Photography by Chandler Bondurant
“The best loafers made in Queens, New York,” was something that stuck with me the first time I ever spoke with Andrew McAteer, “also the only loafers made in Queens, New York.”
Andrew wears the Double Pocket Shirt Jacket in Loden.
We walked up to an unsuspecting building in Astoria, Queens and walked down a narrow set of cement stairs to Andrew McAteer’s workshop door. He greeted us with a warm smile wearing a charmingly worn-in pair of loafers - the first pair he ever made. We walked into a quaint, functional workshop lined with sewing machines, large tables, and shelves filled with rolls of leather. The walls and shelves are decorated with mementos and tchotchkes, like a small faded painting of a tiny boat in a vast green-blue sea, which Andrew later remarked he was stuck with the painting after damaging it as a kid. Regardless, it holds a special place on the wall with the rest of the objects. “It always comes back to boats with me,” he has two of them, actually, another thing he works on when he’s not making leather goods.
Hanging: The Double Pocket Shirt Jacket in Russet.
Andrew was born in Manhattan, lived in Flushing for a while, then moved out to the north shore of Long Island with his family. He’s a New York local through and through. His parents were handy, but not shoemakers. It was something he came to after years of antique restoration, furniture making, and musical instrument restoration in upstate New York and Connecticut. After years of perfecting these various crafts, Andrew ended up in Queens in the hopes of getting back to the city after many years away. When the basement unit of the building he lived in opened, he slowly but surely turned it into the workshop where he fulfilled his first order of leather slippers.
The workshop is filled with his veg tanned moccasins in different phases of being built, which is really the best way to describe Andrew’s process. Each shoe is stacked with layers upon layers of various full grain leathers serving different purposes within the shoe and every single part of the process involves intricate sewing, cutting, gluing - all done by hand. It’s impressive to watch this long, focused process, which we did over the course of a few hours while we chatted.
“The first thing I made [from leather] was a pair of moccasins,” made from deer hide and back leg sinew, “I had been doing a lot of hiking in the woods and wanted to try it with a pair of moccasins.” Later, he was going on a cycling holiday in Sweden and he wanted to make a pair of camp slippers to take along with him, which he made from a civil-war era magazine pattern, to be exact. “I was able to ease into it gradually,” making simpler shoes like slippers, “through that I was able to gain confidence with sizing and all that.” Grading patterns, learning about foot sizes, perfecting his patterns by wearing the shoes. And it’s just him - from start to finish - designing, hand making, and shipping the shoes.
The handmade nature is what sets these pieces apart from factory made shoes. The intricacies and fine details of something made by hand truly shows - his shoes are clean and beautiful, but are definitely not made by a machine. Handmade objects feel a little bit human, carrying the story of the person who made them, which is something Andrew likes. “I like that, when I’m in antique stores,” he talks about finding a pair of antique handmade babouches with thick stitching, “they were on the crude side, but it was effective.”
Spending time with Andrew, you quickly realize that he’s not cutting corners or taking the easy route once it comes to making things. Not only is he taking the time to perfect a craft, but his attention to learning, finding the right tools, and studying shoemaking is remarkable.Finding his tools from places all over the world, he received a package of rare antique awls and a Swedish shoemaker's knife from 1946 while we were hanging out. “The Swedes have ridiculously high quality iron ore deposits, they know how to make some steel.” He showed us a set of antique French lasting pliers that he uses to make his shoes. When you make something in an old-world way, you often need to accumulate old-world tools, and what you find and where you find it is all part of the process.
Andrew McAteer’s shoes truly are intentionally made, from his thirst for knowledge of the craft to time spent making each piece, so that they will look beautiful, intentional, and last for an incredibly long time. The handmade nature of the shoes really shows in the details of the hand stitching, cutting, and construction. There’s really not a shoe out there that’s quite like it - and it goes without saying there is definitely not another pair like them made in Queens, New York.
Andrew’s loafers and leather goods are all made to order and available at Steven Alan.