RTW shoes are becoming increasingly popular due to their unique style and design. They provide a great option for those who want to stand out from the crowd and can be used for various purposes.
The best part is that they are reasonable so that they can become a regular part of any wardrobe.
The tale of how the fit of RTW shoes has developed goes hand in hand with how society has developed during the same period. Looking back over the past 150 years or so, shoes have gone from being relatively ill-fitting in most cases due to lack of resources both from the manufacturer and the customer past a high-time where it was easier for most to find shoes that suited their feet well, up towards a situation where options might seem endless.
Yet, it’s difficult for too many to find shoes that fit well. Now, as often is the case in this type of article, there will be a lot of generalizations, but the large picture is there.
Old lasts, the same shape for both feet.
So, during the 19th Century, most people owned a very limited amount of shoes, and in most people’s lives, they were mainly utilitarian. During this time, shoes went from being made on straight lasts (where both lasts had the same shape, and with wear, they formed to suit each foot a bit better) to paired lasts with one left foot and one right foot shape, which made a huge improvement in fit.
Shoes were expensive and often bought from a local cordwainer workshop with a selection of lasts that could be slightly modified, for instep or width, etc.
These basic leather shoes were made, turn shoes, wood pegged, welted, etc., depending on the situation and money of the customer. These shoes were repaired over and over to live as long as possible. In the countryside, this type of shoe business continued into the 1900s.
The industrialization that took off during the 19th Century changed most parts of manufacturing, so also for shoes. They became a mass-produced products, made in larger and larger factories more and more efficiently, as machines took over more and more parts of the making.
There weren’t any standardized shoe sizes, and they hadn’t been needed since before, one ordered shoes from the one who made them. Suppose they didn’t know which size of their one worn, one could be measured. It now had to change. And it did.
In 1885, the first standardized RTW shoe size system used widely was introduced in the United Kingdom. Two years later, a version of it was established in the US, developed by Edwin Simpson, and included a width system.
Quickly one realized that this was a very good way to achieve shoes so that most people could find something that fit them well. If standardized length sizes were made in various widths, and all last shapes were made into these options, many feet shapes were covered relatively well.
We’re now into the 20th Century, and when one went into a shoe store at this time, a normally very knowledgeable person would help you find a shoe that suited your feet the best way.
As mentioned before, styles weren’t always lots to choose from, and there were mainly the classics and versions of these models that are still around. Still, these size and width ranges were extensive, and shapes with, for example, high or low insteps existed in all these widths.
This was how RTW shoes were sold for decades without that much change. It was, in terms of making it easy for customers to find shoes that fit them well, without having to go bespoke, the peak years. In the latest few decades, various reasons have made the world take various steps away from this into something that makes it more difficult. In old mail-order catalogs, one could see how everything was offered in plenty of widths.
Fashion trends came and went quicker and quicker, and the capitalistic system fed them to increase consumption. Still, with more options of styles and more demand for making money, a logical development has been to streamline things. A store can only carry so much stock, and something got to go when customers demand more styles. And this was the various widths. Also, with sneakers and sports shoes taking over more and more, the cushioning and foam padding makes it easier to make things comfortable even if the fit isn’t ideal.
A good fit is simulated with the extensive cushioning and padding used in many of today’s shoes.
Then the internet arrived and threw everything around even more. Sure, there were mail-order services before shoes were sold, but up until the new millennium standard, you bought shoes from a store where you had tried on the shoes first and ideally had help from a knowledgeable salesperson. The latter had already disappeared in many cases, so lack of knowledge on how shoes should fit was already massively in decline, which made it easier to sell shoes that fit as many people as possible, only okay, and folks were fine with this.
With online sales, when it became even harder for customers to find shoes that fit one’s feet, it was a good thing for the shoe companies. People settled for less than what they should have. It meant that the streamlining continued, and nowadays, it’s very rare to find lasts that are offered in various widths, as RTW Shoes in-store or available for immediate dispatch.
In many cases, all a store or brand sells are shoes in a standard width, and the instep height is similar for all lasts. For many brands, it’s common that all lasts fit identically; only the toe shape differs. It’s good if it’s a final shape that fits your feet well since then you know all will work for you, but bad for everyone else. One way to
solve this for customers has been Made to Order services, which of course, is great, but it is a fact that many people today don’t have the patience to pay the upcharge for this, nor wait the extra time. Also, they, in most cases, never could try on the narrower or wider width last they would need.
So, instead, way too many go down in size and squeeze in their toes to get shoes that are narrow enough, or up in size and have shoes that are too long to accommodate wide feet. Some are better than others at using things like insoles, tongue pads, or stretch shoes to fix these issues, but too many still end up with something that isn’t ideal or, worse, settles for something quite bad.
Some Best Online Stores in Earlier
There are exceptions to the rule. If we look at classic shoes, some good examples are Allen Edmonds, Alden Shoepassion, JM Weston, etc. The latter is a brand that does things similar to how things used to work, they have loads of lasts that are very different in shape with, for example, low, normal, or high insteps where most are available in several different widths, and if you have one size and width in one last, it can be completely different in another.
But, trying to buy online without previous experience could be better. Still, if you walk into one of the stores in France and are lucky to have one of their most experienced staff help you, almost everyone will be able to find shoes that fit them great, for real.
A JM Weston store works like shoe stores did back in the day. Allen Edmonds is bashed a lot in menswear circles, but when it comes to offering appropriate options for their customers, they are world-leading. Their most popular styles are available in US5-16 in ten (!) different widths. No wonder they are a given option for many.
In the future, there’s no stopping online sales, of course. There are so many other pros to it.
One way that I think is solving things in a good way from the perspective of making different widths and last shapes accessible is when brands who usually own their factory do shoes on an MTO basis but with quick turnaround times without an up-charge, like Indian brand Bridlen who I recently reviewed, and who can offer different widths (Bridlen only has standard and very wide. Hopefully, more will come) and accept exchanges or returns of these.
Another is information on how shoes fit, why everyone should visit shoe stores or trunk shows where they can be guided by very knowledgeable people, and learn what is right for them, and then have the patience to use this going forward and ship back shoes that aren’t ideal, no matter how lovely they look or how good the deal was.
RTW shoes are a great option for those who want to look their best while on the go. They are easy to wear and can be dressed up or down. With so many options available, finding the perfect pair of shoes for you is surely hard. So don’t hesitate to check out some of the best on the market today.
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