Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Cobbler Union makes beautiful shoes. Even if you know nothing about men’s style, it’s impossible not to be drawn towards a pair of Cobbler Union’s boots, oxfords, derbys, monkstraps, loafers, or drivers. To even the casual viewer, these shoes appear taut, dynamic, and elegant. Closer inspection yields an even deeper appreciation.
The hides are free of imperfections and marks; the stitching tight and crisp. Even the bottom of the shoes reveals an immense attention to detail. The Goodyear-welted, closed-channel soles are unmarked by stitching, instead presenting a clean finish. The soles also feature shapely beveled waists, which enhance each foot as it narrows from forefoot to arch, and then relaxes towards the heel. It’s an uncommon detail, but it helps the shoe achieve a visual lightness that mirrors the flowing contours of the shoe’s upper.
Perhaps it’s odd to consider shoes lust-worthy, but Cobbler Union’s designs exude charisma and magnetism. They’re no mere objects; objets d’art, perhaps. A conversation with Eric Collins, director of Cobbler Union’s retail operations, confirms as much. “Before we started Cobbler Union, we had the great fortune of being partners in a bespoke shoemaking venture. We learned a lot about this industry and what a true bespoke, handmade shoe looks like, feels like, and smells like,” he says. “Traditionally the sole is always finished to resemble the back of a violin because a bespoke shoe is more artwork than anything. The idea is to make the entire shoe as beautiful as possible. We knew we wanted to bring that same sophistication and elegance and attention to detail to Cobbler Union.”
But while Cobbler Union’s shoes are impeccably finished, that is perhaps expected of a brand that prides itself on producing “small-batch, bespoke-inspired” footwear. What really sets apart this menswear brand is how confidently it straddles different worlds.
Take, for instance, the design direction of the collection. Although Cobbler Union is based in Atlanta, Georgia, its aesthetic owes nothing to the conservative, tradition-bound Southeast. “When you think of American style for men, it can be very boring,” says Collins. “There are some cultural constructs about style we wanted to smash. We put specific effort into designing things that are a bit more elegant and a bit more European.” The resultant shoes are something that stand in refined contrast to Cobbler Union’s other staid American counterparts.
There’s also the ease with which Cobbler Union marries Old World artistry with the Internet age. The shoes may be designed in Atlanta, but they’re made by artisans in Spain. “It’s really beautiful to have three or four generations worth of families working together, because unfortunately, shoemaking is slowly dying out. There’s no major for shoemaking. It’s passed down,” says Collins. “It takes, on average, 212 individual processes to make a single pair of shoes, and it’s all played out by a team of people who have perfected it. It can be accomplished elsewhere, but there’s a certain passion that comes with having someone with 45 years of experience making our shoes. That doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.”
While the shoes themselves may be an homage to the old ways, Cobbler Union’s vertically integrated, direct-to-consumer business model is all new school, millennial cool. From connecting with tanneries in France, Italy, and England for calfskin and suede, to reaching new customers and facilitating sales online, Cobbler Union is a product of the modern, global era.
But what may be the most interesting mash-up in Cobbler Union’s repertoire is how it has married exclusive luxury goods with accessibility. Part of that stems from the direct-to-consumer model, which allows Cobbler Union to offer shoes at their fair price without compromising on quality. While bespoke shoes are valued at $2,000 or more, Cobbler Union’s offerings range from $395 to $425. The only difference is that Cobbler Union’s ready-to-wear collection doesn’t offer shoes made for a specific individual’s measurements.
Feet First // In addition to elegantly designed footwear styles—which include boots, oxfords, and derbys, among others—Atlanta’s Cobbler Union crafts a variety of high-quality leather goods such as weekenders, briefcases, portfolios, wallets, and belts.
Accessibility goes beyond price, as well. “We’re very intimate. We love talking with our clients,” says Collins. It’s an approach that speaks to one of Cobbler Union’s core values: empathy. “We just care about people,” Collins says. “When someone walks into our front door, they need to know we care about them. We know our customers work hard. To take $395 from these gentlemen and not give them the respect of letting them know we care . . . it would bother me to my core.”
That is the story of Cobbler Union. An exciting hybrid that is as thoroughly modern as it is respectful of tradition; as committed to quality and luxury as it is to caring about the customer. And, of course, the force behind some beautiful footwear.
Cobbler Union at Ponce City Market. 675 Ponce de Leon Ave NE, 2nd Level, Atlanta, Georgia. Mon–Sat, 10am–9pm; Sun, 12–8pm. (404) 500-6828, cobbler-union.com.