OAK STREET BOOTMAKERS

This post is also available in: Ita

When George Vlagos was still attending the middle school, his father, a Greek cobbler, used to take him in his workshop every Saturday to make the son polish the shoe to be delivered; his primary aim was to make him aware about how much hard manual labour is, trying at the same time to push the son into getting a good educational qualification and finding a different job. Well, actually he achieved the opposite result. George has anyway travelled abroad to study English, he also got a degree but, ultimately, the employment which allowed him to buy a ‘good pair of shoes’ has taken him back to the family company – also driven by the thought that finding cool footwear was very difficult.

Vlagos didn’t have so particular or unreachable expectations, his idea was the one of a made in America shoe, in premium leather, which could have been bought at a reasonable cost; and he got surprised when he realized that realities characterised by these three simple traits (on the agenda twenty-thirty years ago) were little by little disappearing. Once back from his study trips, George started an out-and-out apprenticeship in the workshop of the father, with whom he learnt the work of creating handmade shoes with topflight fabrics and vintage techniques – which for sure would have lasted very long.

Moreover, during the many activity years, George’s father tumbled to the change that was taking place into his own job sector day by day, especially within the footwear fixing up: many of them either were produced in low quality fake leather – impossible to resole – or were showing a pre-printed gum sole which could not have been repaired. This input as well instilled in George the wish to produce the same shoes he was seeking for himself too; so in Maine he found a shoemaker who (in the best way) could have handsewn his designs – according to his opinion, infact, the last area in America where skilled leather sewing artisans still can be found is the state of Maine indeed.

All the Street shoes and boots are created respecting the highest production standards from people boasting more than a twenty years experience in the field, in order to produce as tough as comfortable footwear; highest standards mean also the hides from Chicago’s company Horween, one of the whole America’s most historic tanneries. Each shoe crafted by Street is made of the renowed ‘Chromexcel’ leather (the society’s lead product), which has to withstand eight-ynine different processes during a period of twenty-eight days before being used. That is a method which remained constant since a hundred years, with the same natural base procedures making this hide one of the best available on the market. Counting on this very precise key points to start the production, August 31st2010 George launched the Oak Street Bootmakers, without any market strategy, actually through just a post on the blog of the friend James Wilson; and as the brand’s founder says: “When I googled ‘OSB’ the first time there was nothing online, not even our website appeared; then within twenty-four hours websites and blogs of different countries were talking about Oak street, and at the end of the day I sold all the shoes I had produced”.

To this day Oak Street Bootmakers brand are having a great success thanks to two movements which got a foothold in these last years: the growing popularity of trends-dedicated websites and blogs as well as, especially, the return in American fashion of the idea of spending a superior amount of money for a higher product on a quality level (which will age in style). And let’s not forget that the models created by George show a look in typical Americana taste… modern revivals of classic silhouettes such as penny loafers, boots, and topsiders.