Cydwoq: handmade shoes designed by an LA architect

They ain't cheap, but Cydwoq's hand-made-in-Los-Angeles shoes are heart-thumpingly handsome. Comfortable, too, if the couple pairs I've bought over the years are any indication. I've just worn out a pair after five years, and I've taken advantage of the occasion to order a new set. My wife loves the pair I bought for her for our wedding, too.




  1. I was depressed because I had no shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet.
    So I asked him “You wouldn’t have a pair of shoes you’re not using, would you?”

  2. Well done Cydwoq. Those of us who refuse to buy Communist Chinese products applaud your efforts. I have to have a local cobbler make my simple beach flip-flops because “REEF” and all the other past American makers now rely on Chinese slave labor. American consumers and working people need you to succeed. Best of luck bucking the anti- American “Moe-mart” hosers.

  3. $300.

    for shoes.

    It’s easy to pay that much for good dress shoes, for either men or women.

    It is definitely a luxury though, for $60 or less you can of course find a perfectly presentable pair if you don’t crave something handmade or unique.

  4. Without exaggeration, these are the ugliest $300 shoes I’ve ever seen.

    If I ever gave any of these to the woman in my life, I expect she’d beat me with them.

  5. I thought, for the first sentence, that I was about to learn of some iconoclastic late 19th century architect that had designed some interesting, perhaps unusually modernly styled shoes, and that the pictures were of some recently excavated examples of his art as seen, perhaps, in a little known San Francisco museum of footwear oddities from centuries past.

    Took me a while to process “Comfortable, too, if the couple pairs I’ve bought over the years are any indication.”

  6. Ahhh! Steampunk shoes!

    But what is important to me is — do they keep the water out? The design doesn’t look very waterproof.

    As for spending a lot of money on a pair of shoes, if they happen to fit 100% great, and you like the looks (each to their own!) you’ll end up wishing you’d bought two pairs. That happened to me with a pair of Sebagos, and yes, they kept the water out :). The most comfortable shoes I ever bought (and no need to change for sailing). By the time they wore out, they had discontinued the design.

    Damn fashion! Good things should be available for ever!

  7. Cry, y’r gns, bt smtms y jst hv gt t b fckng dt.

    Ths shs lk lk ss nd y’r fl fr wstng hndrds f bcks n thm.

  8. I also don’t find these visually appealing, but that’s fashion for you.

    Unlike other commenters up thread I do support paying $300 for hand made shoes.

    Shoes that you can wear daily for 5+ years, that fit you well, are comfortable, unique and make you happy just to look at them, all for $0.16 a day?

    That’s a freaking steal! I spend 5x that on razor blades. But beyond that it supports the work of people who are craftsmen (and women) of the highest order. It keeps that money out of Walmart’s hands, and they’re more environmentally sound since they a) last longer, b) don’t travel here from China, and c) don’t use any plastics or other crap.

  9. I looked at every shoe on that website and found only one pair that I might actually wear. I think the idea of buying handmade shoes is awesome but I much rather go to a store that specializes it and measures my feet correctly before making a $300 pair of shoes that I would be wearing for the next few years. Nothing would be worse than spending that much on a pair of shoes online that look differently than pictured, don’t fit correctly, and you can’t return.

  10. There’s a place (or used to be) on Thayer St in Providence that makes MUCH nicer handmade shoes for that price. Can’t remember the name.

  11. Wait – this is totally confusing. What does “hand made” here mean?

    Maybe this is an American thing, but here in the UK, if you say your shoes (or clothes) are “hand made” then that means bespoke: the opposite of “ready made.” In turn, hand made means that the person who made them made them for you: they measured you up, talked to you about them, etc.

    Using the term “hand made” and saying you bought them off a web site doesn’t make sense unless you think there are shoe-making machines out there. Ever been to a shoe factory? Humans everywhere.

  12. Gilgongo, here “handmade” means the opposite of machine-made. What you’re talking about we would call custom-made.

  13. @ gilgongo, I’ve NEVER heard that definition (but then I’ve never been to the UK). What you describe seems to go by the name “custom-made”–the vast mounds of vendor-crap at festivals, elementary school craft sales, these beautiful shoes, and quite a few power-tooled things bought in catalogues are “hand-made”–meaning, I think, only that they were not made in an automated assembly line, since I’ve seen quite a few pieces of hand-made kitsch that was made in vast quantities.

  14. “Audacious yet composed, this shoe embodies the qualities of our President in its attempt to reconcile two dividing folds of leather.”

    Hooooooly christ are these things pretentious. Shoes that say ‘california douchebag’ the moment you enter the room. Still, if you WANT to say ‘california douchebag’ they’re a bargain.

    “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap” -Dolly Parton

  15. @gilgongo

    From a New Zealand perspective, I would say these shoes would fit with the definition of hand made. As far as I can tell, hand made here does not = bespoke. Rather it would mean not mass produced. Therefore the definition wouldn’t exactly fit with that given by Shelby Davis either, as things made in vast quantities would likely not be considered hand made.

    Of course, as noted that’s all a bit of a farce as most items we buy are handmade – usually by people in Asia in large factory shops. I think in a post-modern sense people are amazed by hand made items as most people lack the skills to make items such as clothing that in the past were readily made by my mother and grandmother. I know people are always amazed when I mention that I have hand made many of my partner’s shirts and pants. Maybe people really believe that there are huge automated clothing construction machines out there.

  16. save $100. buy campers. you can spend your savings on some “hand made” jeans or some other shabby chic piece of nonsense.

  17. Ok, not to heap on the negative here, but I bought handmade leather shoes in Italy that were made to the exact specs of my feet. And they were the equivalent of $USD 60.

    And they looked nice…But, everyone has their own style.

    $300 for handmade maybe if they were just handmade for you. But $300 for hobo shoes. Hmmmm.

  18. “Old world craftsmanship…”

    I doubt the maker of these shoes has actually ever met an old world craftsman. I would bet diamonds to dust there were better cordwainers out there 1000 years ago.

    It’s a genuine shame true craftsmen (and women of course) have fallen by the wayside and newer generations have no clue what it truly means to be one.

  19. @25 jaan

    “it’s a genuine shame…”

    Hold up a tick there. Yes, the guy who makes these is named Rafi and yes, he sells dozens of pairs to Real Housewives of LA. Nevertheless, the DOES seem to care about them and his production line looks really solid:

  20. Eeeeeek. Not my style. But also for another hundred or so you have always been able to order hand made and even made to order shoes from very skilled craftspeople. The kind of shoe that can’t actually go out of style. In fact you can probably have shoes made for less. There are people who have been doing this for a long time and it’s great if you care about quality to get a pair of truly well made shoes.

    If you already have the $$$ to buy these then you might look into it. 300 is just too much for how awful (my opinion only) these look. To me, spending 300 on these is no better than picking up a pair of Louboutins or something on clearance at Nieman’s.

  21. They may look odd, but trying them on will have you hooked. A small boutique in Winnipeg carried them, and they are truly awesome to wear.

  22. This was the funniest set of comments I’ve ever seen in one thread… You asked for it Cory.

  23. @4 (and others)

    Yep, navigation doesn’t work in Firefox and barely in IE. I’m soo going to give them my credit card info. Not.

  24. Handmade, $300 shoes should last a lot longer than five years. Won’t they resole them for you?

  25. Not being a big ‘shoe fashion’ person I’m rather neutral about the shoes (if I could wear my Doc Marten sandals everywhere I would be one happy individual), but a few of those bags are pretty droolworthy. I do wish the site let you examine things from more than one angle, though …

  26. My biased opinion: Some of Cydwoqs are kinda neat looking, some are a bit raggedy side. They certainly are distinctive. Cory vouches for their durability, so they sound like a quality product.

    On the price: $200 to $300, well… probably more than I’d spend at the moment, but I tend toward the frugal. But for those of you who think that’s totally outrageous, check out the prices on the shoes in this frightening little GQ article that I tripped across only moments after reading Cory’s post:

    That’s right… you can spend 2 or 3 times more than the Cydwoqs for Made in China, mass manufactured, off-the-shelf salary-man corporate drone shoes. Now THAT’s depressing.

    A couple hundred for something you use every day and will last several years is not particularly outrageous in my book, and can often prove to be the best value overall.

    As has been stated elsewhere in this thread, if the Cydwoqs aren’t your stylistic cup of tea, there are other custom shoe makers out there. Support your local/regional craftsperson, etc. If and when I spring for some nice leather shoes, I hope to find such a maker.

    In the meantime, I guess I’ll keep wearing my Vietnamese-made All-Stars, although even the prices on those are making me grimace lately. $45 for a lousy pair of Chucks? Good thing I found several pair on a heavy discount last month.

  27. I wore DMs til they went to China.

    Then I wore Fluevog and Blundestone til they left.

    Hopefully these might fit the bill of what I need for the next decade.

  28. Seriously – you HAVE to go to their website – the women’s shoes and sandals are amazing!!! Right out of the box you could do a day at Disneyland – they are that comfortable, even the heels!!!! I have tons of pairs. I only paid full price for a few and have got my fix buying on ebay and on sale at various boutiques. CYDWOQ’s are amazing!!!

  29. Just in terms of style, that top shoe is quite sexy (maybe sans the fuzzy lace)… the bottom one is not so much. I wasn’t able to navigate their site at first (with firefox) then it just worked for no reason. The ladies selection has quite a few cool designs, but the prices really are too steep for me.

  30. The dude is not an architect. “[going] to school (Interior Architecture and Environmental Design) and [taking] a job with a British clothing designer” do not entitle one with the privilege of parcticing architecture; not in these United States at least.

    1. Since it’s now normal to use engineers for structural concerns, interior designers commonly practice architecture. In fact, anyone can practice architecture. All you have to do is get your plans approved.

  31. I think Corey posted the more hobo-ish styles, but my wife swears by these and has only bought 2 pair in 10 years or so. They last forever and fit like a shoe you’ve been wearing for years – or so says she. They also sidestep all the problems of built-in fashion obsolescence by being sort of non-fashionable.

    I’m in trouble now, though, since I didn’t know they made mens shoes. That “Bike” is one handsome hobo shoe.


    I’d also like to add that I’ve never heard anyone in the UK equate handmade with bespoke shoes.

    The vast majority of handmade shoes are in no way bespoke. They are off the shelf but manufactured using manual techniques. Semi-bespoke might allow customer selection from a range of patterns, materials, etc but manufactured on an existing last which the shoemaker uses for off the shelf shoes. At the other end, fully bespoke involve the customer and shoemaker fully involved in the design, materials, fitting of the shoes on a personal last.

    I just had a last made ready to give this a whirl sometime soon. Wonder how long before my girlfriend discovers the holiday fund coffers bare…

  33. C’mon folks; a decent pair of dress shoes easily runs $300. These aren’t that expensive, really, especially since they are handmade (and I don’t actually buy the “UK definition” as a real definition–the word is right there: “made by hand”).

    If you want some really expensive handmade shoes, there are these:

    –But they look hot and appear to be very, very well-made. If you’re just going to wear hobo shoes, wear hobo shoes.

  34. I quite like them, and I don’t think $300 for a pair of good shoes is insane (I have paid more) but they all have one feature I can’t stomach: the noses always point upwards! Why? It looks dumb, it makes them look like bum shoes.

  35. In fact, anyone can practice architecture. All you have to do is get your plans approved.

    You still need an architect to submit said plans on your behalf, though. (At least in New York.)

  36. I’m boggled by the idea that 5 years is some sort of amazing shoe lifespan. Especially for $300 shoes.

    My $80 K-Swiss running shoes (yes, probably made in China) fit like a charm, take my footbeds for extreme high arches, and are four years old and counting. I haven’t had them resoled. (That’s about 5 1/2 cents a day for those of you keeping track).

    I took public transit up until last year, so I’ve done a lot of walking in them but less over the last 12 months. If I’d stayed on transit, I might be looking at a pair of new shews spring 2010 – but as it is, I’ve probably got another two years out of them, more if I can find someone to glue on new tread.

    And that’s taking almost no care with them, other than not walking in puddles.

    I won’t comment on the style, other than to say “not for me”; I certainly don’t wear shoes for fashion, I wear them for propping up my ridiculous arches and to stabilize my ankles.

  37. I have several pairs of Cydwoq (purchased on eBay or at consignment stores) and I adore them. I stand most of the day (gallery work) and they’re comfortable enough that my feet don’t hurt much by the end of the day.

    They’re incredibly well-made, stylish, and unique. If only the price tag was lower! They also tend to run wide, so narrow footed people are SOL.

  38. I bought a pair of Cydwoq men’s boots over three years ago and they are still the most comfortable pair of shoes I have ever owned. They are worth every penny.

  39. Support your local cordwainer!

    (And when the soles wear out, support your local cobbler)

    Honestly, though, the wonderlite bells that I’m wearing right now have been worn 56 days a week for 15 years, and still polish up good enough to wear with a worsted wool suit. If you can’t afford local hand-made, the wonderlites are boring, durable, and amazingly comfortable.

  40. Buncha things:

    –The website is just AWFUL. Links work sometimes, sometimes they don’t; craptastic Flash all around.

    –They are made, and wear, like crap. I got one pair years ago at a little shoe boutique in Soho (NYC) after landing a longterm paying gig. Here is the pair I got:

    ALL of the line that was on display was made out of this thin, brittle-looking leather. I got the ones I did anyway, as I really liked they way that they looked on, after being told to moisturize the leather more at home. Well, having done so, the elastic runners on the side lost their shape pretty quickly, and I had to be hyper-vigilant not to get the shoes wet at all. When I called the store back I was basically told to suck it. I still wear them once in a while, on days when I know it absolutely won’t rain, after I’ve made sure that the leather has had a wipe-down with Fiebing’s 4-Care or somesuch.

    Over the years I’ve seen new styles in that storefront, and they all scream “Renfair meets boho trustafarian taking a found-materials shoemaking class over the weekend at the local arts co-op.” Even if I didn’t have problems with my one pair, the rest of them are so damn ugly that I haven’t even been tempted to buy another pair. I don’t see why they can’t use thicker leather and sturdier construction.

  41. “… measures my feet correctly before making a $300 pair of shoes that I would be wearing for the next few years(…)

    Not many shoemakers will ever do that for you because of the way shoes are made. Shoes are built around a last, which is a sort of foot shaped form and they tend to be very expensive. One last needs to be made for each size.TO have somebody “properly measure your foot” would drive the cost of the shoes up to being at least $1000 for that price alone. If you are speaking about the little sliding measuring thing, that actually tells you nothing but a ballpark and is only useful for kids whose feet are changing shape. Even within the same brand, because of the way shoes are made, your foot size will vary.

    As far as shoes go, Cydwoqs are worth the money if you find the design palatable. They are very well made, and bringing the shoes to a cobbler on a somewhat regular basis to get the shoes topied and have attention paid to the bits that are falling apart should actually make them last forever.

    Further more, Cydwoq has been known to custom make shoes for people often upon request- fax them an outline of your feet and they’ll select a last for each foot that should be proper fitting size-wise (fit can be off based on the shape of your foot) and they will make the shoes in pretty much any leather you like.

  42. I’m not a big fan of the shoes, but there is a pair of the boots that I have been drooling over in a local store for years now. I can’t justify the price, but if I ever get a windfall and a reason to celebrate, I might do it then.

  43. Since it’s now normal to use engineers for structural concerns, interior designers commonly practice architecture. In fact, anyone can practice architecture. All you have to do is get your plans approved.

    You can not legally call yourself an Architect in California or practice architecture without a state license. It is a misdemeanor which carries both a fine and jail time.

    Ref: Architects Practice Act

    1. But you can design and build a building. People do it all the time. You can’t advertise yourself as an architect. It’s not illegal for me to give myself elf ears, but I can’t call myself a doctor.

  44. Rafi has designed a few buildings on Melrose…he designed and built the store of the “british clothing designer” he worked for. After visiting the factory and seeing a broad range of the shoes it’s clear they are not “hobo” shoes at all and are certainly handmade check out some of the more accessible styles like Bare, Tibet, Future, Ride or Key. Rafi’s father and grandfather were both masters at the craft of shoemaking and his son too is learning the process.

  45. In New York, it has to be a licensed architect that submits plans for approval. In theory I guess you could be unlicensed and design a building, then just get an architect to stamp it.

  46. I love how the designer says that, yes, he started making shoes because his father made them, etc., etc., but “I just like women’s feet!” Now that’s a happy man.

  47. But you can design and build a building. People do it all the time. You can’t advertise yourself as an architect. It’s not illegal for me to give myself elf ears, but I can’t call myself a doctor.

    As far as I know, you actually can’t. You have to get the plans approved by an architect and I believe they have to submit them. Sure, you might have done all the work and the architect simply rubber stamped it, but by law he practiced architecture and you simply drew a picture.

    I know several home designers that have architects on staff for just this purpose. The designer does all the work and the architect approves it.

  48. In British English, hand-made means not mass-produced; bespoke or tailor-made means made-to-measure.

    Errr…. so does “made-to-measure” ;)

  49. These shoes are a perfect example of why shoes should be designed by shoemakers, not by architects. I don’t think 300 or so is too much for shoes (I think it’s always a good idea to invest in a GOOD pair of shoes), but if they look like that and don’t last even five years…

    If one wants a pair of Handmade in America shoes, I’d recommend Alden. There’s quality (and style!) you just can’t beat, and I can safely say from experience that they last a helluva lot longer than five years. Expensive, but worth every penny.

  50. Since when are shoes made by Chinese slave girls not “hand made”? Your standard Walmart sneaker is almost entirely made by someone carefully guiding material through a sewing machine. There are very few shoes that are not. Crocks are pumped out of an molding machine, but most shoes are run through a sewing machine, one by one, by hand by a fairly skilled operator. It is not as if the CYDWOQ shoes are sewn by some nimble-fingered cobbler with a thimble, needle and thread.

    The biggest difference is we are willing to pay some dude in California a lot more than we are willing to pay some slave girl to do the exact same work under much worse conditions.

    The problem is not that the Californian is over charging, it is that we are under paying the slave girl.

    Think about what you are now paid, and how much you would demand to sit in front of a rapidly moving finger perforater all day and then decide what the appropriate price for a pair of shoes should be.

  51. The designer is a shoemaker it is in his blood…by looking at the two styles posted it is not a good representation of the brand as a whole.. Styles like these are certainly not “hoboish” and are pretty stylish to boot. I own a few of these and wouldn’t wear the second one pictured as some of them are pretty wild.

    These few styles worn with some jeans or even nice slacks and simple stylish clothing are the perfect accent to the outfit. PS…I’ve had my pocket boots for around 10 years and they look better than when I first got them

  52. No, Anon 76, it’s CYDWOQ = sidewalk.

    I didn’t get it either, until I watched the video.

    I, too, have trouble understanding what’s attractive about shoes that curl up to a point about two inches high in the front when new. I invariably keep and wear my shoes way too long, but even I would throw out shoes that were so deformed they looked like these.

    Of course, I’ve never tried them on, so maybe the gag is that the elf/hobo shape is so comfortable?

  53. No, Anon 76, it’s CYDWOQ = sidewalk.

    I didn’t get it either, until I watched the video.

    I, too, have trouble understanding what’s attractive about shoes that curl up to a point about two inches high in the front when new. I invariably keep and wear my shoes way too long, but even I would throw out shoes that were so deformed they looked like these.

    Of course, I’ve never tried them on, so maybe the gag is that the elf/hobo shape is so comfortable?

    (Apologies if this is a double post. I waited five minutes and my first attempt failed to show up.)

  54. All right so I took another look at the women’s shoes and some of them are at least interesting. I have an upcoming walking-heavy trip so perhaps I’ll buy a pair and see if they are as comfortable as everyone says they are…

    I like the heeled ones on the vintage collection side but I don’t know how walk friendly they would be.

    Oh I like these:

    All right people… enough.

  55. What would the rest of your outfit consist of in order to ‘match’ these shoes? I’m pretty sure you’d be resigned to a daily dose of lederhosen.

    1. Think outside of the box a little bit….for men a nice piece of jeans or some fancy slacks or even a suit for some styles like Classic in a less crinkled leather. Simple, well cut clothing goes really well with Cydwoqs. I’ve been wearing my Classics in plain brown leather with a nice slim cut suit and constantly am complimented on my shoes.

  56. These two styles may border on fugly, but not all Cydwoq styles do. The women’s range from flirty and fem in the Vintage line (my fave heels are from Cydwoq) to funky and arty. I love them–have something like six pairs now. And, no, I’m not rich, but when I buy shoes I want comfort, craftsmanship, and something different than everything else out there. I’ll pay for that. I always go to Ped Shoes because I’ve had good experiences with their customer service. They don’t carry men’s styles, though–sorry, dudes.

  57. These shoes are truly beautiful, subtle, sophisticated and not too obviously handmade but definitely bucking mass production. Well done.

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