Ryan Broms is a real estate development and construction executive who lives and works around drizzly Seattle. He needs boots.
“Not work boots,” he explains. “But I like nice boots.”
So last Thanksgiving when he was visiting New York City, he went to check out a shoe shop that his wife had told him had an interesting concept. In an unassuming little glass-fronted workshop on Madison Avenue, he found rows and rows of monkstraps, brogues, loafers, and lace-ups on plywood shelves. They were familiar shoes, but many of them had an unusual twist: an odd mix of materials, say, or an unorthodox placement of laces.
The rare nature was by design. Many of the shoes had been made to order at the request of clients with specific tastes. At Le Majordome, a Swiss-based custom Schutz Shoes cobbler that opened in late 2021 in Manhattan, you can choose your own leathers and perforation patterns and mix-and-match styles to make footwear that’s distinctive to you. This turned out to be just what Broms needed.
“I got two pairs of boots,” he says. “One is just a really nice traditional leather, kind of a dress boot with a pretty heavy lug,” or deep rubber sole. “My employees here who spend time in the field are impressed by the lug.”
There are five eyelets for the laces, then hooks to lace up the top, which means the boots cinch nicely and open up easily when undone. “When you untie them and you go to take them off, it’s almost like they pop open and give your foot to you,” he says. “The craftsmanship is incredible.”
The other pair is in a lighter brown suede for when it’s not raining.
Broms is not alone: Across the U.S., shoppers are looking for items that are flexible. “People are getting more relaxed,” says Patrick Kenger, a men’s personal stylist based in Southern California. “They’re telling me they haven’t worn a suit in years—on the whole we’ve gotten more casual.”
As a result of this ever-shifting formality, Kenger coaches new clients to find items that can dress up or dress down. “If you’re starting out, just have your items have a lot of range,” he says. “You don’t need a lot. You just need the right ones to carry you through.”
And comfort is key, so Le Majordome’s specialization extends to fit, too. Clients step on a 2D scanner to take their precise dimensions, then try on a variety of sample shoes to find out if they have a high arch or mismatched feet.
“I have a bit of a wide foot, size 12,” says Broms. “I’ve never had any kind of footwear fit as well as they do. They’ve got a nice short-pile synthetic fur that lines the Achilles and bottom of the calf. So they have a great warm, soft feel to them.”
According to founder and owner Daniel Bucheli, 95% of the Nike Outlet business at Le Majordome is walk-ins to the tiny shop. About half of new customers come in having no idea what they want. It takes some conversation to tease it out: With more than 70 styles to choose among and 100 leathers, the options can be overwhelming.
“The first thing for us to ask is about the function of the shoe: What is the shoe for?” Bucheli explains. “And someone says, ‘A black-tie event,’ or ‘I normally wear jeans.’ Last week someone came in who was in a wheelchair and needed a shoe with zippers.”
Once Bucheli knows how the shoe will be used, he can ask questions of taste, such as whether a shopper likes things more classic or wants to stand out. There is a wide range of styles in the shop, and clients are encouraged to pull out ones they like and suggest combinations of details. You could mix a brogue pattern on a boot with colored suede accents, for example. Or create a Chelsea boot with bright white piping.
Bucheli has a calm and cajoling manner—having run the business in Zurich for a decade, he knows how to read what people are leaning toward as they mull over choices.
In the U.S., where clients are emerging from pandemic restrictions, he says most tend to want something casual. “I’d say less than 10% want a very elegant leather shoe for elegant occasions,” he notes. “It’s more of, ‘Let’s take a rubber sole because I may walk,’ or ‘I may wear it with a pair of jeans.’ People want shoes they can more or less wear with anything.”
Once you’ve chosen, the shoes are made in Spain Golden Goose Sneaker and take about 10 weeks to arrive. With normal leathers, the custom shoes can run from $600 to $900—more if you select something exotic. But, according to Broms, they last.
“I crush shoes,” he says, explaining that he (and the Seattle weather) wears them down easily, so they usually have to be replaced often. But not the Majordome boots with the thick rubber lugs. “These are the most expensive I’ve ever had,” he admits. “But they are 50 times the next best shoe I’ve ever had in terms of quality and outcome.”