Give yourself the boot at wacky Boerum Hill footware-making class

for The Brooklyn Paper

Give a man a pair of boots, and he walks for a year. Teach a man to make a pair of boots and he walks forever.

This, in a Biblical nutshell, is Olivier Rabbath’s mission. In fact, the wacky Frenchman even named his store, “How to Make Boots from Your Garage.”

The little shop and school in Boerum Hill is filled wall-to-wall with fabric, machinery, and all manner of footwear — tall boots, short boots, pumps, flats, Oxfords, and Derbys — in many designs and textures. One pair, for example, is gold plated; another is made from duct tape.

Taking a class with Rabbath is like entering a shoe version of Willy Wonka’s factory. In fact, the mad boot-maker is a lot like Wonka — eccentric and in love with his creations. You can see him through his display window at any hour cutting, sewing, sanding, or assembling another pair.

“Making shoes gives me spiritual satisfaction,” he said. “Everything here was made with human energy — and that shows in the final product.”

The students work in groups of about four people, allowing for plenty of one-on-one time with the chatty Rabbath.

The basic course includes 15 hours of hands-on experience, as well as a brand new pair of boots — designed and created by you — for $375 plus the cost of materials. There’s also more expensive and in-depth classes, with prices going up to $2,700.

That may sound steep, but Rabbath says that the return on investment is huge.

“You often have to pay $2,000, $3,000, $4,000 for a custom-made pair of boots,” said Rabbath, who has created some 30,000 pairs over the years. “Here you get the knowledge of the craft and a new pair of boots for a lot less.”

And so far that is the reason most people have taken the class — the boots. Sure, maybe someone will someday become a professional boot-maker, but it’s the promise of some new hand-made stompers that really keeps ’em coming.

“We are giving away magic here,” he said. “Outside, I don’t see people dreaming anymore. But in here, everyone’s dreaming something up.”

How to Make Boots from Your Garage [180 Hoyt St. between Wyckoff and Warren streets in Boerum Hill, (917) 673-3891]. For info, visit www.howtomakebootsfromyourgarage.com.

Reader Feedback

Maria Franco from Harlem says:
This is the first time that I have ever seen the way shoes are made. It is so crazy that we wear shoes for our entire lives, and we still don't know this. And the fact that every single human being has unique feet.....how are we supposed to wear generic shoes? Can't wait to go, and Olivier sounds most hospitable on the phone. :)
Dec. 18, 2010, 12:14 pm
olivier rabbath from brooklyn says:
Thank You Maria for your comment, and I personally can't wait to share with you my knowledge.
Until then, I wish you a wonderful Merry Christmas!
and All my Best for this fantastic new year 2011!!!!
Dec. 20, 2010, 10:37 pm

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Links