Boots that you never ever see

May 17, 2017

I got this as an unexpected gift from one of my regular Japanese shoemakers that I paint shoes for. His name is Saburo Kindoh. He runs a tiny bespoke shoe shop with his wife and teenage daughter Haseo. It’s so small they even make handmade buck wheat noodles as well and in the summer. They just hang up a sign that says, ‘closed till we return.’

I have known Saburo for nearly thirty years and he likes the quality of my work and my style of painting shoes very much. He likes to say I am one of the very few shoe painters he knows who never seems to add so much that it robs him of his work. I don’t get much work from Saburo. Maybe three or four pairs a year and it’s been like that ever since I could remember.

He lives a hippie sort of life…work a bit…travel…work a bit…travel. We climbed together during our student days in London.

Recently the Kindoh’s went on holiday to Sweden and while they were there – Haseo got me these pair of unusual boots. She worked on a custom boot for me once, but since it didn’t turn out very well, she got me this pair probably to make up for the muffed job.

Saburo told me one reason why she bought them was because she still remembers my last shape and from what she could make out from the dimensions of the boot – it seems like a perfect fit for my foot.

I tried it on when my sister handed it to me recently – it’s a very good fit. Usually when it comes to mass produced boots I can never ever get the right fit. But this is very good to go!

The design of the boot is traditionally Scandinavian. One piece of beefy steer hide from toe box to heel erector with no breaks in between to keep water out. That’s how they do it over there – it’s strictly no nonsense. The eyelets are aluminium which is a first for me. And the bottom section is held together with the eight inch ankle support by very robust triple stiching that will make this steel toe boots exceptionally durable. The threads are very unusual – I’ve never ever seen anything like this before in all my years of wearing boots.

They will come in very handy during the wet season.

Thank you sweet Haseo.

This is one of shoe painting projects.




‘Because I am autistic. I can never work well with people. In the beginning it’s OK. But as time goes by it only leads to plenty of misunderstandings and grief. So I am quite a sad case. I have to find jobs where I am either the boss or have to work all by myself in one corner.

I’ve always taken a lot of pride in being able to work well with my hands – most people shy away from manual labor, but not me. To me it’s an intensely spiritual experience to be able to trust my hands completely, unreservedly and with an air of quiet confidence.

I am always confused whenever other people don’t seem to respect my labor. As they probably consider it beneath them to work with their hands. I never take it personally…that’s just how people are when they know very little about a thing.

From time to time in my line of work as a shoe dresser I do come across very well informed folk who seem to have a deep respect and even veneration for my work – they ask me questions like how to do you make something as mundane like leather glow with mystery like amber. Their eyes glisten like children when they ask me this. I share with these kindred souls shyly my trade secrets – I take out a piece of raw paraffin blue lapis from my tool bag and I tell them – it’s a stone from the blue mountains in Afghanistan. I place it in their hands. It’s warm to the touch and usually brings a smile and breaks the ice. They bring it to the light with an air of curiousity. I crush it finely with a pestle in a rocking action like the way my master taught me to prepare dyes, till it’s so fine and crumbly like dust. Then I add whale oil and put it on the flame till it bubbles all the while adding ochre, magenta, dill or whatever to prepare the dyes to just the right shade and tone and viscosity…it takes plenty of patience to get it just right…I do it the old way, the way it’s supposed to be done….usually they just sit there quietly and watch me work mesmerised by the steady rhythm of a man working with his hands.

I have painted many many shoes for royalty, heads of states, statesmen, captains of industry.

I consider myself very privileged to be able to offer an incomparable service that very few in this world can match – I am always very proud to work with my hands.’

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