It’s not too often we see new books about classic men’s shoes – for us shoe nerds it’s always a thrill when it happens. The latest and greatest of these is the book Shoes – The Art of Male Footwear by Hugo Jacomet and Sonya Glyn. Shoegazing have read it.
Title: Shoes – The Art of Male Footwear
Authors: Hugo Jacomet, Sonya Glynn, photography by Andy Julia
Publisher: Olo Èditions
Number of pages: 240
Price: €85 /$99 (available to order via mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or through a few retailers)
Shoes – The Art of Male Footwear is a huge book, in terms of size. It would go by the term coffee table book, but is so large that it could almost be a coffee table itself. It’s not something you carry with you for some beach reading, or casually lay down on the bed to read. You have to sit with it in your knee or placed on a table, which means you also have to give it attention. And all the amazing photos of loads of lovely shoes that this book is filled with sure deserves ones attention. The given pro of the book’s size is that you really get to see the shoes up-close. And when you handle books like this, you realise how superior sharp, high-res photographs in printed format are compared to viewing them on a computer screen – not to mention on a mobile. This way you get as close to the shoes one can possibly get without handling them in person. You can really see the details of the materials, the small creases, the edge treatment, every stitch and every pore of the leather.
Hugo Jacomet and his wife Sonya Glyn are likely known to many, they run the website Parisian Gentleman and the YouTube-channel Sartorial Talks, and have published a number of books on men’s style. This project is the first book dedicated to the topic shoes, it was published in French in 2019 and then the English version came late last year. The book covers a number of bespoke makers and RTW brands, with relatively short texts with info and the background of each brand, one specific model highlighted, and a description of each brands house style. Most focus is on photography though, and as mentioned the images really gets to shine here. It’s divided into the English, French and Italian schools of shoemaking, and then a section about brands from other parts of the world. At the end there’s also a longer interview with the French bespoke shoemaker Stephane Jimenez, which surely is an interesting read.
Personally I would enjoy even more text, but I can see the thought behind a book like this, and even if I consider myself knowing quite a lot I surely gain a bunch of new info here, especially about the history of some of the brands. They have done a good job with research for the book. What could be better though is the fact check, maybe they only have had the brands themselves fact check the texts about them, which results in a number of things that come out a little bit wrong. For example they state that JM Weston is the only RTW-brand who offer penny loafers in seven different widths when a brand like Allen Edmonds have them in ten widths, that Gaziano & Girling should be unique with doing up to three fittings when many bespoke makers do this (or more) if necessary, that Saint Crispin’s should be entirely handmade when they in fact have machine stitched outsoles, etc. It would have benefitted with a sort of unbiased fact check by one or more persons with good shoe knowledge, since the info from brands can be a bit tendentious or that they just don’t know the full picture.
It’s a well written book, easy to read and in almost all cases the correct language is used also for quite technical shoe terms, which isn’t always the case in books about classic shoes. The language is quite pompous in the same manner as Hugo and Sonya usually talk and write about things, the texts in the book are extremely superlative packed. Everything is presented as “amazing”, “famous”, “unique”, “intriguing” and so on, and it doesn’t matter if it’s factory-made Goodyear welted RTW shoes or the finest fully handmade bespoke shoes, it’s all just as “magical” and “immaculate” and “magnificent”. I would have preferred a more toned down and balanced language, but it’s a matter of personal taste (I mean, they are French, and I’m a Swede… plus I know they also want to attract people outside this world, where this might be more needed, so to speak). More of how the final chapter with Stephane Jimenez is, this is refreshingly honest and open (although some of his criticism is a bit off, for example his critique on shoe factories and bespoke makers for not repairing their own shoes, since a lot of them actually do just that, he is on point with the importance of this work and how one should use this to improve the product though).
These are only smaller things though, overall I surely enjoy Shoes – The Art of Male Footwear, and it’s definitely a book that I will leave out in my living room. I can see how guests not knowing anything about shoes can pick this up and browse through the pages a bit, and perhaps understand a bit of the reasons that I find this type of shoes so fascinating. It’s a book that should be of interest both for newcomers who wants to get a good overview of a number of famous bespoke shoemakers and some mainly premium RTW brands, but also those already in-the-know should enjoy it. A nice addition to the relatively recent books we’ve seen on bespoke shoemaking, Gary Tok’s Master Shoemakers (reviewed here) that came a few years ago and the German Bernhard Roetsler’s Herrenschuhe – nach Mass which I hope will also be translated to English soon. We can never have too many books about classic shoes!