Originally Posted by shoefan
I agree with much of what you have written above. A couple of clarifications, though, for I think you mischaracterize my position. I never said 'value for money' is synonymous with quality, nor would I. And, of course we're just talking about opinions; my use of the 'my way or the highway' was rhetorical and alludes to the what sometimes seem the out of hand rejection of alternative views.
It's morning here and I've got a bit of time so, I'm going to do something risky and different for me...I'm not going to preview this, I'm just going to jump in.
You're absolutely correct you never said "value for the money." I apologize if I implied that you did. But others have. So many times that it's now part and parcel of the "dumbing down" of the definition of quality. And, IMO, it's part and parcel of the factory mentality, as well, because it justifies expediency and lower quality.
So, one follow up. What comprises the 'factory mentality?' Does specialization of the trade into last making, closing, making, etc. comprise the 'factory mentality?' IIRC, you seem to have either said this or suggested this in the past (excepting the last making part, which has 'always' been a separate trade... what does 'always' mean, and why did that come about -- because of a 'factory mentality'?). Or, does subsequent grouping of those folks under one roof, with specialization? Or does the introduction of a machine (the sewing machine) into that group of folks who sit under one roof? Or is the introduction of a superior (the owner, or some other manager) who is not currently doing any of the work? Or the notion that someone is thinking about how to increase the efficiency of production? Or the demise of the guild system, so the organization doesn't have to employ folks certified by some external organization? etc, etc. Honestly, I can't refute your general assertion if I don't know how you define the 'factory mentality.' If the definition is: they've done some things reflective of a cost/quality tradeoff decision to save money with an impact on quality, then you are asking me to disprove a tautology, which of course is impossible.
Well, to begin with, I think I have said that at least part of this is "personal opinion." I've repeatedly said that while I cannot deny the quality and results of the outworker system, I cannot find the
("a"?) "shoemaker" in it...that it seems to me to be a "deconstructed factory." Are the individual outworkers motivated by a "factory mentality? I don't know. Only they can answer that. But there might be...might be
... an overarching perspective there that is borrowed from the factory and as a result the sum may end up being at least different than its parts.
That said, the 'factory mentality" has less to do with organization than motive--what is Job One? It's not that hard to understand...either you are pursuing quality and excellence or you're pursuing profit. People make all kinds of allusions to this industry or that. I'm not a watchmaker. I'm not an automotive engineer. I'm a shoemaker...and in that context I see the Trade being dumbed down because people embrace definitions of quality and goals that originate and are informed by the factory context.
And then I look at the way people in general conduct their lives and what values they seem to hold and I ask myself "is it any wonder?" For instance, we all embrace the idea that "time is money." We all embrace convenient definitions of "quality" and "excellence." Egalitarian definitions to be sure but expedient and self-serving nonetheless. We live in a consumer driven society and we all get this stuff in our baby bottles (convenient & expedient, as well).
I have to stress...because I make this point over and over again and no one seems to want to address it--what is Job One? That's the wellspring of motivation and a critical determiner of what is or isn't "factory mentality." Who is the shoemaker? Who is ultimately responsible? What is good enough?
And who answers when the complaint box is opened? I mean really...not just soothing words and excuses.
It is my professional
opinion that the Trade would be better served if we only sought our own motives and didn't borrow from the philosophies of profit and expediency and convenience. That's why I say I don't compete with the factories. I don't even compete with you or ntempleman or Janne or Marcel. My motives are aspirational, as hard as that may be to understand...although maybe it's just the time / stage of my life.
It is my personal
opinion that... just in the nature of things...the Industr
y would be better served if people like me went away and everybody just accepted those dumbed down definitions of quality and forgot Traditional definitions of quality ever existed.
Putting that aside, here are a few possibilities. John Lobb Paris (workers under one roof). Pit-tanned insole leather -- I believe the systematic, organized production of same (e.g. G&FG Bakers) is likely to have had a positive impact on the quality of pit tanned leather. Another -- the factory production of linen thread. Another -- the production of shoemaking tools (Andrew Barnsley).
Well again, I'm not a tanner, not a toolmaker (well, I'm an amateur) I can't speak for those organizations and each human endeavor has its own mandates. But I did say that the factory mentality was pervasive, didn't I?
Thing is, while I sometimes deplore the results and output...and choices...that characterize factories, it's not the factories themselves that I abhor. It's, again, the motives that drive them. I could be someone (and from what I've seen there are plenty of people out there that fit this description) who makes shoes in my basement...one man...and still be governed by the factory mentality and the motives that inform it. I could be inseaming, by hand, to gemming. I could be using celastic for toe stiffeners and heel stiffeners. I could be using bonded leather. Or leather board insoles.
I could be ... but I'm not.
Ultimately, I think your point, with which I would agree, is that ignorance on the part of the customer allows the degradation of quality. But, so does a consumer who buys cognizant of the cost/quality tradeoff, but who values the cost savings more than the diminution of quality.
All that's true but come back to earth...the heart of this particular discussion is how to define quality. We all have our priorities but just because I find value in an off-the-rack suit doesn't imbue it with any objective quality. Shine and patina aren't determiners of quality.
So, the, imo, natural and perfectly rational instinct for humans to consider both cost and value when spending their (inherently limited) resources can lead to the diminution of quality, as new production methods introduce more efficient (hence lower cost/lower priced) approaches which may also affect the quality of the product. But, it need not, if the consumer values the quality of the traditional product more than the cost savings offered by the newer product.
No argument, but the hype and the PR...and the "natural and perfectly rational" laziness of most people...is so pervasive that, as I pointed out, "mediocre" is rapidly becoming the new "best." We are losing, and have lost, so much of the "quality of the traditional product"...even the awareness of it.
Repeat a lie / misconception / misunderstanding enough times and it goes viral and is all over Facebook.
Show me, IOW, even 25% of the population (the SF population included) that really and truly values "the quality of the traditional product more than the cost savings offered by the newer product." The emphasis on patina as a determiner of quality speaks volumes about the dumbing down of Traditional standards of quality. Many don't want quality, they want cachet--bragging rights--and are demonstrably unwilling to exert themselves even to look at the objective quality of their favourite pairs of shoes. Hence the efficacy of shine and patina--as bait.
Part and parcel of any business transaction is the temptation for the producer (seller) to mislead/misrepresent/hype their product and its purported quality. But, of course, that temptation exists both for the factory and for the individual craftsman, anytime someone is selling anything. Alas, that is human nature. I wouldn't put it down to the sins of factory production or any other specific method of making the product.
Well, I would. Simply because the individual craftsman is powerless relative to large, well-funded, organizations driven by stockholder expectations. As a consequence, the individual craftsman has to personally answer for his work. It is a much more open and transparent process (in most cases) and the individual craftsman doesn't have the ability to sway public opinion with slogans and blankets of hype such as "the finest made shoes in all of Christendom." It is
human nature and any person or agency can be duplicitous or lazy or mercenary. But when Job One is profit maximization and you're competing with other powerful agencies who have the same goal, no strategy for holding onto market share or increasing profit is off limits. Show me one.
And that...in my personal opinion...brings out the worst of human nature...most of the time.
--Edited by DWFII - 2/28/16 at 12:07pm