond more neatly.
Chunkier heels are slightly easier to fit and prepare.
Leather heels for lower heeled boots or flats require a great deal of time and preparation. After the layers of leather are bonded together they must be machined to the correct shape and size. They are then nailed or screwed into position, given a final light sanding and stained or coloured to the appropriate hue.
For more on the manufacture of high heels, check out the website of Tacchificio Riviera – a venerable Italian heel manufacturing company (founded in 1945) who produce heels for the likes Gucci and Chanel. We visited their factory yesterday on our swing through Italy and felt like kids in a candy store.