At the very earliest stages of production, hides—sourced from the finest producers, many of whom raise their cattle
in European countries where the beasts are less likely to be blemished by insect bites — are assiduously checked for
flaws, with only the best sections subsequently passed on for ‘clicking’, where the leather is hand cut to pattern,
these sections again checked for imperfections before being perforated (if the shoe’s to be a brogue), then stitched
and ‘closed’. The upper is then humidified to add flexibility, and stretched over a last (the form that will give
the shoe its shape), to which the insole has already been tacked.
Various stages in affixing the sole follow: a welt is sewn through the edge of the upper, a metal shank attached to
the insole, and shock-absorbing cork filler applied to the base of the shoe; a leather sole is glued on, and roughly
rounded to shape, before the sole is stitched to the welt (the hardy Good year method being Church’s specialty,
though not the only means of soling employed here; rubber crêpe soles are also very popular), and the heel is
The sole’s jagged edge is then trimmed away using a mean-looking, whirring multi-toothed blade, and painted; a
decorative pattern is stamped into the rim of the sole, a wax applied, and the sole polished to a high sheen before
being stamped with the Church’s logo. Finally, the upper is buffed and polished, laces inserted, and the finished
shoes subjected to the exacting gaze of the quality control passer, before being boxed and dispatched to one of
Church’s 30 or so stores in the UK, US, Europe or Asia.
Though this reasonably concise whip-through of the production process may suggest otherwise, the production of a
single pair of Church’s shoes takes not hours, or even days, but up to eight weeks.(Shaping uppers on the last alone
takes an average of 14 days.) And while the shoemakers are aided by various machines—a lot of which appear to be of
a similar vintage to the company’s current factory, built in 1957 (heck, some of them look like they could possibly
date back to Church’s foundation in the late 19th century)—every stage in the process is guided by the hand of a
skilled crafts person, each shoe undergoing some 250 manual operations.