Leather Craft


We came upon this shop after brunch last Saturday. I love to find gems like this–ones that we’ve somehow missed these past few years, despite living just blocks away. A simple, beautiful belt in the window drew us in; but what we found was perhaps even more exciting.
Barbara Shaum is apparently a well-known sandal maker (otherwise I might be tempted to keep her a secret): now in her 80s, she has been making custom-fit leather sandals since 1954, and the walls of her small shop are papered with the many fashion magazines from around the world that have featured her work.

In a turnaround time of about four weeks, she measures, cuts, and molds each handmade pair to each client’s feet–for $350 and up. “They used be $12 a pair,” she told us–back when the authorities thought only public enemies (those hippies!) wore “Jesus sandals.” That was a long time ago.

She had some shoes that were worn for photo shoots or otherwise available to try on at the store. We chatted and looked through her selection, and shopped for Ashley’s fantasy-pair–there are around 30 varieties that she custom-makes in the leather of your choosing. What a treasure!

Interesting side note: in the 70s, Barbara Shaum was among the first women to be served at McSorley’s Ale House–this wonderfully atmospheric, East Village Irish Pub that dates back to the 19th century.
Mike the Knife Man
Magnificent Specimen...
Bicycle. Bicycle.
Under the Williamsbu...

Let’s Discuss

  1. I completely agree, Gabby! She seemed as though she'd had a wonderful, colorful career–and life. She told us she'd learned from Isadora Duncan's son (on nephew?) after he and Isadora came back from Greece. I got the sense there were a lot of good stories in that shop.

  2. I once worked with a woman who had a pair of these sandals. I mentioned that perhaps I would find a second hand pair one day and she said "never. nobody would ever get rid of them". I forgot that story until I read your post. What a treasure that shop is, and Barbara of course. Fun to see what it all looks like all these years later.

  3. Laura- you should! although I bet in Mexico in the 60s they weren't so pricey.
    Jeanette- there was one interview which said an owner finally came in for a second pair after 30 years! quality lasts I guess.
    Rambling Tart-
    Do you still have some of the work? It would be cool to see it now–and to learn how to make them yourselves.

  4. Not only do your pictures draw us in, but then to actually talk to the subject is wonderful! I can just imagine how good the shop smelled and how tempting it must have been to want to stay and hear some stories. Thank you!

  5. That's so cool that she lines her walls with photos of her shoes in fashion magazines. I love that and I love how dedicated she is to her craft. What a gem indeed.

  6. Loved this post and I just adore this kind of shop. So wonderful that Barbara's business is still going strong and that she has found a new audience through your lovely blog. I will visit as soon as I can get to NYC!

  7. what a lovely blog you have. i just discovered you today (via joslyn at simple lovely) and read all the way back to here (in one sitting 😉 ) you have such a beautiful life. and evidently a wonderful camera! cheers!