Yesterday the legendary Swedish bespoke shoe and bootmaker Janne Melkersson sadly passed away. After over 45 years in the trade there wasn’t much about shoemaking he didn’t know, and he spent the last decades passing this knowledge on to others. A beloved man that will be truly missed.
This is the most personal obituary I’ve written here on Shoegazing. Even if I’ve known many of the other makers and shoe people I’ve written about, Janne Melkersson was a good friend. Sweden isn’t a big country, hence the quality shoe community here is a small one, where more or less everyone know each other. The first time I met Janne was when he together with the folks at Skomakeri Framåt were part of the first edition of the Super Trunk Show in Stockholm back in 2014, where they showcased shoemaking live to all the visitors.
I had of heard a lot about Janne before meeting him, and been in contact with him digitally and talked to him on the phone, so I knew he was a nice guy. But meeting him still overwhelmed me. He was so kind and friendly, and cool. Coming from Northern Sweden where people are known for often being calmer, he had that relaxed air around him. And he had so much knowledge about shoes and shoemaking, a dream person to hang out with for someone like me with a huge shoe interest but who especially back then had a lot to learn.
The following year, 2015, I went up to Hara in the north of Sweden to visit Janne Melkersson in his home, and spend a week together for a shoemaking course where we made a bespoke shoe together (well, I wanted the end result to be good, so Janne did most of the work…). It was a great time, and we’ve been good friends since then. We’ve met every now and then, talked on the phone and texted regularly. He was one of the shoemakers that I turned to for various questions, and occasionally he asked me things that he knew I knew more about. I had two more pairs made by him, and I helped him build his website. We last talked this summer when there were some issues with this that I tried to resolve.
This Tuesday, Janne Melkersson got a severe stroke, and yesterday he sadly passed away, at the age of 70. One of his children, Melvin, wrote about it on Janne’s Instagram this morning, and since then condolences from near and far have came in. It’s clear what an impact Janne had on the persons that met him. And it’s clear what an important person he’s been for the independent shoemaking scene internationally, and how he has had a huge impact in keeping the shoemaking craft alive here in my home country Sweden.
Janne came from a family that had been shoemakers for several generations, so also his father. But when things changed during the second half of the 20th century the shoemaking business started to disappear in Sweden, and his father said to him that “there is no future for a shoemaker”. Janne couldn’t help himself though, and soon he started working for a cobbler, and his winding journey in the shoemaking world began, this was in the 1970’s. It took him from cobblery to orthopedic shoemaking, to starting his own bespoke shoe and bootmaking business which eventually led him to an international success not least in the US. The last 1,5 decade or so though, his focus has been on shoemaking courses, where people from all over the world travelled to his workshop in northern Sweden to do the same one or two weeks courses that I took there in 2015.
A sign of Janne Melkersson’s generosity was how he would consider the lasts that he made for customers or for students as their property, they could have them at his workshop to order more shoes from him or just take them with them and do whatever they wish with them. The same thing with his patterns, students were free to copy them and use them as they wished. He saw no reason for everyone to reinvent the wheel, better they got a head start and hopefully could push things from there. For Janne, the shoemaking craft was much more important than himself. That’s why his passing is such a loss for this sphere.