I appreciate quality handcraft. Not the funny pottery you find at Saturday markets, no I am talking about the fruit of a master craftsman’s hands: A perfectly out of proportion tatsu chest, a bespoke suit jacket, an art nouveau mirror, stained glass, brazed bicycle lugs, quality tanned and stitched leather, a hand-bound book, a teak and brass campaign desk, laminated steel knives, a sharp chisel, a fine motorcycle, beech moulding planes, Victorian ironwork, etc…
I have drug my wife into more stores and museums than I could ever count, just to look at a piece or snap a few pictures of an obscure detail. She puts up with it because she both loves me and has a tiny bit of the same fever as I do: she inspects seams and refuses to buy “cheap” cloths if they are not made well. Every now and then I get to sample the wears, caress a bit of dovetailed wood perfection or buy a little piece of hand-made love. The experience usually is the highlight of my trip.
We were in San Francisco a month or so ago, getting our visa’s for France, and after dinner one night we just happened upon a store window filled with treasure! There were tailored jackets, tiny toddler-sized suits, amazing hand made leather boots, hats, and vests. There were shoe-making foot forms in the window corners and a small wooden sign stating without ego or fanfare, “Al’s Attire. Custom Tailoring. North Beach.” I was in lust and took pictures of all the windows, of the sign, the address, and the cross street. We had an appointment the next day, but we were going back when the shop was opened. Stamps-With-Foot mentioned seeing the shop to a friend who lives in that Bay Area later that evening and her nonplused response was, “Yeah, there are pretty famous, you should stop in.”
Because of a scheduling win, we were there when they opened the next morning. It was a dark, shop that smelled of leather and wool, with dark corners, exposed brick, 100 year old working sewing machines, sunshine beaming through the windows, a resident puggle, and the most amazing wares. I showed up just wanting to buy a hat maybe and take some pictures… Then I saw the place, smelled it, felt the wooden shoe forms, and I turned into the adolescent who saw boobies for the first time. The shoes and boots were all individually and as a group calling to me. I took picture after picture and then we meet Sarah… She is part of the sales & design team at Al’s and with one look and a sweet manner, up sold me from a flat driving cap to a pair of bespoke buffalo hide wingtip dress boots. I regret nothing!
“Have a seat, we’ll measure you. “It only takes a little while.” “Yes, those ARE beautiful boots.” “Of course we can do a triple layer sole…”