A shoemaker is a professional who makes, designs, and repairs shoes. Shoemaking, a traditional handicraft profession, has been largely replaced by industrial manufacturing. The shoe manufacturing industry is able to produce shoes at a much greater rate than individual shoemakers can, therefore shoemakers are now quite rare.
Historically, a shoemaker was called a cordwainer. Many people believe that the proper historical term is cobbler, but this is a misconception. A cobbler is specifically one who repairs footwear, not one who makes it. Modern shoemakers use many of the same materials as have always been used in the shoemaking profession, such as leather and wood.
When making a shoe, a shoemaker will typically use an item called a last. A last is an object shaped like a human foot around which the shoemaker can make his footwear. By using a last, a shoemaker ensures that the shoe is properly sized. He can also ensure that both shoes in a pair are the same size and shape.
Shoemakers utilize a wide variety of materials in their shoes. Leather is among the most common because it is durable and easy to shape to a foot. Other materials include wood, rubber, plastic, and jute. Usually, a combination of these materials will be used to optimize durability and flexibility. Sometimes, shoemakers use the rubber tread from tires to make the soles of shoes.
There are many day-to-day practicalities that shoemakers must deal with in their profession. Shoemakers must take measurements of customers, gather materials, calculate costs, and cut materials into shape. They also repair shoes on a regular basis. They need to be sure that they know exactly what to do with the damaged shoe, lest they do further damage.
A shoemaker may make and repair several different types of shoes. Traditional types of shoes are sandals, clogs, and moccasins. Often, people wrapped furs around their feet and wore sandals over them. Moccasins are simple and durable shoes, usually made with leather. Clogs, traditionally, are wooden shoes stuffed with straw to keep feet warm.
Although there are few remaining shoemakers, the shoemaking profession will likely be around for quite some time. Many non-industrial parts of the world still rely on shoemakers. Also, some people still like the knowledge that their perfectly-fitted shoes were designed and made by a professional who invested his own time into crafting a pair of shoes specifically for their wearer.