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The Perfect Fit

Creative Work in the Global Shoe Industry

The Perfect Fit

Creative Work in the Global Shoe Industry

The Perfect Fit shows us how globalization works through the many people and places involved in making women’s shoes.

We know a lot about how clothing and shoes are made cheaply, but very little about the process when they are made beautifully. In The Perfect Fit, Claudio E. Benzecry looks at the craft that goes into designing shoes for women in the US market, revealing that this creative process takes place on a global scale. Based on unprecedented behind-the-scenes access, The Perfect Fit offers an ethnographic window into the day-to-day life of designers, fit models, and technicians as they put together samples and prototypes, showing how expert work is a complement to and a necessary condition for factory exploitation.

Benzecry looks at the decisions and constraints behind how shoes are designed and developed, from initial inspiration to the mundane work of making sure a size seven stays constant. In doing so, he also fosters an original understanding of how globalization works from the ground up. Drawing on five years of research in New York, China, and Brazil, The Perfect Fit reveals how creative decisions are made, the kinds of expertise involved, and the almost impossible task of keeping the global supply chain humming.


"The Perfect Fit will be an excellent piece of global ethnography of work and global production.  While the author classifies The Perfect Fit as materiality-centered cultural sociology, it goes beyond particular disciplinary boundaries, encompassing at least labor studies, economy sociology, cultural sociology, and industrial sociology."

Social Forces

"Hand in hand with a sociology of culture focused on the material, which dialogues with the social studies of science and technology, the sociology of knowledge, and a look at the global embodied in concrete processes and in areas of 'friction,' The Perfect Fit shows us a provocative look at two issues dear to capitalism: the logic of commodities and the problem of creativity."

Papeles de Trabajo

"The Perfect Fit is a brilliant ethnography of the global economy that focuses on the shoe. It is a sweeping but intimate portrait of commodity chains, in which shoes inhabit ecologies of aesthetic judgment and material practice that span the world. The shoe serves in this book as primary informant and guide, leading both Benzecry and the reader through regimes of material creativity and social destruction. It provides shocking insight into the anxiety, ambition and anguish at the heart of globalization."

Chandra Mukerji, University of California, San Diego

"Individuation and standardization; the local and the global; matters of subjective taste and matters of objective measurement; the things you probably don’t care much about and the thing-makers that care so much about your taste. Benzecry treats each of these evident oppositions within the same frame, and he puts globalization on the firmest of footings."

Steven Shapin, author of 'The Scientific Life and A Social History of Truth'

"Sometimes it only takes a change of perspective to see the world afresh. And this is what The Perfect Fit offers. Looking at globalization from the humble point of view of the right feet of shoe models in China, Benzecry masterfully reveals the myriad of actors, miniscule transactions and daily practices required to make global scale fit into a shoe. Through a riveting ethnographic description of how shoes are put together, the book reveals the invisible threads binding the fates of designers in New York, small shoe shops in Italy, and abandoned factories in Brazil. The result is not merely a book about how shoes are done, but also a powerful and timely reflection about the many lives, hopes, and spaces that are caught up, as well as left behind, in the process."

Fernando Domínguez Rubio, author of 'Still Life Ecologies of the Modern Imagination at the Art Museum'

Table of Contents

Preface: The Frailty of Commodity Chains
Chapter 1: From Head to Toe

Part 1: From the Designer’s Point of View
Chapter 2: From “the Global” to “the Girl”
Chapter 3: When Is a Shoe a Shoe?

Part 2: Feet and Fit
Chapter 4: The World at Her Fit: Scale-Making, Uniqueness, and Standardization
Chapter 5: Cinderella on the Pearl River Delta: Who Has the Power to Translate?

Part 3: The Global in the Rearview Mirror
Interlude: A Landscape of Factories
Chapter 6: The Ruins and Rubble of Novo Hamburgo: Skill and Melancholia in a Global Shoe Town
Conclusion: What Did We Learn about Globalization by Looking at Shoes?
Coda: Shoe Is a Gipsy Business


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