The materials: Leather At its most essential a shoe is fundamentally a leather product. It evolved from the recognition that the hides of animals made a protective covering for the foot that was unequaled by any other natural material in the world. Over the millennia, efforts have been made to substitute other material...wood, fabric, plastic, etc.. None have really caught on. Even people who dismiss the criticisms of such materials look to leather as the premier material for making shoes. Even plastic shoes emulate leather. No other material known to man, brings to the table the unique blend of characteristics that leather has--the durability, the "breathability," the "conformability," the longevity, the resilience, and, from the shoemaker's point of view, the malleability--workability. And it has an integrity, functional and otherwise, that no other product has...not even composites made of leather. Fiberboard or leatherboard is not in any way equivalent to the leather it replaces. It is not as strong as leather. It is not as conformable as leather. It does not share any of the attributes of leather except in the most nominal ways. Just as particleboard is a composite of wood, it is, nevertheless, not wood. It doesn't really even share all that much of wood's character. Most people understand this...understand the distinction...and would not choose to use particle board in any construction where the character of wood--aesthetic or structural--was wanted. Most people would be dismayed to buy a top dollar piece of furniture and discover that significant portions or structural elements were made of particleboard. DuroSteel epoxy is not steel although it has steel particles in it. And few would trust it in critical situations to replicate the strength of steel. Yet many who see those distinctions right away will not only accept the leather equivalent--leatherboard--but actually associate leather board with a desirable level of quality.To make matters worse leatherboard itself is now almost so expensive (?) exotic (?) scarce (?) that something more akin to actual cardboard is being substituted. I suspect the scarcity is because once you understand and embrace the deficiencies of leatherboard, the less expensive fiberboard is not a significant step down. But so far I have only talked about insoles and toe stiffeners, heel stiffeners, and heels lifts--the components most often...and increasingly...made of synthetics or composites. When it comes to uppers, even the most ignorant consumers seem obsessed by distinctions that are less about strength and resilience than appearance. This is especially surprising since there is less significant difference between the best calf and corrected grain cow than there is between a decent piece of insole shoulder and leatherboard. In the end, one is forced to conclude that, in all of this, the issue is really more about appearance--the superficial--than about substance. Thread The use of thread as a binding agent goes all the way back to the sinew that held those original skin bags into some sort of shape that would not fall off the foot. During the long history of shoes, thread became such a focal point...it evolved so deliberately...that even the number of strands composing a length of inseaming thread became important. It was considered an important factor in how the thread would lie on the surface as well as how strong it ultimately would be. A thread that was composed of an odd number of strands was thought to be "rounder" than an even number of strands and lie more proud to the surface. The yarns that comprised thread were studied and carefully selected...some being heavier or made of different fibers. The wax that adhered all the strands together was so specialized that certain kinds of pitch (a refined sap from trees) and pitches from certain countries were prized above all others. And the techniques that developed for preparing the thread..including "bristling"...are almost unique in all the world of Traditional crafts. I know of no other Trade that developed and preserved the use of board's bristle, in lieu of a needle, for sewing. None of this happened willy-nilly. Of all the possible choices of materials, of all the "new," "modern," experimental, materials that appeared and were tried, most, by any calculation, failed to meet the test of strength and resilience, longevity and compatibility with surrounding materials. Traditionally made shoes do not appear on the timeline of human history by happen-chance. None of the substitutes--leatherboard, cardboard, celastic, plastic, vinyl, canvas, wood--bring anything to the table...embody any attribute or virtue...that isn't already better served by leather and thread. Except expediency. Cheaper materials (in every sense of the word--lower quality, less expensive, easier to implement, easier quality control (albeit to a significantly diminished standard), easier access--less human resources involved, with all the attendant fallibility. The only problems that such materials solve, the only advantages conferred, are the issues of how to increase the profit margin. Not one...not one friggin material or technique...brings greater strength or greater durability. Or even elevated aesthetics.