Originally Posted by dbhdnhdbh
Fair enough. The DO's I know consider that stuff an embarrassment, and never think about it unless someone else brings it up. As I said, they are doctors, not quacks.
So, back to shoe questions.Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I don't buy expensive shoes because, well because they are expensive. I don't even bother to go to shops where they are sold and inspect them since that would waste the time of the salespeople when I know I am not going to buy.
Having revealed my ignorance of the finer things, and my plebian tastes, can someone tutor me: When shoe experts on this forum talk about "better leather", what does that mean? Setting aside horrible plastic coated CG, what are the properties of better leather? How would one recognize it? Is it inherently more expensive to produce, hence its use only in finer shoes? Does using better leather mean discarding, or selling to lesser brands, large portions of the material purchased from the tannery as only small parts of the hide are suitable for top quality shoes?
It seems that it does not necessarily mean more durable, as some on this thread have said that AE and Alden can last a long time.
Similarly, in this context, is the construction of top quality shoes different? I would have thought the construction would be different, but they do not appear all to be hand welted without gemming, which DWFII says is the only right way to make a shoe. In a Lobb shoe care video the demonstration of conditioning and shining was standard fare. However, between bits they cut to pictures of construction and I was struck by how much machining was involved.
If one of the experts, maker or simply afficianado, were to inspect a pair of unlabelled shoes made by a top bespoke maker, or perhaps OTR Lobbs, what would tell them that this was top quality merchandise? I am sure there are clues that would be obvious to an expert, what would they be?
The pictures on SF are nice to look at, but I cannot tell the difference between $300 and $3,000 shoes. (I pay well under $100 for used, but I can still look).
Just idle curiosity here. I am too cheap to buy such things, and too interested in remaining married. It may be a case of "you wouldn't understand", which I can accept, but it would be interesting to hear any explanations.
I am sure more will post more detailed answers down the track, I will start with a brief one.
Handgrade leather are more taut and smooth, as you can appreciate, different parts of a cow will provide different qualities of leather, where the area around the spine is the tightest, then as you start move to the belly, looser and more wrinkly.
While one can argue when new, viewing from normal human interaction distances, the difference isn't much, but over time after wearing, better grade leather generally lasts longer, wrinkle less and helps the shoe to stay in shape.
It is inherently more expensive to produce because EG, GG and JL and other top grade makers use one slab of skin to make one shoe, just the centre spine area, where the middle and lower grade can make 3 to 4 pairs using the same slab, using the spine area for the toe piece, and other areas for less visible parts.
As for what do the top makers do with their offcuts, I don't know, but it would make sense for use them for their middle grade, like CJ and AS have 2 lines, but for EG, GG and JL, may be they only get the spine part of the leather.
Durability depends on a number of factors, like wearing and caring, like after like 10 years of wearing and a few resoles, no matter how good was the leather, it will age with wrinkles.
In the context of goodyear welt, when that phrase is used, it's using machine, since is involves a welting machine instead of hand sewing for attaching. From my understanding, a hand grade differs to bench grade in term of grade of leather, and more handwork and care is involved, in finishing. So the cost of labour goes up compare to bench grade, different leather, and this also means higher margins due to the target market can afford it.
Some pointers for higher quality shoes
- bevelled fiddle waist, makes the shoe very elegant, purely aesthetic, no improvement on durability
- the feel of the leather
- channel stitch sole
- details and attentions to upper stitching, like how they line up to edges, and no threads sticking out
- how the medallions are punched
- the internal lining material, the internal stitching which is also important, as any piece not glued or stitches properly will hurt your feet when new
If you can't tell by the photos, I would suggest you go to a store and waste a salesperson's time, and see, touch and feel for yourself.