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Shoe questions

post #1 of 92
Thread Starter 
There have been several complaints recently about high end shoes not fitting comfortably, or taking a long time to break in.  Is this common?  Is it just fat American feet trying to fit into narrow Europeaqn shoes? There also have been several pics of suede boots.  Do people actually wear these for outdoor activities where they expect to get them wet and dirty?  My experience has been that even the special suede brushes don't do a very good job of cleaning suede once it becomes matted and dirty. Finally, I would like some education on Bookbinder and similar finishes.  My understanding from this forum is that Church's, and AE apply waxes or whatever with pressure rollers in order to impart the glossy finish.  I also know that you can easily polish these so that they have almost a mirror like finish.  Do Americans prefer a high shine and Europeans something more subdued?  If the finish actually clogs the pores, it would seem that the leather would quickly deteriorate and it would not be possible to bring up any kind of a shine.  Just the opposite has been my experience. Finally, how does the Bookbinder finish differ from the patinated finshes found on some high end shoes,e.g., Vass?  Is it handwork compaqred to machine applied or...? Thanks again for help from the experts.
post #2 of 92
To make a pair of shoes, the leather needs body, i.e. a certain thickness as not to collapse. Many so-called comfort shoes use very thin, soft leather that gets backed with some material to give it body or it gets coated with a layer of foam. This leather feels soft and squishy all over and adjust easily to your foot, but gets equally easily pulled and misshapen through wear. Dress shoes employ heavier leather that does not need any backing (apart from the toe and heel area) but it does not adjust that easily to your foot, particular if the shoes did not fit very well in the first place. Any shoemaker has a concept of what his shoes are aiming at; this is expressed in the last. A particular maker's last might fit you very well or might not fit you at all. Only trying on can show you if the shoes fit. In general European shoes are considered to be somewhat wider than American ones, but ultimately it is your individual foot that decides how well a shoe fits. If the shoe does not fit well (but not like a well worn slipper) when you buy it, leave well alone. Bookbinder, cobbler or "corrected grain" as the trade name goes, is leather with the grain (pores) removed by sanding to get rid of imperfections and scares. It is second grade leather of older animals that does not make it into the boxcalf category. Then a new top face is applied with waxes and rollers. It is leather, which does not age gracefully, particular in the various colors (black is black) and does not acquire the patina as well-worn natural leather does. It might even be "coated leather" when a coat of plastic is sprayed on to give high sheen. Unfortunately as the shoes get worn and creases develop, the plastic tends to come away in the creases. Good leather gets better as it gets older, corrected grain gets worse. Leather glossary: http://members.madasafish.com/~stuart....rms.htm Suede is relatively delicate, but not as delicate as many people believe. After all suede or nubuck is quite frequently the material of choice for work boots (like yellow Timberlands). It can easily be hosed down and does not mind being attacked with a nail brush to remove stains.
post #3 of 92
Quote:
There have been several complaints recently about high end shoes not fitting comfortably, or taking a long time to break in. Is this common? Is it just fat American feet trying to fit into narrow Europeaqn shoes?
From everything that I've read, American feet aren't "fat" compared to European feet. If anything, they're narrower, particularly in the heel. This is the principal reason that American makers such as Alden use combination lasts for their shoes; and in fact, heel slippage is the main fit problem that I've had with some European brands. Japanese feet tend to be shorter, wider, and flatter than either American or European feet, and I've heard that some Japanese shoe stores only stock wide widths. Of course, foot shape is determined by genetics. That some European makes don't fit the typical American foot well impugns neither European makes nor American feet.
post #4 of 92
Suede or rough-out (as called in western boots) is not necessarily fragile.  I have queried Edward Green about suede and they have referred to their suede as servicable.  They make field boots, commonly used in Scotland from stag suede.  Stag skin is very soft, but wears well, even when madeup roughout. EG advises to simply let the boot dry and brush off the soil. Whites Boots (see their web page) uses roughout leather (suede) on logging and smoke jumpers boots.  They prefer this as it doesn't scuff and they say roughout wears better then smooth sideout.  The skin, as Whites has told me, is the same as their oil tanned. Whites also does a dry tanned leather (without oil), which is used on their boots for Southwestern loggers and smoke jumpers boots.  Drews Boots (see their page) specifically makes these-up roughout for the hot dry climates and claims them to be very tough. The pores are not clogged with oil or silicon and breaths very well. Therefore, they are not waterproof.  I have a pair and put them through the challenges of field use. They are a mid brown color and I have had  no problems with staining. These boots are very tough.  An advantage is these boots are not lined; having the smooth side in is like linned boots without the weight and extra warmth of linned boots. I have been corresponding with W C Russell Mocassin Company who makes bespoke shoes and boots for field use.  They tell me French Veal skin, a soft leather, also does well in the field and takes water and mud just fine.  Of cause they must be cleaned and conditioned with respect as any shoe or boot should be. Having said this, if suede gets muddy the color may darken. Is this the antiquing so very much prized in EGs shoes.  But any leather will change color overtime.  I have EG stage suede Dovers and just brush them off with a brass suede brush.  Moderate rain or mud puddles will do no harm.  But, any leather shoe of boot needs to be waterproofed to withstand a soaking.  Whites advises to use the same oil on the roughouts as the smooth sided out.  The oil, undoubtedly will change the color. Quality shoes made from full grain leather ought wear well with proper care.  Poor quality or spilt skins don't wear as well under even the most civilzed conditons.  The right tool for the right job applies to shoes being exposed to the elements. Bye the bye, Cordovan takes a high shine because the skin is very fine textured with small pores and is a naturally oily skin.  It is very tough, but will show slight bumps if it gets wet because of the oil.  I am told these bumps will settle down with time.
post #5 of 92
Mack - Your question on American vs. Euro fittings has an interesting answer. In my early days of fitting shoes, I thought the same thing as you. We always had to add either length or width when we sold a Ferragamo or a Bally shoe to a customer who had been used to a Johnston & Murphy fit for example. About eight years ago I started traveling to Italy to merchandise my own shoes and I found numerous small manufacturers whose shoes I loved and bought for my shops. These factories did not sell to the US market so, obviously, I bought the European last and did my best to translate the sizing. I lost a ton of money due to fit - they were all too wide. What I learned was I had to buy from factories who sell to the American market (or do subcontract work for labels sold here) as they have invested in a different set of lasts for this market. The American customer, generally, requires a narrower fitting. Now, I say generally because this is changing. I my shops, I have noticed with the younger customers that the feet are wider and in much worse shape than with my typical customers (45+). I can only assume that the generation that grew up in sneakers, or has shopped in self-service stores (most now), have suffered a break down in foot health due to this. My opinion is that poor fitting and poor quality has caused the arches to fall, the ligaments to stretch out, and the joints to become open on too many young feet. When we have concerns from customers about too narrow a fit, I find this to be the case many times. Now, back to the impression many people have about European shoes fitting narrower than their American counter parts. From what I have said, you would think that European sizing would be better for American feet if they truely made narrower shoes. However, they do not. When WW2 ended, and American money rebuilt most European industry, the footwear segment expanded greatly. Not within Europe, but exporting to America and other countries. The manufacturers were told by American buyers that they must make narrower shoes for the American market. When they detailed new lasts they detailed them with less girth than the typical Continental fitting, but did not lengthen them. This is the reason some shoes from manufacturers who have done business here for a long time fit smaller. This was all explained to me by Mr. Borgioli, a manufacturer in the Florence area since 1946, and who makes shoes for many brands sold here including Prada, Gucci, Bruno Magli, Valentino and more, as well as his own label shoes which I buy. Now, all of my experience is in Italian shoes. I have no idea how the British footwear industry developed so there could be other reasons why people sometimes are complaining about this. Really, no shoes should be bought without a honest and experienced shoe fitting. Remember, there is no such thing as a size that translates from factory to factory, or even style to style. There are no standards in our industry and last profile is everything in regards to fitting, note a size stamp.
post #6 of 92
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What I learned was I had to buy from factories who sell to the American market (or do subcontract work for labels sold here) as they have invested in a different set of lasts for this market.
It's interesting to hear that. I knew that Gravati had different lasts for American consumption, but I had no idea that this was also true for other manufacturers.
post #7 of 92
if any factory there is serious about the American market, they have to. If for no other reason, there are VERY few stores anymore that fit shoes anymore, so they have to make it as easy as possible. Btw, the only shoes not made on a combination last anymore are some I have seen from Brazil that Cole Haan markets - truly awful shoes they sell. Haha, jokes on me - I actually still sell them. Customers just don't listen.?.
post #8 of 92
Quote:
if any factory there is serious about the American market, they have to.
Would that include makers like JM Weston, Edward Green, and others whose shoes are either British or British-inspired?
post #9 of 92
Yes - E. Green I don't do business with; I obviously check them out when I am in NY and they certainly are. Weston btw are fabulous shoes, made in France. I haven't put them on the shelf yet, but he calls often and I spoke with him last week. VERY serious about their shoes. Straight lasts became impractical long ago.
post #10 of 92
You'd think if Weston used a whole set of different lasts for the American market, they'd bother to print American sizes on these shoes.
Quote:
Yes - E. Green I don't do business with; I obviously check them out when I am in NY and they certainly are. Weston btw are fabulous shoes, made in France. I haven't put them on the shelf yet, but he calls often and I spoke with him last week. VERY serious about their shoes. Straight lasts became impractical long ago.
post #11 of 92
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Weston btw are fabulous shoes, made in France.
You're preaching to the saved. I have and love the 598 demi-chasse derby, and I've been lusting after the Hunt shoe for quite some time.
post #12 of 92
can anyone comment on why american feet would have a different shape than european feet? when you say 'american' i assume you're referring to white americans of european descent. so why would their feet be any different? all the burgers and fries? or is it that americans prefer a different fit than do others?
post #13 of 92
I've never been able to say for sure, but I think it has something to do with Americans being a suburban, driving population while most other regions (Europe) are urban, walking populations. In general. Also, here in the South, we do many more narrow fittings than my friends with stores up North or in the Midwest. Probably for the same reason. As far as size stamping goes, I am not sure why Weston would not stamp their shoes as such. Again, I do not stock them yet, but the stock book they supplied me with to consider the line includes the basic American styles that they make available in many widths. I would think that on these shoes, the sizing would have to be stamped. The store in NY carries many more shoes than the basic program so there are quite a few which are made for the world market, and economics dictates that they all can not be made on different lasts under any circumstances. That is a question for the store to answer. Remember, there are no guidelines here as to what a shoe has to measure to be labeled a certain size.
post #14 of 92
Re:Weston. I seriously doubt that Weston has a unique last that is designed for the US market; they have very little distribution in this country, and therefore the economics of using a unique last for products destined for the US market would likely be unattractive. Furthermore, I've never heard mention of a unique last in my visits to the Weston NYC store, even when discussing fit issues with the store manager. I have a pair of the demi-chasse derby's with the rubber sole; as I have noted elsewhere, they are very tight across the ball of my foot. When I discussed this with the manager, he said that they will break in and called the process "the agony and the ecstasy." What is weird to me is that I really couldn't go with a greater width in this style, because the lacing on the two sides of the quarters nearly touches in my current shoes, so a wider size would be too big around the instep. This seems to me particularly strange given that I have a very high instep. I do think that the Weston leather is very nice though. RIDER: a question --
Quote:
Straight lasts became impractical long ago.
By this do you mean symmetric lasts, or something else? Of course today, all shoes in the developed world are made on asymmetric lasts. However, my impression is that shoes can and often should be made on a straight last, by which I mean a last in which the main axis of the last runs straight through the heel and the inside of the ball of the foot. There are lasts that have an inward or outward curve, in which the forpart of the last is on a different axis than the rear part of the foot. However, (according to the book Professional Shoe Fitting from the Pedorthic Footwear Association), many people's feet are best suited for a straight-axis last. While many shoemakers apparently do use a curved last, this may be for reasons of appearance or tradition, rather than optimal fit. As someone who fits or sells shoes as part of your living, what has been your experience in this regard? Also, FYI, I think the term combination last as used by most people on this board refers to the type of combo last used by Alden (e.g. a B/D or C/E width) that (purportedly) has a narrower heel relative to the forepart width/girth of the shoe, most likely relative to European makers' sizing. I don't think most people are talking about either an asymmetric last or a curved/flared last.
post #15 of 92
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when you say 'american' i assume you're referring to white americans of european descent. so why would their feet be any different?
I don't know much about feet, but its not that difficult to tell Americans from Europeans based entirely on either facial characteristics. This shouldn't be that surprising. For one, there is more intermixing between different European types in North America than in Europe, and it doesn't take that many generations to get the typical North American Ukrainian/German/British/French/North-American-Indian/Italian/Irish mixes that are so common here.
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