Heart & Sole: Roxbury native Theodore Green mixes passion, artistry in shoe business
Kassmin Williams | 11/26/2013, 8:02 a.m. | Updated on 11/26/2013, 8:02 a.m.
Roxbury artist Theodore Green has made it his business to explore a variety of mediums throughout his career, gaining expertise in many art forms including drawing, painting, illustration and sculpting.
Today, the Massachusetts College of Arts alumnus combines the skills he has gained throughout the years in a new trade.
Green spends much of his day between four yellow walls in the back room of his Centre Street home constructing leather shoes and boots from scratch for his 3-year-old company.
He starts with a shoe last that he custom orders to match the foot size of his client and he builds with his hands, a number of tools and some machinery until he has a finished product.
The process takes about two weeks, Green says.
Green has always had an interest in shoemaking and became more intrigued during a trip to Italy.
While touring Florence, Green noticed a number of small shops and decided to stop in one.
While there, he noticed a man in a backroom hammering away to make shoes.
“I asked some questions, [but] they talked to me in complete Italian and I was frustrated coming back home,” Green said. “For many years, I didn’t know how to do anything but over time I started to cut leather, find tools and equipment and build piece-by-piece. I was doing this every day.”
Green began learning how to make shoes from his living room, reading books and connecting with experts who became mentors to him.
Green says the year 2008 was when everything started to “click” for him and in 2010 he launched his company, Theodore Green, specializing in high-end leather men’s shoes.
Green fulfills standard and custom requests for his customers, he said.
The transition from learning and experiment to developing a business came organically, according to Green.
“It was just kind of a natural progression,” he says. “I was really motivated about pushing my abilities and learning new technique. I always wanted to learn how to build shoes and when I got there, I wanted it to be more so that motivation kind of kept me going and I guess that’s kind of how I kept developing.”
Green says he’s connected to the Italian model of design, which is a combination of simplicity and elegance.
“Personally, I create footwear that I would enjoy wearing myself,” he comments. “I have a taste for luxury in my product.”
The shoemaking process can seem more like a craft than art and for some shoemakers it is, according to New England Leather Company shoe finder Alex Stathopoulos, who provides some materials for Green.
Stathopoulos said Green is more particular and creative in his detail work than most shoemakers he has come across in his 20-plus years in the shoe business.
“His skills as far as putting everything together — I haven’t seen anything better than that. He’s very creative,” Stathopoulos said.
Being an artisan shoemaker in today’s world has its fair share of challenges, according to both Stathopoulos and Green who mentioned the difficulty in finding certain leather and hand tools.
Sometimes, Green has to make tools himself or have them made, he said.
“Finding tools and materials is a common task and requires research most times,” Green says.
Despite the scarce amount of tools that are openly available to hand-make shoes, Green has plans to continue creating shoes.
In the future, Green hopes to build partnerships with showrooms and retailers, he says, and will continue to develop his brand through trunk shows and presentation.
To view Theodore Green’s current selection, visit theodoregreen.com.