As a girl, I always feel sorry for boys with shoe fetishes, because the men's footwear selections always seem so boring and limited. (Then again, I know of at least one man who can stare endlessly and shamelessly at his own Church's black work shoes for hours on end, nevermind the fact that he's in the middle of dinner or you are talking to him.) There's an abundance of funky sneakers, but those aren't work-appropriate and the high-fashion Lane Crawford stuff tends to be a bit over the top. So what recourse does a man of style have, but to custom-design his own pair?
In Hong Kong, it's easy to find stores that do customised footwear, as loads of spots specialize in doing "designer-inspired" designs (cough, knockoff, cough) at lower prices (in the HK$500-1000 range), but if you want the quality to approach that of John Lobb, JM Weston or Church's, these are the spots you should check:
Kow Hoo Shoes, in Prince's Building, has been around since 1946, which is quite a feat considering the face of Hong Kong's shopping districts changes on a yearly basis. They specialize in making Goodyear welted shoes, which is fancy shoe jargon referring to the way in which the shoe is attached to the sole. The Goodyear method is signature of well-made British men's shoes. They also claim to be the only shop in town that creates customized wooden shoe lasts for each individual customer, which means that a wooden "foot" is created in the image of your foot for fitting the shoes. Considering the last time I had shoes made, all the shopkeeper did was put my bare foot on a piece of paper and draw a pencil outline around it, crime-scene style, a real shoe last sounds pretty darn cool. The downside is that you have to wait an average of eight months to get these babies made, and the average cost is HK$5,000, but these are definitely the best in town. Shop 241, 2/F Prince's Building, 10 Chater Road, Central, Hong Kong. Tel: 852 2523 0489.
Mayer Shoe Co. is slightly cheaper (if I recall, around HK$3,000), and can turn things around much quicker (a couple to a few weeks or so). They do fancier, trendier items as well, but it's the classics that keep customers returning to their boutique in the Mandarin Oriental shopping arcade. Supposedly, Henry Kissinger was a regular. Not sure if that's a selling point to anyone; I don't think Kissinger had the same kind of street cred that Imelda Marcos did. They do customized shoe lasts too, but from what I understand, they use pre-made ones in bigger sizes then cut them to fit, which is why they can shave six months off the waiting time. They've also been around for a while, since the 1960s, so the pedigree is there. Mandarin Oriental Arcades, 5 Connaught Rd., Central, Hong Kong. Tel: 852 2524 3317.
It's only a hop and a skip between the two shops, so if you're in the market, then you might as well hit both for yourself and check out the difference.
Image: Kow Hoo Shoes