HALO SHOES has a longstanding reputation for being one of the best locally owned sources for people who are really serious about shoes. Since their move into the Pearl District, they've picked up a bit more real estate. One of the advantages of the larger space is that they have room for a workshop, which variously houses craftsmen like Entermodal's Larry Olmstead as well as visiting artists. This month brings New York shoemaker Daniel McRorie, who has a by-appointment studio, Rickard Guy Handmade, where he specializes in men's dress shoes and moccasins.
In addition, McRorie is a multimedia artist whose résumé includes everything from painting to restoring vintage cars and houses. Next weekend he'll be hosting a workshop wherein participants will make their own moccasins, and leave with the knowledge of how to do it at home, too. Before heading west, McRorie took time out to talk shoes.
MERCURY: What led you to shoes? Do you draw many parallels with the other mediums you work in?
DANIEL McRORIE: Absolutely I do. What got it all started was I was this crusty punk, 19 years old and looking for work, and I came across a shoe repair shop. The guy took me on as an apprentice. I was really lucky to get hooked in with him because it really attached me to the craft. With shoemaking, it's steeped in traditional practices but there's room to go anywhere with it. It's like sculpture.
It's much harder to find non-factory shoes than any other item of apparel. Why is that?
I think there's a revival happening, where "made in America" is important to people, as well as having a relationship with the maker. People are more interested in quality than even 15 years ago, when it was a throwaway attitude and people in my field were going out of business. It's happening in similar trades like tailoring, I've come in contact with some watchmakers, there's a revival of furniture makers. The story behind the product has a lot more value today.
Is teaching something you started doing out of the fear that shoe construction might become a lost art?
I don't want trade secrets to die with me. The old guys, you'd have to steal secrets out of the corner of your eye.
I've heard that it's basically impossible to make a high heel of solid construction quality. Would you agree?
I don't believe it's impossible—it depends on your interpretation of quality. You have to know where to get the stuff and how to do it. They'll never be good for you, and they'll never be comfortable, but I think if you don't wear them every day it's not such a big deal. I also know from experience that a well-made dress shoe can be more comfortable than a $40 sneaker. I'm not out to hurt people.
What advice might you give to someone about shoe shopping? What marks of quality can people seek out?
I would avoid manmade materials for soles, and go with leather or rubber. It's become very difficult because even if a shoe shows stitching on the sole, it might not go all the way through, and it's just for show. If a shoe is glued it can come apart before the sole is worn out, it's toxic, and it's not breathable... I'm making it sound really bad, but I wear Chuck Taylors half the time so I can't say shit and it's all good.