In a workshop near Madrid’s Parque del Retiro, señor Antonio, Glent Shoes’s master shoemaker, sits monocled at his workbench as he applies the finishing touches of polish to a pair of loafers. The atelier, redolent of rich leather and fresh rubber, looks much the same as a medieval Spanish workshop might have: bolts of fabric on the walls, rows of wooden shoe molds, and a chest of hammers, pliers, and needle-pointed awls of every size and description. Like his father and grandfather, Antonio has dedicated his career to crafting superb customized shoes, preserving Spanish leatherworking and cobblery traditions renowned across Europe since the Renaissance.
Antonio usually completes about a dozen pairs of shoes per day, but the loafers in question—customized with eel leather—have monopolized most of his workday. Eel leather is trickier to work with, but the material, paper-thin and silky, yields a shoe of unrivaled comfort and visual texture. “Eel loafers are perfect for those who like to stay out late partying,” Antonio says. “The leather is so supple that your feet never get tired, even after an entire night of dancing.” A few final brushstrokes of polish later, he holds up the finished product: a chestnut-brown loafer with the pattern of fine-grained maple wood. The shoes are nothing short of an objet d’art.
Ancient Tradition Married with Innovation
After visiting Glent’s flagship store in Madrid, I purchased a pair of custom Oxford dress shoes for about $400. These kicks from Glent, my first pair of customized shoes, are so comfortable and handsome that I’m now a bespoke footwear devotee.
Customizing my shoes took about half an hour in the store, and they arrived at my apartment in New York City about five weeks after my visit to Madrid. The first step was generating a 3D map of my feet with Glent’s in-store digital reader. The data allowed Antonio to not only customize the length and width of each of my shoes, but also to account for my trotters’ idiosyncratic contours and angles.
After the mapping process, I sat down with Glent’s in-house podiatrist, Dr. Sara Parejo, to discuss my walking habits, the weather conditions where I live, and my general needs and wants from footwear. Dr. Parejo noted that my left foot is a half-size larger than my right, likely a consequence of playing competitive sports in college. Not to worry, though, she assured me. Antonio, guided by my data, will craft a pair of shoes that hug my feet.
Parejo also elaborated on the unexpected ways that custom insoles can enhance one’s quality of life. For example, customers looking for extra height often use a special insert affording an inch or two of lift. Or to remedy flat feet, custom insoles can strengthen the foot’s arch, potentially staving off knee and spinal problems later in life.
After the podiatric consultation came the fun part: choosing the style, leather, and embellishments for my new shoes.
Glent offers a catalog of exotic leathers including the likes of eel, ostrich, alligator, and crocodile–though exotic leathers can quickly increase the price of your shoes by thousands of dollars. Resisting the temptation for ostentation, I opted for classic dark-brown cow leather for my Oxfords.
Glent makes excellent boots, driving shoes, and even sneakers, but the company’s signature model is its loafer: thick-heeled, sleek, and classic in design. Since I already own several pairs of high-quality loafers, I went with the Oxford shoe, Glent’s second most popular model. As a delightful lagniappe, Antonio embossed my name on the insole of each shoe, a nice flourish because, hey, my new shoes are unlike any others in the world.
Are Customized Dress Shoes Worth the Price?
Luxury shoes will inevitably run you a pretty penny, but if you’re committed to the investment, getting the perfect fit is imperative. Ill-fitting dress shoes, no matter how gorgeous, will just end up collecting dust in your closet. My Glent Oxfords, about $400, were a splurge for me, but they have already seen more use than any other dress shoe in my wardrobe.
For my feet, customization makes a difference in comfort. With my Oxfords, there’s none of that awful pinching around the toes I have endured with other dress shoes. The glove-like fit is a godsend during prolonged stints on my feet. Also, to reiterate a pearl of wisdom from Parejo, foot health is inextricably linked with general health–especially skeletal and joint integrity later in life.
As much as I appreciate Glent’s hyper-customization, the brand’s commitment to traditional Spanish shoe making techniques is what initially sold me. The quality of the leather and craftsmanship is second to none. Unlike mass-produced dress shoes, every pair of Glent shoes bears the personalized imprint of a master artisan, and no two pairs are identical.
For care, Antonio recommends polishing your shoes once a month. This routine not only keeps the leather looking immaculate but also prolongs its life. Glent shoes are built to last but should be resoled by a skilled cobbler every few years. If you live in a rainy climate, consider applying a veneer to keep the leather water-resistant.
How to Order Shoes from Glent
While you can order off-the-shelf Glent shoes online, you can only fully customize your shoes after putting your feet on their reader in the Madrid store. The good news is that once Glent has your 3D-map, you can keep ordering bespoke shoes from them indefinitely (as long as your pedal specs don’t change). If you can’t swing a trip to Madrid, you can still customize the leather, style, and embellishments for Glent shoes in generic sizes. You can set up a phone call with someone at their store through their website.Learn More