Our Craft

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That's Yilmaz! He's hand stitching the leather upper to the sole of the shoe at the Sabah Workshop in Gaziantep, Turkey.

Sabahs are really quite simple — the thoughtful combination of three elements: our high quality, thoughtfully produced leather, a unique hand-stitched construction and skilled human hands.

The result is a distinct looking pair of shoes, which are uniquely comfortable & flexible without losing durability. The idea of Sabahs is that they should initially fit snug to your feet as they will stretch & mold over time, becoming more beautiful and more comfortable with every step.

The thin rubber outsole, added to every pair to protect the leather sole, can easily be replaced, allowing your Sabahs to live many lives — and contribute to a lifestyle that values quality over quantity. Sabahs are not inexpensive to produce, nor to purchase, but for the quality, versatility and wearability - they are unmatched in the value they deliver.

We are passionate about what we make — the details, the quality, and the stories of the people behind every element. I’d encourage you to read on to learn more about our craft.

Enjoy!

Sincerely,
Mickey Ashmore
Owner, Sabah

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Our Materials

When I started Sabah, I didn’t know a thing about making shoes. But I quickly learned, the best design and the sturdiest construction is only as good as the underlying materials. In our case, it's all about the leather.

At Sabah, we exclusively use high quality, top grade leather. We have three main priorities with our leathers: (1) the promise to age beautifully with wear, (2) a natural tannage to ensure the leathers mold to one's feet comfortably and (3) to work with tanneries we know, trust and are eco-certified by the Leather Working Group.

Sabahs are free of synthetic materials, which have a tendency to break down (not age beautifully), smell, and become less, rather than more, comfortable with time.

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Working in the shoe business since 2013, we’ve created relationships with a few of the best leather makers around the world. From Turkish family owned run tanneries that have been in business for generations to our leather providers in El Paso, Texas who have access to high quality, 100% veg tanned saddle leathers and beyond, we work closely with them to ensure we get only the best.

As we’ve grown, we’ve gone from buying existing leather stock to working hand-in-hand with these master tanners to develop leather articles that are proprietary to Sabah, not only in color, but in the characteristics that make them perfect for our type of shoe and the use of our customers. Great leather is mostly in the subtle details, the underlying tanning process and the original source of the hide — only over time will you understand whether the leather is high quality or not. We do that upfront work to ensure every hide, every cut and every pair ages just right.

At our workshops, we employ a leather manager, whose job is to carefully inspect and select the best hides from every batch we receive. We guarantee your Sabahs are made from the world’s finest leather, produced with integrity and care.

Three Leathers Make a Sabah:

This is the colorful leather that is most visible and makes up the top part of the shoe. We use cow leathers for our upper; primarily vegetable-tanned or semi-vegetable tanned. Generally soft to the touch, but robust enough to break in nicely and perform well over time. We work with smooth leathers, nubucks, suede, and hair-on leathers too.

Perhaps the most salient characteristic of a Sabah is the water buffalo leather that acts as the true sole of the shoe. A thing of the past, requiring a very traditional and time-consuming tanning process, few shoemakers employ the use of water buffalo nowadays because it's hard to find and difficult to work with. However, it's quite a magical leather — providing an amazing combination of durability & comfort, molding to one's feet, and staying uniquely fresh over time. Sabah's never smell, and that's due to our use of great leather and most notably water buffalo leather which is naturally anti-microbial.

Sabahs are lined with vegetable-tanned, all-natural, and high-quality leather. The lining is super comfortable and, thanks to it's natural characteristics, ages beautifully and does not smell over time. It's important to us, that even the lining leather of Sabahs is top quality.

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The Construction

Every pair of Sabahs is entirely handmade, using minimal glue and a unique hand-stitched sole construction that has been passed down for generations within a few families in southeast Turkey.

The result of this process — a pair of shoes that is flexible, able to mold to one’s feet without compromising on durability.

Sabahs are hand lasted — the process of wrapping the colorful leather uppers over the plastic mold of a foot to dictate size and form. Hand lasting is difficult and strenuous but allows the craftsmen to manipulate each piece of leather, understanding its unique characteristics, to form the perfect pair of Sabahs. A dying art, hand lasting is essential to the form of Sabahs as a machine cannot understand the nuance of the leather.

Sabahs are primarily held together by a single waxed thread that is hand sewn around the sole, binding together all four pieces of leather into a shoe. This style of construction is unique to Sabah and a few shoemakers in Turkey. It requires months of training to learn, and years to perfect. Since starting Sabah, we’ve created a training program to recruit and train new stitchers- we now employ nearly ten. As we expand our operations to El Paso, Texas we are experimenting with other stitching processes such as “Lock Stitch” — a method of stitching, which intertwines two threads, one from the bottom and one from the top, creating a strong bond so that even if one stitch is worn away the other stitches will not unravel and will remain as strong as ever.

As a final step, we apply a rubber outsole to every pair of Sabahs with a combination of heat, glue and pressure. This sole is intended to protect the stitching and sole and should be replaced as needed to maximize the longevity of your Sabahs.

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Our Makers

The Sabah Story is ultimately a human story — every pair we make passes through the talented hands of the individuals featured below, the craftsmen of our first Sabah Workshop in Gaziantep, Turkey and our second workshop in El Paso, Texas. You'll notice that every pair of Sabahs has a letter written on the inside, simply with a ballpoint pen. That's the initial of the maker responsible for your pair.