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

Give yourself the boot at wacky Boerum Hill footware-making class
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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.”

Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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.