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

for The Brooklyn Paper
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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

Updated 5:22 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

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 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
Andrew from UK via CY via JA via US says:
Exciting times. My world has been thoroughly shaken up. The Mrs was made redundant so, we sold our pad in the UK & moved to Cyprus where I work in G8 locations for a travel company. Next stop, Jamaica via Dad's & the all important leg of our whirlwind adventure...Shoes n Boots! Yeah baby I'm very very excited about Olivier's many courses in something I could only imagine doing after too many years! UK too expensive & tediously long! Here's hoping for a mild NY winter Olivier. I'll be in touch towards the end of year! : )
Sept. 17, 2014, 1:47 pm

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