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Dover-man

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Had a look into the Ralph Lauren store in London and met Gary in the shoe department. Gary is one of two hand-stitch (skin-stitch) experts at Edward Green and was giving a demonstration about the Art of hand-stitched vamps. He has been working for the company some 18 years and has stitched in that time thousands of Dover vamps. Without a doubt, he must be the world champion in this particular field. Furthermore, demonstrations have taken him all round the world to Europe, America and Japan. Yes, he was the guy, a few months back, sitting in the shop window of Kos in New York; stitching happily. Of course in Japan, where every apron-fronted shoe is a "Dover", he is known as the Dover-Man. He happily answered yours truly all sort of questions about shoemaking in general and Edward Green in particular.
post #2 of 16
B-S, Thanks for this post. Can you elaborate upon your Q & A session with Dover-Man at a later date?
post #3 of 16
Bengal, I too would be interested in any nuggets of interest or insight provided by the gentleman you met, specifically regarding lasts, skins, trends, new styles, etc.
post #4 of 16
Bengal, I recently recieved my bespoke EG Dovers in Edwardian Antique, and they are beutifull. They have a line to them that is dificult to find in RTW shoes. I suppose Gary must have worked on them.
post #5 of 16
Thread Starter 
Main revelation was how the stitching is done. I had presumed from descriptions I have read, that the stitching was "flipped over", i.e. the underside of the stitching was to become the top of the shoe. But that is not the case; the stitching is actually done the same way it appears on the shoe. We did not talk so much about styles or lasts as this is somewhat outside of Gary's field of expertise. (EG is introducing a new last (82) which is supposed to take over from 202. One probably will have to talk to Tony Gaziano, the last's designer to get all the inside outs, what was changed and why. I presume seeing both 82 and 202 next to each other on the table, it will be very difficult if not impossible to the layperson to actually see any differences.) Gary has great respect for the late John Hlustik who bought an insolvent company (as a going concern including the debts) in the early 1980s for the proud sum of a single Pound Sterling (about $ 2.00 at today's rate). Hlustik also managed to save the company after the marriage with Hermes/Lobb did not work out. He spoke in equally glowing terms of Hilary Freeman, Hlustik's partner, who had taken on the management after his death, and how well this had worked out. Although by shoe manufacturing standards, EG with some 50 people employed is tiny; there seems to be a very dedicated work force and a common-purpose bond between management and staff. (And as everybody who knows about British Industrial Relations will be aware that this does not happen very often in the UK. Manufacturing firms are usually run with a whip and a strong divide between "us" and "them".)
Quote:
I recently recieved my bespoke EG Dovers in Edwardian Antique, and they are beutifull. They have a line to them that is dificult to find in RTW shoes. I suppose Gary must have worked on them.
I'm really curious, how do the bespoke Dovers differ from RTW version (apart from the perfectly fitting last).
post #6 of 16
I had the good fortune to be in London last week and to find out about Gary's appearance at the Polo store. I spent an hour chatting with him and watching him work. It was impressive to see the ease and speed with which he works. He was sewing uppers for the Green Dovers, ie. both a hand-stitched toe seam and the skin stitched apron. He said it takes him about an hour per pair. I believe he said he has been at Green for about 16 years. He is one of two Green skin stitchers, and he said he can always recognize his work vs. that of his peer's; I guess staring at ones own work for 8 hours a day will do that. He was a very nice fellow, clearly a good ambassador for Green. I have been practicing doing some skin stitching myself, and Gary very generously gave me an awl blade and a some boar's bristles to help me in my efforts. The process is relatively straightforward but clearly quite difficult to do consistently. The keys to these stitches are: to pre-mark the leather (using a stitch marker); to prehole the leather piece(s) being skin stitched, making sure the hole exits the leather through the thickness of the leather (i.e. in skin-stitching, the hole does not pass all the way through the leather, but rather travels parallel to the surface of the leather); to have a properly set-up boar's bristle/thread combination; and to ensure the two threads (going through each hole in opposite directions) always maintain the same relative position, so that the threads give a consistent appearance as they interlock under the skin. Also, the sewer needs to have the proper "sewing block," a shaped piece of wood onto which the leather is placed while being sewed; the sewing blocks for the toe seam and the apron seam are different shapes. One interesting/puzzling observation I made. There were a bunch of RLPL shoes on display at the Polo store, but they seemed generally to be made on the 808 last. Given that the RLPL shoes are typically made on the 89 last, I don't know if these were just normal production Green shoes with the RLPL sockliners inserted or what.
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I had the good fortune to be in London last week and to find out about Gary's appearance at the Polo store.
Goodness, shoefan; we must have missed each other by minutes. I met Gary on Thursday, and Saturday I went back to the Polo store, as I had seen a wonderful pair of RLPL/EG shoes which was nothing like I had ever seen at EG or the Japanese sites. (Galoshes (balmoral) lace-ups where the vamp is taken right to the back of the heel.) I looked at the shoes, they really are lovely, there were two gentlemen sitting on the sofa, which I presumed to be tired customers. I had left the shoe department already, then, thinking of the shoe display on the table, I went back and asked the men whether they were from EG by any chance. They were. It was John Garner who works in production management on the RTW side and the other was the leather buyer (don't know his name). Ralph Lauren has just started a MTO service for EG shoes, and the two men, like Gary before, were part of a trunk show to promote this new service. (I don't know whether this service is London specific or is available at all RL stores). So the two had no choice but to answer all my questions about shoes, bespoke, EG special orders etc. Although John Garner said occasionally that he was to wear his Ralph Lauren hat, they willingly answered all questions. That particular pair which I had taken a shine to, is a Ralph Lauren exclusive and I would have to buy it (or place a special order) through the Polo store.
Quote:
One interesting/puzzling observation I made.  There were a bunch of RLPL shoes on display at the Polo store, but they seemed generally to be made on the 808 last.  Given that the RLPL shoes are typically made on the 89 last, I don't know if these were just normal production Green shoes with the RLPL sockliners inserted or what.
RL is very fond of the 808 last and has most (maybe all) of his more recent models made up on that particular last. (My two RL/EGs are on 808.) EG for their own label, have, more or less, replaced the 808 with the 888. But for special orders, be it a single pair or an entire collection, they will use any last you specify. Probably all the models are exclusive to RL, but sometimes the differences are very small indeed. (The EG style might have a plain toe, while the RL has a toe medallion, or one has a heel counter, while the other has not.) No, I haven't found out yet the cost for a Ralph Lauren/Edward Green special order. But these shoes are so nice.
post #8 of 16
I was there on Tuesday evening, when Polo was having a special made-to-measure promotion. I wish I had known Gary would be there all week, as I would have dropped by again to do some more observing. I also would have loved to chat with the other EG people, particularly the leather buyer. Oh well, half a loaf is better than none at all.
post #9 of 16
Quote:
I met Gary on Thursday, and Saturday I went back to the Polo store, as I had seen a wonderful pair of RLPL/EG shoes which was nothing like I had ever seen at EG or the Japanese sites. (Galoshes (balmoral) lace-ups where the vamp is taken right to the back of the heel.)
Cap toe or plain-toe? Is it similar to the Gladstone model (in the Top Drawer section of the green cover EG catalogue)?
post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Cap toe or plain-toe?
The shoes (don't know their name) have a plain-toe, decorated with a medallion. The vamp/sides is one piece of leather sweeping back to the heel. The lacing bit is a single piece (without back seam). This goes partly under (front) and partly over (sides and back) the galoshes part. Where it goes over, it is decorated with a single row of brogueing. As John Garner mentioned, a lot of leather ends up on the floor. The nearest shoe I can think of (how naughty of me, shouldn't mention that) is the very first John Lobb/Paris, St Crispin's Day special (was the year 1999?).
Quote:
Is it similar to the Gladstone model (in the Top Drawer section of the green cover EG catalogue)?
Sorry, don't have a green cover EG catalogue (before my time). I've only seen the Gladstone on web sites (RL also stocked it one season) and I don't know how the back was finished.
post #11 of 16
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post #12 of 16
This Bonora has a very small apron, or lake, which is an attractive look in my opinion. I learned from Trepointes magazine that a small apron/lake like those on the Bonoras is called an "Italian lake." I suppose, not coincidentally, that I've only seen these Italian lakes on Italian shoes. Regarding how the skin stitching compares to that on the EG Dovers, I find the skin-stitched split noses on EG shoes to be more attractive because EG somehow makes the split appear less severe than on other skin-stitched noses. I think it's because EG often burnishes the leather right at the split, and that the EG skin stitch itself is more pronounced underneath the leather grain than in other shoes I've seen. In my opinion, EG's more pronounced skin stitching has the effect of better balancing the severity of the line caused by the two pieces of leather butting against each other. (My God, if my girlfriend could see what I was writing, she would think I've gone insane. She already has issues with me subscribing to a shoe magazine in the first place.)
post #13 of 16
just be sure to lock the door to the bathroom when you take the magazine in there...
post #14 of 16
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post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
Gary did mention, that at one time Edward Green used to have two different patterns for Dover-style shoes, but now they are using one only. The difference might well have been a shorter apron on the alternative design. It's not only the Italians, but also French makers like Weston or Paraboot use a much shorter apron to get a longer nose/snout. In Edward Green the choice of last has an impact on the length of the nose. A Dover on last 808 has a nose that is maybe ¼" (5 or 6 mm) longer than on a last 606.
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