“The first rule of Project Mayhem is that you do not ask questions…”
this may be my new teaching mantra
I am considering calling my custom footwear “Mayhem Shoes” (at least until Chuck Palahniuk’s space monkey lawyers make me stop).
I teach a couple classes about low-tech shoemaking a few times per year in the primitive survival skills community. The designs I focus on are styles that can be made by one person in one day; a popular theme in early historic examples. Some require a lot of cutting, some require sewing. There is an off-grid, neo-Luddite attitude about making your own shoes. In fact, I think I will register the name Dystopian Leather Works as my new business. I’m considering a small business venture to go into custom production of the shoes I teach people to make as well as expanding the custom leather work I currently produce.
The kinds of people that take these classes are from all walks of life, not just survivalists, historical nerds, or experimental archaeologists, but folks who want to make things for themselves for whatever reason. I’m finding that there are others who might just want the handmade product without the labor of making them. In a day, an attentive student can produce a wearable (and good-looking) pair of serviceable shoes like the carbatina (ghillies) above.
For those looking for a more modern look a fine pair of sandals can be made with just a few hours, cutting and sewing. These are easily re-solable and should last the better part of a lifetime. Look familiar? Chaco and Teva didn’t exactly re-invent the wheel; just updated the materials and outsourced the work overseas. Even in the wilds of Canada, traditional ghillies can be a useful part of the wardrobe. Mike made these two years ago and they still protect his sturdy peasant feet.
There is something very satisfying about taking a piece of nondescript, vegetable tanned leather and creating a lasting and useful object with your own hands.
The beauty is truly in the details. Serious students often bevel and burnish edges to give their shoes a “finished” look, suitable for public wear.
Above, a student trial fits the uppers before attaching the outsole. In my classes, the outermost sole on any of these shoes may be a durable Vibram material, a softer but grippy Soleflex, or natural leather. The latter option is popular with those who are interested in treading lightly on the earth or those who are concerned with earthing or grounding.
Bowing to modern convenience. For the classes, we use contact cement to adhere the insole, mid-sole, and outsole. This insures a good connection and will hold up even if the stitching doesn’t last forever.
Trial fitting a ghillie after soaking in water. They feel ridiculously thick and stiff for the first hour or two but tend to suddenly relax an become a part of the foot after a soak in neatsfoot oil.
Above are few photos from previous classes. Thanks to all who come and make!