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Shoe Damage Report & Shoe P0rn Central - Part II

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Oyaji, Feb 20, 2010.

  1. swiego

    swiego Well-Known Member

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    This would tell me that he makes a great pair of shoes, of which I have no doubt whatsoever. It would tell me that his shoes are better made than the ones I own, which is probable. It would tell me that he knows far more about shoes than most other people here, which is likely.

    However, it wouldn't convince me that his business isn't about making a profit whereas the shoe factories are, which is what was insinuated.

    I have worked at many factories in many industries, and I can tell you that the same passion for putting out a quality product exists in mass production facilities, so I don't think it's fair to ascribe different motives to the two. ("Bespoke is about quality, non-bespoke is about profit.") The handiwork actually exists at the factory in all that handmade machinery, handmade (or hand-coded as it were) automation and QC systems, and hand-tested materials. In fact one of the biggest problems I've struggled with is the lack of cost consciousness in a factory where people get so caught up in designing a new and cool material or a new and cool assembly or QC process that they don't think about how it would drive the overall product toward unprofitability.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2012
  2. chogall

    chogall Well-Known Member

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    Please kindly lecture me how does gemming and welting work again? If gemming is replaced, why would the old welt stay?

    SoS might not write in perfect English but he gets his points across clearly and succinctly.
     
  3. isshinryu101

    isshinryu101 Well-Known Member

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    The Norvegese is simply harkening back to the mid 1940's thru 1950's era of US Shoes. Post WWII, many mens' shoes started to trend toward the thick soles & wide welts. A Tough Shoe for a country who had just won one of the most important wars ever fought. The wide welt became a place for shoemakers to use as an additional "canvas" to showcase their styles. Designs and additional contrasting color stitches popped up on many models. By the 1960's, only the "Longwing Gunboat" style was still commonly seen. THEN, the Italians brought it all back with the Norvegese & Bentivegna stitches. Vass (Hungary) and Dinkelacker (Germany) use the Goyser, and JM Weston's Flagship Chasse uses a Norwegian stitch as well.

    Personally I LOVE the "Exposed Stitch" shoes. Not beautiful in a curvy and sexy way (like G&G), but beautiful in a much more BRUTAL fashion, if you will.
     
  4. jhcam8

    jhcam8 Well-Known Member

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    Brooklynese?
     
  5. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

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    No worries, I didn't take it that way.

    If I were denigrating specific firms or extolling the virtues of my own you might have a point. As it is, your conclusions are incomplete.

    As for the profit margin on a pair of $6000.00 shoes, I'm here to tell you very frankly that I think there is a considerable amount of "blue sky" there. Much of the profit is cachet. But it is no more cachet than the $1000.00 gemmed shoe.

    That said, I do believe that video from John Lobb, St James where the CEO says "We have turned our backs on the machine." Regardless of whether they have actually done that to the satisfaction of all the critics or not, it is a statement of commitment to quality. And quality first. Not the least because it is expressed publicly. And BTW...you'll find few firms that offer a more classically English shoe than John Lobb.

    I would like to see...given that the gemming process is the same, given that the fundamental raw materials are near-as-nevermind the same, given that all else is superficial and subject to the vagaries of fashion and time...a breakdown of how the $1000.00 gemmed shoe is worth more than the $500.00 gemmed shoe. Or the $100.00 gemmed shoe.

    Now...am I touting techniques...yes. I am touting Traditional techniques and high quality materials. I can do that with some authority because, for the most part I am intimately familiar with them and have found much else wanting. If in some peripheral way I am associated with Traditional techniques and quality, well, all the better. I associate myself with those philosophies. Those choices. Again, I am not touting my business.

    I have a friend who is the head shoemaker, and head of the shoemaking faculty at Colonial Williamsburg. He is also one of the foremost shoe historians in the world...certainly in this country. One of his functions is to re-enact the role of an 18th century American shoemaker. This involves making shoes...and all the attendant operations...in an 18th century setting/shop that is open to the public. He has heard a million dumb and dumber questions from the public--such as "where's your sewing machine"...so many times that he has lost his enthusiasm for educating the public, although he is the most polite of individuals.

    I on the other hand, am not so inured. My whole point of being here is to counter the misunderstanding and the disinformation that is out there. My friend likens it so carrying fresh water one teaspoon at a time to the strand in hopes of freshening the ocean. It's quixotic if nothing else. But I am an optimist and very simply, I resonate to the task.

    And while I sometimes get frustrated, at bottom I know that those that can learn, will. Those that cannot, will not. The facts, the insights are there. Take 'em or leave 'em. Macht nichts.
     
    1 person likes this.
  6. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

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    Thank you. And you made a point that I wanted to make but hesitated for fear of seeming like I was courting business.

    I really and truly value what role I've come to play on this forum as kind of...not expert, exactly...but someone who can give reliable insights into the Trade and process. i wouldn't jeopardize that if I can help it. I not only have other venues to promote my work but very frankly, I am semi-retired and while busier than a gopher in loose dirt, I'm not all that avid about new business.
     
  7. swiego

    swiego Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the reply.

    I would imagine the difference is in labor hours, mostly. The materials are probably similar, the assembly process is probably similar, but the actual steps are done more slowly and carefully for better detailing and polish. I can tell this difference between my AE plaintoe (uneven and rough leather cuts, somewhat uneven stitching), my C&J HG (everything perfectly cut and aligned) and my Kiton (everything perfectly aligned and the stitching so much smaller and denser). I am sure the basic construction is the same, and if I had to guess at "factory" costs based on the products I have in front of me right now, it's something along lines of my paying AE for $25/hr x 2 hours, C&J $35/hr x 6 hours and Kiton $45/hr x 12 hours... or some such.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2012
  8. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

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    I hear this. I understand that you believe it. But I don't. I'm not sure whether it is a lack of understanding or an acceptance of the definitions as proposed by the factory but it simply doesn't square with reality. When a company fires, or lays off and never replaces, the really skilled hands that in the past were the wellspring of knowledge and experience...it cannot be about quality. Not as some of us would define it. When a company switches from leather insoles to fiberboard simply because it is cheaper ...not only in its basic configuration but what is required in terms of labour to process it...it cannot be about quality.

    By definition it is about profit.

    Aside from that, you must have missed the remark I made several posts ago (and often enough in other threads) where I said that I am a big, big fan of profit...but honest profit. I like profit. I structure my work, my buying, my hours to yield profit.

    It's just not job one.

    And that is reflected in the techniques I choose. Choice! And the materials I source. Choice!
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2012
  9. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

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    Who said it would? If the gemming is replaced...as in recrafting...the welt is always replaced. If you're talking about repairing as in a downtown shoe repair, the repairman would be a stone fool to try to replace the gemming...without the original last in hand. And he'd only do that once...after buying the customer a new pair of shoes.
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2012
  10. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

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    Isshy,

    They have their appeal. I didn't say I didn't like them although they seem casual and, from a shoemakers point of view (or at least this shoemaker), crude. What did BS say about small stitches? Long stitches are a hallmark of someone...usually a novice (not saying these shoes are made by a novice)...who can't do short stitches evenly and gracefully. Brutal is the word. And if I were a consumer I might love them but as a shoemaker, I'm not impressed. Sorry. But hey, that's more for those who do like them.

    My subjective opinion.
     
  11. DWFII

    DWFII Well-Known Member

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    You already have, I'm sure. As I mentioned, many shoes in the $500.00, and below, range are made with fiberboard insoles. Most of those also have fiberboard heel and toe stiffeners. And what is fiberboard but a fancy kind of paper, at bottom?

    If you don't believe that a shoe can be made of paper...even a paper such as the US Post Office uses for some of their soft mailing envelopes...and can last a lifetime if worn only twice a month on carpet; if the shoe has to be leather to last a lifetime, IOW, how can you believe that non-leather insoles are equivalent quality to real leather insoles?
     
  12. woolymammoth

    woolymammoth Well-Known Member

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    Dark brown Saint Crépin and Tradition...

    [​IMG]
     
  13. emptym

    emptym Well-Known Member

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    Well, if you went to him, wore his shoes and compared them to others -- all with the various prices of things in mind -- you would have a good idea of the profit levels involved. Knowing what I knew about the cost of the materials he used and the amount of labor hours he put into them, I thought he was making a very low amount of profit. So low I felt I owed him a bottle of scotch.

    I agree with you completely that there are factory owners who care about quality and that lots of handwork goes into making a factory or can even go into their products. And I'm sure it's possible that some craftsmen put profit above quality. So particular judgments need to be made. My point was simply that they can be made.

    The only company I know of that produces or has produced shoes in all three ranges is Alfred Sargent. Back when they made them, their Premier levels were about $250-350. They were made to the same standards as AE, Alden, C&J benchgrades, for example: full-grain calfskin, full leather insole, plastic heel and toe stiffeners, goodyear-welted, open-channeled soles, 8 or so stitches per inch, and almost all making done by machine.

    Their current line of Exclusives retails for about $500 and are made with higher grade skins, leather heel and toe stiffeners, and oak bark, closed channeled, goodyear-welted soles, with 10 or so stitches per inch and are mostly machine made. Lasting is by machine but there's a lot of hand finishing. (Their closest competitor imho is C&J handgrades, which, acc. to the various French and Japanese deconstructions, are made very similarly but with plastic heel and toe stiffeners. They also sell for around $750 and are not made w/ the same amount of care. I've seen pairs that had the edges trimmed to where they cut into the stitches, for example.)

    Current Handgrades retail for a bit over $1000 and they are are made with pretty much the same skins as Exclusives (iirc), leather heel and toe stiffeners, oak bark, closed channeled, goodyear-welted soles, 10-12 stitches per inch and are mostly handmade. They're bed lasted for example and left to conform to their lasts for several weeks. (EG is probably their closest competitor and they don't have quite the high level of hand finishing, nor do they have leather stiffeners, again acc. to deconstructions by the French and Japanese.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2012
  14. Burton

    Burton Well-Known Member

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    S make a great shoe. Unfortunately they don't do the skin stitching of the Dover. (Fritzl falls over)
     
  15. isshinryu101

    isshinryu101 Well-Known Member

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    I'm glad you responded. I have a question for you as a lover of the Norv. How small a stitch can one make the Norv? I see HUGE differences between the uniformity & closeness of Norv stitches. Lidforts are more crude & large. Mantellassi is an improvement on that. Santoni's are very close together, and the thickness of the thread seems to be their only limiting factor in "closeness". Same with Lattanzi. Is there a limit to how thin a thread one can use to make a Norv stitched shoe?

    Interestingly enough, Lattanzi makes many fine hand-welted shoes, but he claims that the Norv (and the Bentivegna even more so) in the most difficult stitch to make. He (along with many Italian makers) say that the Norv (and the Bent) are the "pinnacle of hand made shoes". Any comments here?

    I am VERY glad to have you on this forum, as I believe some of my questions (many already answered by you & SOS) would remain forever unanswered if you were not.
     
    1 person likes this.
  16. isshinryu101

    isshinryu101 Well-Known Member

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    I DO like the Dover. An EG style I may well purchase one day. ALSO a style of theirs where they seem to have departed from the "same as the next guy" Norwegian & made their own unique one.
     
  17. isshinryu101

    isshinryu101 Well-Known Member

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    The interior & footbed of Vintage shoes is a MAJOR factor in determining their quality. So many products were used inside, but the ones that used a nice, thick leather are almost universally superior to their brethren.
     
  18. JayJay

    JayJay Well-Known Member

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    Beautiful shoe. I didn't like the shoe when I first saw it in photos, but after seeing it in person and trying it on, I became a fan. Bought a pair for myself in black.
     
  19. NAMOR

    NAMOR Well-Known Member

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    nice. these remind of John Lobb City II
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2012
  20. gyasih

    gyasih Well-Known Member

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    Nice looking shoe!
     

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