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shoe construction...behind the veil - Page 71

post #1051 of 1515
Quote:
Originally Posted by DWFII View Post


What I find interesting thing is that when you cut through all the incoherent, subjective BS, I am...and always have been...advocating for a better shoe. Better made, better prices, less deception, more responsibility, and knowledge and understanding for the consumer.

Everything Chogall and Nick and others like them are saying boils down to "Don't worry, be happy." And "stay ignorant--it's all academic and inconsequential." They advocate for cheaper and unremarkable and placatory.

That's why meaningless sophomoric generalizations are their modus operandi. (see above)


DWFII, could you tell me/us your opinions about the leather used for insoles - obviously I'm talking about the leather insoles used for HW shoes. Are there different grades of leather used for HW insole leather? What's the optimum thickness? If one orders a pair of HW shoes, is it something to discuss in terms of quality/thickness, or is it just for the maker to decide? What are the leathers available for this piece in a HW shoe? Thanks.

post #1052 of 1515
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Whirling View Post

How many hours, from first contact with a customer to he or she walking around happily, does it take for an experienced, talented, cordwainer to make a new set of lasts and footwear? Of course, I am interested in an average, a generalization.

It depends on experience and organization. I have never counted. But my mentors always said a good maker, using best practices, would have 40 hours into a basic, bespoke boot.
Quote:
Next question. How many hours, assuming reasonable innate talent, would it take a young person to become "experienced?"

Historically an apprenticeship was seven years IIRC. Some people learn enough in a three week seminar to "feel" their way through to competence. But that only means that they still have to acquire the polish that a properly trained maker such as Nicholas Templeman would have right out of the gate.
Quote:
If a man who has shared his unparalleled (here, at least) experience wants to start a thread and specify how that thread proceeds, doesn't he have the right to do that? Can people not give him that?

Thank you for that sentiment. But despite what the gadflies would have you believe, I am not interested in "policing" this thread or any other. I do, however, bridle at people with zero experience, zero objective insights, and nothing concrete or substantive to say, trying to tell me what this thread is about.

I am fine with disagreement but mindless contention and argument...with no purpose other than to create dissension...is, in my mind and to all appearances, simply a ploy to stifle learning and discussion for fear that their own choices and postures will be revealed for the pretense that it is.

edited for punctuation and clarity
Edited by DWFII - 2/4/16 at 12:08pm
post #1053 of 1515
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by thelonius View Post


DWFII, could you tell me/us your opinions about the leather used for insoles - obviously I'm talking about the leather insoles used for HW shoes. Are there different grades of leather used for HW insole leather? What's the optimum thickness? If one orders a pair of HW shoes, is it something to discuss in terms of quality/thickness, or is it just for the maker to decide? What are the leathers available for this piece in a HW shoe? Thanks.

Insole leather has Traditionally been taken from the shoulder (or more rarely the best of the belly). The reason for this is that the leather in those areas is long fibered and a little less dense. The longer fibers hold the stitches better. The less density allows for a better footbed.

When these characteristics are no longer valued, tanners do not tan shoulder in a way that makes it useful for insoles. Such characteristics are only valued by HW makers.

GY doesn't need to sew into the insole.

Because of that, most Am. manufacturers are going to insoles cut from denser, shorter fibered parts of the hide and thinner insoles, as well.

And there's always differences in grade. But again, GY doesn't need the best grade. It doesn't make economic sense to use thicker or better quality leather when it is not needed.

As a result the demand, and the supply, of shoulder leather has diminished alarmingly in the years I've been a maker. [Parenthetically, other parts of a good bespoke shoe are often cut from the shoulder as well--toe stiffs, heel stiffs and sometimes even heel seats and the body of the stack.]

With the demand / supply for shoulder falling, the pressure for using leatherboard, cellulosics and celastic increases. (Of course, with "advances in materials science" the pressure to eliminate leather altogether also increases. Aren't you excited?)

As for an optimum thickness, I know makers (historical footwear) who HW in 6 iron insole (which is about 1/8th inch) but I prefer a 9-10 iron.

PS...and no reflection on you...but this is not the first time I have outlined the process, the specifics. Just sayin'...I've always been here for questions like this and for people who do have some curiousity

edited for punctuation and clarity
Edited by DWFII - 2/4/16 at 1:15pm
post #1054 of 1515
For a single bespoke maker, may I ask how much the raw materials for a paie of calfskin shoes would cost, factoring in unavoidable wastage, etc? Again, I know it has to be a gross generalization.

How much does it cost to buy the equipment that a bespoke maker would need to make a wide range of footwear?

I am trying to understand the economics...For example, if there were a huge supply of customers willing to pay $2,000 per pair, would that be enough to make bespoke cordwaining a viable middle-class trade, similar to being a plumber or electrician.

I guess another question would be what percentage of interested young people would possess the necessary dexterity and other skills to do it?
post #1055 of 1515
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Whirling View Post

For a single bespoke maker, may I ask how much the raw materials for a paie of calfskin shoes would cost, factoring in unavoidable wastage, etc? Again, I know it has to be a gross generalization.

How much does it cost to buy the equipment that a bespoke maker would need to make a wide range of footwear?

I am trying to understand the economics...For example, if there were a huge supply of customers willing to pay $2,000 per pair, would that be enough to make bespoke cordwaining a viable middle-class trade, similar to being a plumber or electrician.

I guess another question would be what percentage of interested young people would possess the necessary dexterity and other skills to do it?

Well, years ago a business adviser told me that for an individual maker, five times the cost of raw materials ought to cover labour and overhead and so forth. I guess I would say that if a maker is buying from a wholesaler (but not in bulk) the starting price on a pair of bespoke shoes ought to be about $1800.00.

I don't think I have ever really sat down and figured it all out. I am a craftsman and would do it...be compelled to do it...for less of a margin than that if I had to. It's an avocation and you almost quite literally have to be "called" to it to make it...that's the only thing that will sustain you and keep you going during the hard times.

But as I said in another post, I have no debts and own everything, including my house and land..."landed gentry" is what I call myself, but lower middle class probably is more accurate.

On equipment and tools...depends. By present day standards, even buying used, I probably have in excess of $25k in my shop. Although I probably use it less than I did when I first got into the Trade. But the Tradition holds that a competent maker ought to be able to make a pair of shoes with a knife and a fork. I know makers who have considerably less equipment than I do. As little as one sewing machine.

Make no mistake, this is not an easy Trade to get into or survive in. The RTW guys are crowding (if not exceeding) the $2k mark and they have a whole hell of a lot less into raw materials and labour than I do. And still they complain (or people here complain on their behalf) about barely being able to hang on.

And not to put too fine a point on it, a lot of the reason why it's not easy to survive in has to do with the factory mentality that pervades society at every level and dumbed down standards of quality and expectation.

That said, to some extent making shoes and boots is easy--it's just muscle memory. Although becoming really skilled...skilled to the point of competitive viability...is another thing. But it's not rocket science.

Fitting, however...now that's where the magic starts. And not everyone has the insights and sensibility to do it well. Or do both well. Or even do it all well enough to be competitive. My own opinion is that maybe that's as it should be.

Bottom line, it's a 19th century avocation in the 21st, getting paid mostly at 19th century wage levels (relatively speaking). I tell all my students...before I take them on and well before I take them on the Magical Memory Tour...that anyone looking to do this as an alternative to getting a job at the supermarket bagging groceries, maybe ought to think again.

Hope that helps

edited for punctuation and clarity
Edited by DWFII - 2/4/16 at 5:32pm
post #1056 of 1515
Quote:
Originally Posted by DWFII View Post


Well, years ago a business adviser told me that for an individual maker, five times the cost of raw materials ought to cover labour and overhead and so forth. I guess I would say that if a maker is buying from a wholesaler (but not in bulk) the starting price on a pair of bespoke shoes ought to be about $1800.00.

I don't think I have ever really sat down and figured it all out. I am a craftsman and would do it...be compelled to do it...for less of a margin than that if I had to. It's an avocation and you almost quite literally have to be "called" to it to make it...that's the only thing that will sustain you and keep you going during the hard times.

But as I said in another post, I have no debts and own everything, including my house and land..."landed gentry" is what I call myself, but lower middle class probably is more accurate.

On equipment and tools...depends. By present day standards, even buying used, I probably have in excess of $25k in my shop. Although I probably use it less than I did when I first got into the Trade. But the Tradition holds that a competent maker ought to be able to make a pair of shoes with a knife and a fork. I know makers who have considerably less equipment than I do. As little a one sewing machine.

Make no mistake, this is not an easy Trade to get into or survive in. The RTW guys are crowding (if not exceeding) the $2k mark and they have a whole hell of a lot less into raw materials and labour than I do. And still they complain (or people here complain on their behalf) about barely being able to hang on.

And not to put too fine a point on it, a lot of the reason why it's not easy to survive in has to do with the factory mentality that pervades society at every level and dumbed down standards of quality and expectation.

That said, to some extent making shoes and boots is easy--it's just muscle memory. Although becoming really skilled...skilled to the point of competitive viability...is another thing. But it's not rocket science.

Fitting, however...now that's where the magic starts. And not everyone has the insights and sensibility to do it well. Or do both well. Or even do it all well enough to be competitive. My own opinion is that maybe that's as it should be.

Bottom line, it's a 19th century avocation in the 21st, getting paid mostly at 19th century wage levels (relatively speaking). I tell all my students...before I take them on and well before I take them on the Magical Memory Tour...that anyone looking to do this as an alternative to getting a job at the supermarket bagging groceries, maybe ought to think again.

Hope that helps


This is tremendously helpful.  Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly and honestly.

 

I would hope that a lot of people on this forum would buy bespoke shoes if they could do so for $2,000.  Ideally, the cordwainer would be local to them for the sake of fitting.  Also, he (or she) would have some straightforward way of demonstrating that he was fully competent and produced excellent quality work--perhaps some type of credential or certification.  Of course, being local would also allow the cordwainer to demonstrate the quality of his work "in the flesh."

 

The remaining hurdle would, of course, be, as you state, DW, that people would need to understand how much more they were getting by going the bespoke route.  Then, there would be the problem of how does one brag about his truly fine, optimally fitted shoes made by Joe Blow, that don't look so different in web photos from $500 GYW RTWs.  Especially, this would be a problem when he could buy something for $1,500 that would have a name on it that has been heavily marketed to exude "upper class," "best," and "exclusive."

post #1057 of 1515
Not to derail this thread, but DWF is there a directory of cordwainers on the web somewhere? I have tried (in vain) to google cordwainers in the Chicago area. Your posts have created a desire in me to at a minimum visit one and discuss the possibility of some bespoke shoes.
post #1058 of 1515
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by metals37 View Post

Not to derail this thread, but DWF is there a directory of cordwainers on the web somewhere? I have tried (in vain) to google cordwainers in the Chicago area. Your posts have created a desire in me to at a minimum visit one and discuss the possibility of some bespoke shoes.

Bespoke shoemakers are scarcer than bespoke tailors in the US.

And while I applaud you for making the distinction, I think using the word "cordwainer" in a search might be more problematic than simply searching for "custom shoemakers" or "bespoke shoemaker."

edited for punctuation and clarity
post #1059 of 1515
At the end of the day, the cost and price of a pair of bespoke shoes have little to do with the cost of materials or tools.

The cost of the bottom leather (insole, outsole, heel lifts, heel counter, welt, toe puff) cost less than $100, even when using the best in the world (Bakers or Rendenbach).

The upper leather could cost anywhere from $50 to say $250 per pair, depending on the quality of the leather and, more important, how many pairs of uppers a maker cuts from a given hide. Plus, say $25 for the lining leather and top lift on the heel.

A pair of last blanks, good for fashion a pair of lasts that can be used for many pairs of shoes, is maybe $70.

All of the real expense is in the cost of direct labor -- to measure the customer's feet, make the lasts, make the upper pattern, click the leather, sew all the leather together ('close the uppers'), 'make' the shoes, and finish the shoes (pull the lasts, add the sock liners, polish the uppers) -- and in overhead and profit -- rent for fancy showroom, travel expenses, advertising/marketing, salespeople salaries, fitters to test the fit of the last, 'eaten' pairs of shoes and reworked shoes, and profit.

The wages of the tradespeople in the business remains pretty bad, particularly given the amount of training they need to have before acquiring adequate skills. The latter is a combination of being taught and having enough practice to develop a combination of quality and speed. For example, I've heard it said by a maker that, in order to make a living in the trade (in the UK), a maker needs to be able to inseam or outseam a shoe in 45 minutes. I takes me 2.5 or 3 hours to do it in a quality fashion.

I've sat with several of the best makers in the UK. They probably take 20 hours to 'make' a pair of shoes. A closer can close a pair of uppers in say 2 hours. How long to make the pattern, click the uppers and linings, skive the necessary parts, etc? Definitely a couple more hours. Last making? Anywhere from 4 hours to several days.

What is a reasonable hourly rate for these skills, or what is a reasonable annual income for these trades?

That all being said, the current prices for bespoke shoes clearly has a big gross profit margin built in for many of the firms, which is going to cover overhead and net profit. But, volumes are low, so overhead/pair is high.
post #1060 of 1515
Quote:
Originally Posted by shoefan View Post

At the end of the day, the cost and price of a pair of bespoke shoes have little to do with the cost of materials or tools.

The cost of the bottom leather (insole, outsole, heel lifts, heel counter, welt, toe puff) cost less than $100, even when using the best in the world (Bakers or Rendenbach).

The upper leather could cost anywhere from $50 to say $250 per pair, depending on the quality of the leather and, more important, how many pairs of uppers a maker cuts from a given hide. Plus, say $25 for the lining leather and top lift on the heel.

A pair of last blanks, good for fashion a pair of lasts that can be used for many pairs of shoes, is maybe $70.

All of the real expense is in the cost of direct labor -- to measure the customer's feet, make the lasts, make the upper pattern, click the leather, sew all the leather together ('close the uppers'), 'make' the shoes, and finish the shoes (pull the lasts, add the sock liners, polish the uppers) -- and in overhead and profit -- rent for fancy showroom, travel expenses, advertising/marketing, salespeople salaries, fitters to test the fit of the last, 'eaten' pairs of shoes and reworked shoes, and profit.

The wages of the tradespeople in the business remains pretty bad, particularly given the amount of training they need to have before acquiring adequate skills. The latter is a combination of being taught and having enough practice to develop a combination of quality and speed. For example, I've heard it said by a maker that, in order to make a living in the trade (in the UK), a maker needs to be able to inseam or outseam a shoe in 45 minutes. I takes me 2.5 or 3 hours to do it in a quality fashion.

I've sat with several of the best makers in the UK. They probably take 20 hours to 'make' a pair of shoes. A closer can close a pair of uppers in say 2 hours. How long to make the pattern, click the uppers and linings, skive the necessary parts, etc? Definitely a couple more hours. Last making? Anywhere from 4 hours to several days.

What is a reasonable hourly rate for these skills, or what is a reasonable annual income for these trades?

That all being said, the current prices for bespoke shoes clearly has a big gross profit margin built in for many of the firms, which is going to cover overhead and net profit. But, volumes are low, so overhead/pair is high.

 

Thank you for an interesting post free of diatribe.

 

I have tried looking at this bespoke/factory arguments from as many different angles as I could. The problem with most arguments is that all the participants possess only a little part of the whole picture, presenting a point of view from a limited perspective. Therefore forums like these are invaluable, as a melting point for a diversity of views, as long as no main pedagogue dominates the conversation.

 

Before one derides the factory mentality, perhaps engage in second level thinking to ask WHY? Why do outfits like McDonalds and Coke thrive, when the issue of quality is manifestly clear?

 

A bespoke maker has many limitations from a customer's perspective. Costs, time, availability, consistency of product are four factors that comes immediately to mind. The mass makers/factories thrive because they address these limitations- lower costs, less time involved, greater availability and general consistency in product offerings. Quality is only one factor in the equation, other things matter, and they matter A LOT.  Much more than what some people here would care to admit. 

 

We can bleat on and on about quality, and some participants clearly like to limit discussions to only QUALITY, more particularly, construction quality. Is it realistic and is that useful? 

post #1061 of 1515
Quote:
Originally Posted by Petepan View Post
 

 

Thank you for an interesting post free of diatribe.

 

I have tried looking at this bespoke/factory arguments from as many different angles as I could. The problem with most arguments is that all the participants possess only a little part of the whole picture, presenting a point of view from a limited perspective. Therefore forums like these are invaluable, as a melting point for a diversity of views, as long as no main pedagogue dominates the conversation.

 

Before one derides the factory mentality, perhaps engage in second level thinking to ask WHY? Why do outfits like McDonalds and Coke thrive, when the issue of quality is manifestly clear?

 

A bespoke maker has many limitations from a customer's perspective. Costs, time, availability, consistency of product are four factors that comes immediately to mind. The mass makers/factories thrive because they address these limitations- lower costs, less time involved, greater availability and general consistency in product offerings. Quality is only one factor in the equation, other things matter, and they matter A LOT.  Much more than what some people here would care to admit. 

 

We can bleat on and on about quality, and some participants clearly like to limit discussions to only QUALITY, more particularly, construction quality. Is it realistic and is that useful? 

 

I, for one, care about quality.  I don't care how exactly large footwear manufacturers have figured out ways to maximize their profits.  Sure, they're making money because people will buy their offerings--for the reasons you state.  Sadly, too many people don't care about quality, in any form, and/or are willing to believe quality is what the marketers tell them it is.

 

I am one of those participants who want to talk about quality products, especially construction quality.  I am not sure how that could lack being "realistic."  Do you mean some people shouldn't be interested in bespoke footwear because they can't currently afford it?  How is it not useful to talk about quality?  Is it useful to talk about how nice my butt looks in a particular pair of jeans?

post #1062 of 1515
Quote:
Originally Posted by Whirling View Post
 

 

I, for one, care about quality.  I don't care how exactly large footwear manufacturers have figured out ways to maximize their profits.  Sure, they're making money because people will buy their offerings--for the reasons you state.  Sadly, too many people don't care about quality, in any form, and/or are willing to believe quality is what the marketers tell them it is.

 

I am one of those participants who want to talk about quality products, especially construction quality.  I am not sure how that could lack being "realistic."  Do you mean some people shouldn't be interested in bespoke footwear because they can't currently afford it?  How is it not useful to talk about quality?  Is it useful to talk about how nice my butt looks in a particular pair of jeans?

 

Where I live, there is exactly ONE bespoke shoemaker, down from two when the Perkal Brothers sadly passed away last year, within weeks of one another.

 

The nearest others are in Hong Kong and Japan. The flight takes 9 hours minimum, and will cost over $1000. If fittings are required, that's another trip. Then add accomodation costs. Factor in lost of income and other opportunity costs. Then the actual costs of the shoes. All paid upfront before you have any idea of the final product. I figured the real upfront cost will be in the vicinity of $6k to $10k. Waiting for a few months to get the final product, fittings and trips and miscellanous spending of QUALITY time that could be spent elsewhere eg with family, kids, your own business idea, watching porn, etc.

 

That is the price for QUALITY.

 

Everyone cares about QUALITY. No one talks about the COSTS of obtaining said quality. Plus second order level costs, such as the benefits of having an army of workers sewing shoes for your QUALITY pleasure, when said workers can be working on building bridges and hospitals and the internet infrastructure that enables you to make the QUALITY post that you just did.

 

And that my friend, is being UNREALISTIC. Much like the constituents of many socialists parties. 

 

Oh BTW, your butt looks fat in those jeans. Sorry.

 

Edit: for people slow in comprehension, the point is that you cannot talk about quality in a vacuum. Other equally important factors do come into play.

post #1063 of 1515
Quote:
Originally Posted by Petepan View Post
 

 

Where I live, there is exactly ONE bespoke shoemaker, down from two when the Perkal Brothers sadly passed away last year, within weeks of one another.

 

The nearest others are in Hong Kong and Japan. The flight takes 9 hours minimum, and will cost over $1000. If fittings are required, that's another trip. Then add accomodation costs. Factor in lost of income and other opportunity costs. Then the actual costs of the shoes. All paid upfront before you have any idea of the final product. I figured the real upfront cost will be in the vicinity of $6k to $10k. Waiting for a few months to get the final product, fittings and trips and miscellanous spending of QUALITY time that could be spent elsewhere eg with family, kids, your own business idea, watching porn, etc.

 

That is the price for QUALITY.

 

Everyone cares about QUALITY. No one talks about the COSTS of obtaining said quality. Plus second order level costs, such as the benefits of having an army of workers sewing shoes for your QUALITY pleasure, when said workers can be working on building bridges and hospitals and the internet infrastructure that enables you to make the QUALITY post that you just did.

 

And that my friend, is being UNREALISTIC. Much like the constituents of many socialists parties. 

 

Oh BTW, your butt looks fat in those jeans. Sorry.

wtf?

post #1064 of 1515
Quote:
Originally Posted by Petepan View Post

Where I live, there is exactly ONE bespoke shoemaker, down from two when the Perkal Brothers sadly passed away last year, within weeks of one another.

The nearest others are in Hong Kong and Japan. The flight takes 9 hours minimum, and will cost over $1000. If fittings are required, that's another trip. Then add accomodation costs. Factor in lost of income and other opportunity costs. Then the actual costs of the shoes. All paid upfront before you have any idea of the final product. I figured the real upfront cost will be in the vicinity of $6k to $10k. Waiting for a few months to get the final product, fittings and trips and miscellanous spending of QUALITY time that could be spent elsewhere eg with family, kids, your own business idea, watching porn, etc.

That is the price for QUALITY.

Everyone cares about QUALITY. No one talks about the COSTS of obtaining said quality. Plus second order level costs, such as the benefits of having an army of workers sewing shoes for your QUALITY pleasure, when said workers can be working on building bridges and hospitals and the internet infrastructure that enables you to make the QUALITY post that you just did.

And that my friend, is being UNREALISTIC. Much like the constituents of many socialists parties. 

Oh BTW, your butt looks fat in those jeans. Sorry.

Edit: for people slow in comprehension, the point is that you cannot talk about quality in a vacuum. Other equally important factors do come into play.

There is distinction between bespoke and hand made (some hand made shoes do not have welt, i dont like welted shoes, hence I don't use "hand welted" term).

While bespoke usually means mostly hand made, shoe can be made using traditional methods without going bespoke. Think Vass or St Crispins, that are praised on this forum (I find Vass esthetically ugly, and too heavy...).

Or to use tailoring analogy, I'd rather wear hand made Belvest otr that fits me well, then some bespoke tailor that might not produce desired result.
post #1065 of 1515
Quote:
Originally Posted by Petepan View Post


A bespoke maker has many limitations from a customer's perspective. Costs, time, availability, consistency of product are four factors that comes immediately to mind. The mass makers/factories thrive because they address these limitations- lower costs, less time involved, greater availability and general consistency in product offerings. Quality is only one factor in the equation, other things matter, and they matter A LOT.  Much more than what some people here would care to admit. 

"A bespoke maker has many limitations..." So they do. But there are bespoke makers who charge far less than some RTW makers. And there are SF members who spend just as much--no, more--time ordering and shipping back and forth shoes as I do bespeaking shoes.

Yes, good RTW trumps good bespoke on greater availability. And it often trumps in general consistency.

But with bespoke, you design the shoes. In bespoke, the shoes are made for one pair of feet--yours.

So yes, quality is only one factor. But there are factors besides quality on which bespoke trumps RTW and MTO.
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