The word “Bespoke” in the mid 18th Century originally meant something that people were speaking about, but soon meant a service that one had called for in its now traditional English meaning of an object, usually of clothing, commanded to be made by hand.

Like many words redolent of quality, it has been much debased in modern use, and can now be applied to anything that has been even slightly customized, such as a “Bespoke” coffee mug with your name inscribed!
At Foster & Son and the bespoke houses in Savile Row, we use it in its original sense of something entirely made by hand to the customer’s specifications. Outside the UK these services are often called “Custom” or “Custom Made”.

You will sometimes see the description “Semi-Bespoke”, which to us means an existing product that has been adapted to a customer’s needs, such as a ready to wear shoe that we make up for you in a different leather or other detail so as to meet your requirements. We sometimes also call these “Special Orders”.

“Hand Made” is also widely used in the shoe trade to describe factory made shoes such as our Goodyear welted ready to wear shoes. This is because the best factory made shoes have a good deal of skilled hand-making in them, and making by machine is a highly skilled job. However this is by no means the same as true bespoke shoemaking.