Thursday, July 18, 2013

Benefits of a Good Cobbler

Image by johnefrench via Pintrest
Cobbling, or to make or mend shoes and boots, is an impressive art. It also seems to be a dying trade, as in my experience, it has gotten more and more difficult to find cobblers, particularly outside of the city. Lucky for us, New York still has a lot of cobblers, and many have even passed their business and skills on to their children.

Arty's Shoe Repair in Chelsea is one of these -- when I started bringing shoes here years ago, I mostly spoke to the father, but now it is usually his son who greets me. Over the years, I have brought in shoes too many times to count. They have stretched the width or the length of the shoe, or the shaft of the boot. They have re-attached a high heel that broke off in a subway grate, and replaced the top piece (the tiny pad at the bottom of the heel) on the high heels of many, many pairs. They've replaced zippers on both boots and a leather duffel bag, corrected the coloring of a purse with a red dye that was rubbing off on my clothes, added many pairs of soles to new shoes, and replaced soles I didn't get around to protecting before wearing them away. They've replaced leather inserts in a vintage pair of shoes, replaced all the leather on a high heel that I somehow managed to rip, and completed many more tasks I requested.

Today's pick up included rubber soles added to two pairs of shoes, one heel top piece replaced, one pair stretched, and leather insoles added. Total cost: $100.

Each time I bring a pair of shoes to the cobbler, I'm either protecting a purchase so that it will last longer, or fixing an otherwise unwearable shoe or other leather item. I've even purchased boots that did not fit because I knew Arty could stretch them to fit.

Arty's via Yelp
It is surprising what a cobbler is able to fix, so it's always worth asking about any leather item -- even a purse or a leather-bound tie case. I always ask a ton of questions to better understand what they're able to do, and how I will benefit from the options. One interesting bit of information I learned recently is that men's shoes do not need to have soles put on before they are worn, but women's shoes have thinner soles, and will be best protected with a thin rubber bottom added to the sole before wear. I was also told that since men tend to put their feet up on desks more often than women, the sole on men's shoes should not be soled in rubber, but with leather, if done at all.

Arty's Shoe Repair is on Eighth Avenue between 22nd and 23rd streets, but I was recently at Ralph Lauren, and was given the recommendation of a cobbler on Lexington between 70th and 71st who is supposed to be the best of the best. In general, I think a good rule of thumb is finding a cobbler with an old shop crammed full of stuff -- this usually means they've been in business for a long time and have the experience to show for it.

The benefit of finding a good cobbler is that one will be able to fix unwearable shoes instead of tossing them and replacing them with a new pair. This is a great benefit to the budget, but it is also a great benefit to the feet, if one has a pair of shoes that are comfortable.

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