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Leather Quality and Properties - Page 47

post #691 of 1197
Quote:
Originally Posted by chogall View Post


Talking about reptiles, what's the difference between Cayman, Croc, and Alligator?  I read that quality wise Alligator being the highest, Croc in the middle and Cayman is the low price/quality alternative.  What are your thoughts?

DWF already gave a good reply for this. Caiman is indeed inferior. The flanks are quite soft and are great for belts, but the centre scales are full of osteoderms that make them very stiff. They also don't take dye very well.

Between alligator and crocodile, it mostly comes down to preference. Alligators have a larger head and tail, giving better cutting yields. I find the head to be really nice for wallets.
The porosus crocodile (saltwater crocodile) is generally considered to be the 'premium' leather compared to the others. Other than that, crocodile and alligator are generally considered interchangeable.
post #692 of 1197
Quote:
Originally Posted by chogall View Post


I read that quality wise Alligator being the highest, Croc in the middle and Cayman is the low price/quality alternative.

The finest and most expensive leather of all the crocodilians is Crocodile Porosus (Australian Saltwater Crocodile), which has the smallest and most evenly shaped tiles,



In recent years, Hermes has virtually acquired a world-wide monopoly to this leather through their subsidiary HCP (Hermes Cuirs Precieux).
post #693 of 1197

Isn't there a third direction? Ultimate quality shoes, brand whore, OR me:

 

I want reasonably well made shoes, for a realistic price. I don't care about being fashionable. I don't care about "style", and I certainly am not trying to impress anyone by wearing famous brand shoes. I want shoes that fit in, unnoticed, at work. I don't want compliments or complaints. I just want them to look more or less like everyone else's shoes. 

 

Other than Lobb bespoke for idle curiosity, I have not priced truly handmade shoes. I saw that the Lobbs were 3090 pounds, just short of $5,000 US. That would be more than I have paid for all the footwear I own. Given the amount of time and expertise required to produce fully handmade shoes, I accept that they should be expensive. Maybe not $5,000, but expensive. Even if one could get bespoke handmade for much less, say $2,000 (I have no idea) with Lobb quality but without the Lobb name and traditions, that would still be far, far more than I could contemplate paying for a pair of shoes.

 

It is not just surviving my wife finding the bill. It is even more my concept of myself. If I were to buy a pair of bespoke handwelted shoes I could not get out of my head thoughts like "Look at you, your Majesty! Machine made shoes like we peasants wear are not good enough for your royal feet? Well aren't you special!" 

 

I wear, and want, peasant shoes. Working man's shoes. Volks shoes. I am not important enough to own world class handmade shoes. I am worthy of "regular" shoes, like everyone else.

 

So, given a choice between

 

A. "the shoemaker carefully pored through dozens of samples and found this set of perfectly matched hides. Working by natural light, he painstakingly assessed the tint, texture and feel of the leather. The shoemaker has supplied the footwear for every royal wedding party and christening for the last 30 years. Using your own personal lasts, and doing every step himself by hand, he built these near perfect creations. They are shipped with their own three-piece lasted trees in your choice of fine polished hardwoods. For your satisfaction, they can be stained to match the cherry finish in your shoe closets. Have your shoe butler supply us with color correct photos. $5,000"

 

and 


B. "These shoes were made reasonably well. The factory made as much use of all the leather as it could, wasting as little as possible. If there were small pieces left over, the shoes were assembled from multiple such pieces. This keeps the overall prices down. We think they are quite sturdy, and the seams are placed at points were they will not compromise the strength of the shoes. The shoes were not made by hand, no one associated with their manufacture has a warrant from the Queen, and His Royal Highness would not be caught dead in them. Thirty years ago, when they were new, they were good enough for lawyers, plumbers, and other working people. Now that they are used, they are good enough for you. $50, shipped, from ebay"

 

I choose B.

 

From the perspective of conserving resources, there is no comparison." B" is less wasteful. "A" also cannot compete on price. Even if the handmade shoes lasted longer, they would have to last many times my lifetime to begin to make up for the price difference. 

 

So, for someone whose preference is "B", what should I look for?

post #694 of 1197
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbhdnhdbh View Post

Isn't there a third direction? Ultimate quality shoes, brand whore, OR me:

I want reasonably well made shoes, for a realistic price. I don't care about being fashionable. I don't care about "style", and I certainly am not trying to impress anyone by wearing famous brand shoes. I want shoes that fit in, unnoticed, at work. I don't want compliments or complaints. I just want them to look more or less like everyone else's shoes. 

Other than Lobb bespoke for idle curiosity, I have not priced truly handmade shoes. I saw that the Lobbs were 3090 pounds, just short of $5,000 US. hat would be more than I have paid for all the footwear I own. Given the amount of time and expertise required to produce fully handmade shoes, I accept that they should be expensive. Maybe not $5,000, but expensive. Even if one could get bespoke handmade for much less, say $2,000 (I have no idea) with Lobb quality but without the Lobb name and traditions, that would still be far, far more than I could contemplate paying for a pair of shoes. T

It is not just surviving my wife finding the bill. It is even more my concept of myself. If I were to buy a pair of bespoke handwelted shoes I could not get out of my head thoughts like "Look at you, your Majesty! Machine made shoes like we peasants wear are not good enough for your royal feet? Well aren't you special!" 

I wear, and want, peasant shoes. Working man's shoes. Volks shoes. I am not important enough to own world class handmade shoes. I am worthy of "regular" shoes, like everyone else.

So, given a choice between

A. "the shoe maker carefully pored through dozens of samples and found this set of perfectly matched hides. Working by natural light, he painstakingly assessed the tint, texture and feel of the leather. The shoemaker has supplied the footwear for every royal wedding party and christening for the last 30 years. Using your own personal lasts, and doing every step himself by hand, he built these near perfect creations. They are shipped with their own three-piece lasted trees in your choice of fine polished hardwoods. If you like, they can be stained to match the finish in your shoe closets. Have your butler supply us with color correct photos. $5,000"

and 


B. "These shoes were made reasonably well. The factory made as much use of all the leather as it could, wasting as little as possible. If there were small pieces left over, the shoes were assembled from multiple such pieces. This keeps the overall prices down. We think they are quite sturdy, and the seams are placed at points were they will not compromise the strength of the shoes. The shoes were not made by hand, no one associated with their manufacture has a warrant from the Queen, and His Royal Highness would not be caught dead in them. Thirty years ago, when they were new, they were good enough for lawyers, plumbers, and other working people. Now that they are used, they are good enough for you. $50, shipped, from ebay"

I choose B.

From the perspective of conserving resources, there is no comparison. B is less wasteful. A cannot compete on price. Even if the handmade shoes lasted longer, they would have to last many times my lifetime to begin to make up for the price difference. 

So, for someone whose preference is "B", what should I look for?

Allen Edmonds.
post #695 of 1197
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbhdnhdbh View Post

 

I want reasonably well made shoes, for a realistic price. I don't care about being fashionable. I don't care about "style", and I certainly am not trying to impress anyone by wearing famous brand shoes. I want shoes that fit in, unnoticed, at work. I don't want compliments or complaints. I just want them to look more or less like everyone else's shoes. 

 

 

What really baffles me is why someone who just wants to "fit in" joins StyleForum. I do not mean that in a condescending way at all, but isn't the whole point of this website to look at the outer fringes of fine mens' couture?

 

DBH, with all due respect, if your goal is simply to "fit in," why are you asking these questions? You have just said that you would choose $50 option B, so go with that...? 

 

Lastly, I greatly respect DWF's work and hope that one day, when I have enough free time and money, that I can attend one of DWF's classes. But I am having trouble understanding the statement about "making shoes or making money," also. DWF, perhaps, since you are in the trade, you are in the best position to answer this, but how, in your estimation, do places like John Lobb Bespoke et. al. stay open if they are not reasonably profitable? I would think the rent alone in London and Paris would be significantly cost prohibitive, but by all accounts, it looks like the JLB operation continues to grow at a fast rate, especially with the business from newly rich Russia and China flowing into London. Any thoughts are appreciated, and thank you for your time DWF.

post #696 of 1197
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbhdnhdbh View Post

Isn't there a third direction? Ultimate quality shoes, brand whore, OR me:

That's not the issue. Stop and give it some thought. What I said makes sense entirely. Either you are a brand whore or you put yourself into a position...open your mind enough...to understand something about shoes and how they are made, even if it's only what feels good to you. If you don't do that then you are at the mercy of the public relations department. And the advertising hype that bombards us from every direction.

Think about it...why do you buy a pair of shoes? Were you wandering barefoot in the wilderness and just happened upon a shoe store? Do you buy your shoes like many buy their groceries...mainly because the TV told them that Heinz ketchup was the best or the cheapest today..."only at Safeway? "

Or do you buy your shoes because you know that at such and such a price point you will get enough value and a good enough fit to make you feel you got your monies worth? And how do you know that? Questioning, researching, study--even as simply as asking about various aspects of shoemaking here on SF?

Without that knowledge, without that curiosity, without that deliberation, the only information/basis you have to make any choice is brand name or other people's recommendations (which is fundamentally the same thing). Of course as I've said, ignorance can also be a choice.

The same overarching point applies to the issue of choosing to make shoes versus choosing to make money. I have made money making shoes. I tell people...half tongue in cheek...that I am essentially "landed gentry." I started out dirt poor. At 67, I don't owe a dime to anyone. I own my own house, a recent model car, my shop building and all therein and several thousands of dollars of high end fly fishing equipment. I drink only premium beers and decent single malts. Aside from the fly fishing equipment and the single malt, nothing rising above the commonplace or mundane, however--just the ordinary fruits of honest labour. Yes, I have made money, but I didn't get there choosing to make money. I got there choosing to give my best as far as I understood it. No compromise--your best is your best or it's not. Period.

And when I chose to make shoes...from that first shoe onward, every subsequent choice I made regarding techniques, materials etc.. was in service to the idea of best practices and finest quality--the search for excellence. Never about the bottom line or the profit margin or even the cost of raw materials. That's what is meant about choosing--what is your Job One? What governs your day to day operations and decisions. Quality shoes were always Job One, profit was Job Seven.

If a person chooses to make money, every decision has to be weighted against the bottom line, against profit. And every company that takes that road ends up not only degrading the product from where it began but painting themselves into a corner from which they cannot return to previous levels of quality. If you've fired every bottom man in the house and replaced all your hand tools and skill workers with GY machines and factory drones...how can you retool to do handwelting? You can't...the stockholders will not allow it.

Name one old, venerable, company that started life as a small workshop making high end handwelted men's shoes, decided to expand and "modernize" the line, cut costs and substitute even a tiny bit lower grade of materials for what they had been using, which has ever...ever...reversed course and gone back to the techniques and materials and philosophies that the firm was founded upon. I don't know of any. I don't think there are any.

John Lobb has said "we have turned our backs on the machine." What choice do you think they made? And after several centuries they remain one of the premier...really and truly premier...shoemakers in the world. Arguably because they have remained true to their principles and their vision. All the sneering "Know-Nothings" in the world can't change that nor gainsay others who admire and follow the same path. They still hold a Royal Warrant. Ask yourself why? 'Nuff said.

Choices. We all choose one way or the other. Some choose to remain ignorant. Some can have an explanation spelled out for them, in detail, point by point and never understand it--"there is none so blind...." I believe that's a choice...call me naive but have a hard time believing that there are those so mind-bogglingly dull that it's anything but a choice. Some people want everything handed to them...including attention and respect...without ever having to work for it. Without ever having to think. Without ever having to contribute anything constructive or positive.

I've worked for everything I have...and at 67 I have the luxury, and a certain satisfaction with life, that allows me to be generous and reach out to folks and share my experiences and my knowledge, no charge. My glory days are behind me. I'm fine with that--I've been there,bought the T-shirt, paid my dues.

But that's why I know about choices and their consequences...

--
Edited by DWFII - 10/31/13 at 6:19pm
post #697 of 1197
Quote:
Originally Posted by JermynStreet View Post


Lastly, I greatly respect DWF's work and hope that one day, when I have enough free time and money, that I can attend one of DWF's classes. But I am having trouble understanding the statement about "making shoes or making money," also. DWF, perhaps, since you are in the trade, you are in the best position to answer this, but how, in your estimation, do places like John Lobb Bespoke et. al. stay open if they are not reasonably profitable? I would think the rent alone in London and Paris would be significantly cost prohibitive, but by all accounts, it looks like the JLB operation continues to grow at a fast rate, especially with the business from newly rich Russia and China flowing into London. Any thoughts are appreciated, and thank you for your time DWF.

I appreciate your open-mindedness and willingness to ask for clarification rather than bluster and sneer as some would do.

See my above post.

But if that doesn't answer bear in mind that I didn't say you couldn't make money while making shoes nor did I say you couldn't make shoes while making money. I said you had to choose--had to choose which would be your ultimate goal, your focus, as who should say.

Because no man can serve two masters.
And call me DW...it's shorter and less likely to be confused with DFW--which is an Internationally famous airport somewhere in Texas. crackup[1].gif

--
post #698 of 1197
Quote:
Originally Posted by DWFII View Post

I appreciate your open-mindedness and willingness to ask for clarification rather than bluster and sneer as some would do.

See my above post.

But if that doesn't answer bear in mind that I didn't say you couldn't make money while making shoes nor did I say you couldn't make shoes while making money. I said you had to choose--had to choose which would be your ultimate goal, your focus, as who should say.

Because no man can serve two masters.
And call me DW...it's shorter and less likely to be confused with DFW--which is an Internationally famous airport somewhere in Texas. crackup[1].gif

--

post #699 of 1197
Quote:
Originally Posted by DWFII View Post

But if that doesn't answer bear in mind that I didn't say you couldn't make money while making shoes nor did I say you couldn't make shoes while making money. I said you had to choose--had to choose which would be your ultimate goal, your focus, as who you say.

 

No, that's not at all what you said:

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by DWFII View Post

But all other things being equal it comes back to a quip that I am almost famous (or infamous) for:

When you get into this business you have to make a choice--either to make shoes or to make money. Because you can't do both. Every subsequent decision will pivot off that first one." And the outcomes, as well as the road traveled, will be significantly different...even mutually exclusive when viewed from the long perspective....
--

 

Not at all a suggestion of a primary focus.  Not one MORE than the other. One OR the other.  NOT both.  You even bolded it. A false dichotomy if I ever saw one.

 

Glad to see that you have moved away from that absurdity.

post #700 of 1197

Boy, this thread has really exploded recently.

 

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by DWFII View Post


The best razor straps were/are probably made of horse-hide, not latigo. I seem to recall that Horween might have gotten their start making horse-hidestrops.

Horween also currently produces some latigo although I'm not sure it is the same tannage as classic latigo. The Horween latigo is a veg and chrome retan cow that is stuffed with oils. The latigo that Horween makes is in some iterations and some weights suitable for making utility shoes and especially boots.

The strap that holds the cinch on a saddle (western saddle) is called a latigo...perhaps because they are generally made from red latigo.

 

 

Thanks a lot, DW.  Sounds like you're not particularly excited about latigo.

 

 

Another question for DW or anyone.  What happens to suede as it ages?  I mean, presumably it doesn't crack and become unusable, does it?  Does it just grow rattier and rattier, or will it ever fail in some obvious way?

Would there be any benefit to applying some sort of conditioner or oil to the grain side of suede?

post #701 of 1197
Quote:
Originally Posted by cogbog View Post


Thanks a lot, DW. Sounds like you're not particularly excited about latigo.

Not true. I used and like the Horween latigo for work boots for a number of years Maybe 30 years. I only quit because Horween made it prohibitively expensive...and more importantly, restricted access to what I needed.

Regarding suede: Maybe I'm not the best person to answer that particular question. Really good suede is not available in the US . Mostly it's splits we get or we're forced to simply turn a leather that was tanned and finished to be used as full grain (and priced accordingly), inside out. Which works, mostly. I don't believe I've ever seen a suede boot or shoe that has worn out in any specific manner. On occasion I've seen sueded shoes with holes in the upper...whether from over-zealous use of a brass suede brush or just wear and tear, I couldn't tell you. I've also seen suede be just so dried out and brittle that is can no longer hold a seam. I think more often they just collect so much dirt and grit that they get shiny and either crack or are abandoned

That said, all leather fails sometime, in some way. There are suede conditioners, however, specifically designed to prolong the life of the leather. I would not put a conditioner meant for full grain calf on suede. Not even on the grain side.

--
Edited by DWFII - 10/31/13 at 8:51pm
post #702 of 1197

I misunderstood your tone about latigo--interesting to hear that you used to use it.  I brought up the strop connection because I have a latigo strop myself.  Works fine, but I believe, as you say, that nicer strops are more often made of other materials like horsehide.  I'm trying to imagine it on a boot now.

 

Fascinating stuff, about suede!  I was mainly just curious about conditioner--I'd never heard of anyone doing such a thing.

 

Thanks again.

post #703 of 1197
Quote:
Originally Posted by cogbog View Post

I misunderstood your tone about latigo--interesting to hear that you used to use it.  I
Thanks again.

No worries. Glad to be of help.
post #704 of 1197
Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerP View Post

Hi D,

I don't need an invitation to participate in this or any other thread.  And I don't need your permission, either.  I do have a theory that would comprehensively explain your obsession with both horrible stench and flies in your eyes, but I'll let you figure it out.  Besides, I prefer to leave the childish name-calling to you - it amuses me no end.

It's not a matter of liking your opinion or not - it's that what you have said here makes no sense whatsoever.  You can either make shoes or make money?  Seriously?  So any individual maker or company actually making enough money to stay in business isn't really making shoes?  Ridiculous. If many years of experience led you to that and other patently absurd conclusions, then you did not put those years to best use.

By the way - just a point to consider - quoting yourself is generally regarded as an act of intellectual masturbation - best to keep that kind of thing private.

Be well.

The way, I understand it and have witnessed in the flesh is a lot of people in the industry of apparel, footwear, and so on don't really want to make the best product possible, they rather want to be their clients and live their lifestyle. The way that they be their clients is to make a lot more money than they would making the best products, by time tested methods. This means, cutting some corners. Is there anything wrong with this? No. I don't think so, but be honest here. There is a reason these manufacturing processes were put in place from the get go. I don't even think that is arguable.

Somebody brought up that it is possible to get a hand welted shoe for less than Vass. Probably, but then again just because something is hand welted doesn't mean it won't have issues with that, or elsewhere on the shoe. I have seen pictures online of hand welted shoes with maybe 3 stitches per inch. Sure hand welted, but is that really offering any benefit in that case? I'm not really sure, I don't make shoes. In any event would you actually be willing to pay for a shoe that is perfect, pristine, cheap, and the shoemaker is homeless? Sure, you could argue it is their choice to do that, but come on. I wouldn't support this part of the reason why I don't buy anything (probably other than underwear) that is made in China. That, to me, is a reflection of our backwards ass ethics, self-centeredness, and, dare I say, stingy ways. I don't think we can actually pretend that a hand welted shoe for less than a Vass isn't going to have some other area that assumes the position of the weakest link. Probably the leather quality then becomes suspect, imo, worse than the gemming, then again, I know nothing really.

I think after a while it isn't about what is better, and who's intention is what. It is about what you as a person, and a consumer are willing and able to buy. For me clothing and shoes are not perfunctory purchases. To me it is art, human connection, and to a lesser degree national economics. I love the craft, I love being able to shake the hand of a person who puts their, quote, "blood, sweat, and tears" into something that I get a lot of enjoyment out of and take with me on the journey that is life. I am a bit of an economic nationalist. I like the idea of buying things where I live and supporting the arts. Yes, the arts. I don't have the funds, or the leisure time to fly around getting exactly what I want, however I do my best to support those making the products that work for me all in the process keeping markets working around me, which comes back around only to help me and my economy. Is this over thinking? Maybe, but I don't lose sleep thinking about the stuff so no harm, no foul.
post #705 of 1197
Patrick,

I can't speak to the motives of anyone but myself in that regard, but I certainly am willing to entertain the idea that those who manage commercial shoemaking operations do as they do for all the reasons you state. Many actually have no/zero hands-on experience making shoes or any part of the process--they are managers with degrees and would probably prefer to not get their hands dirty.

But I can tell anyone who will listen that Tradesmen...Craftsmen...almost across the board--whether it be bespoke shoes, hand-made knives, fly reels, turned wooden hollow forms, whatever---are driven by different impulses. The work is contemplative, it speaks to something inside of us that seeks to create. It drives us to ever greater levels of sophistication and refinement. It is a search for excellence. I can state unequivocally that I have no desire to live like, emulate, or be any of my customers. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with that. I'm just saying that in my experience, the kind of person who chooses to make shoes is a different kind of person...is driven by different impulses...than people who choose to make money.

And sure to engender more sneering--sometimes such work creates more than just a pair of shoes. Sometimes it creates a subtle link to something outside of ourselves, something almost mystical. Call it the divine, call it the universal creator. Like a very light whisper of wind that occasionally caresses the soul.

There was an interesting episode of MASH some years ago where Hawkeye speaks of being at the operating table and doing things that he literally does not know how to do. Like that.

Perhaps that's why this is so hard to understand for some...even when all the logic points to a single conclusion. Not many people choose to make anything anymore. Not many people are willing to physically work for anything. Not many are willing to endure years of frustration and failure to learn and master difficult skills. Not many people have experienced that link .

And some wouldn't want to, I'm sure.

And yet, despite all that, we still to this day measure quality...real quality...against the degree to which such intangibles are in evidence.
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