Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by DWFII, Feb 24, 2013.
Thanks to every one for the kind words and observations.
Many thanks, gents. I've been reading, learning from and respecting DW's posts on SF for many years now. I was surprised he hadn't been interviewed online. Magazine articles and videos have a sad tendency to disappear sooner or later when added online, blog posts are much more enduring in this sense. The virtual form does not change listed opinions and personal histories, DW's text will remain as it is as long as Keikari lives.
I still have around two dozen older interviews to add and several pending ones. If you'd like to have a cordwainer, tailor, specialized maker, writer or such interviewed, please contact me and I will make it so. Menswear is all about learning, inspiring and sharing.
I enjoyed browsing through your website. I saw at the bottom of your article on Edward Green shoes that you intend to write about gemming. When do you plan on doing that? DWFII has done an immaculate job of breaking down and exposing the truth about why Goodyear-welted shoes are not the infallible "end-all" that most people think they are. I have just always wished that the massive amount of material could be condensed into a more concise format without all of the bickering that ensues when people's gemmed $1200.00 shoes are called into question. Methods of shoe construction and everything related to it is one of my favorite types of reading, so I look forward to whatever you have coming!
^I'll be writing about it next week. Trouble is, DW's posts are scattered all around SF and it'll take a long time to search and compare differing opinios. Gemming has its backers and opposers, I'm trying to come up with a post that will look at the pros and cons in a non-biased way. I'm against gemming in principle, but I've never had a pair broke down due to its failings. The glues in use today are strong and the method has been favoured for a long time now. If you have any links of in-depth posts to share, I'd be delighted.
I look forward to it, and it sounds like you share the same frustration with tracking down old posts for reference buried deep in StyleForum and Ask Andy. My experience with gemming is the same as yours. I don't hide behind gemming and put too much faith in it, but I have also had to accept the fact that it is standard practice within a certain price point with no realisitic alternatives. Blake/Rapid stitched shoes are just simply too few and far between to consider them a valid alternative, and the ones that are easy to get to with proper backing from their manufacterer for re-crafting and customer service seem to use cheap insoles. DW seems to advise that Blake/Rapid is really only a good alternative to Goodyear-welted if they are made on nice thick leather insoles. DW has said that he considers Goodyear-welted shoes to be a step up from completely cemented ones, so the gemming discussions didn't lead me to go back to complete glue jobs. So I get stuck in the vicious cycle that plagues most people in this forum: Saving for a pair of shoes made of the quality like those made by DW would take me a several years of hard saving at my current shoe budget, and then I would be left with only one pair, which would lead to rapid/pre-mature deterioration of the product. This isn't even to mention the logistics problems with getting such shoes. I keep a realistic knowledge that there is a better product out there and I enjoy knowing it, and maybe I will eventually get to a place where I can put alot more money towards a pair of proper shoes. I appreciate the request for input on resources for your article, but I think 99% of what I have been able to find on the topic has been limited to threads that DW has been active in on SF and AAAC.
I'm not even sure where my posts on the subject are. That said...and I won't attempt a rehash of everything here...I will say this: Much of what you say is probably correct but I don't think that anyone on this forum has ever worn a pair of Goodyear welted shoes hard.
As a bootmaker I see (or did when I was repairing) both shoes and boots worn day after day in desert heat, rainforest wet, mud, volcanic grit, barnyard acids, oil and gasoline, and subject to just plain everyday inattention and abuse. "Rode hard and put up wet." And really, that's not only the norm for most footwear, it is the expected norm.
Because those are exactly the kinds of conditions that shoes evolved to deal with. I have no doubt (never did) that people who wear their shoes in controlled environments, mostly on carpets on the odd Monday, and who tree and condition and polish and pamper and coo over them will never see the gemming fail...and if they do, either not recognize what has happened or care. And because the customer never sees the down and dirty business of repairing the shoe...never sees what's underneath that outsole with a hole in it...they don't ever think about the consequences or make the connections about the inherent weaknesses that Goodyear welting and gemming bring to the process..
But I have. And as a shoemaker, intimately knowing both the consequences and the alternatives, I can't find it in myself to excuse a product that has so lost its sense of purpose and place and become so attenuated that it's almost non-functional in the real world. Nevermind the fact that Goodyear welted shoes are posing as/pretending to be something they are not; or that both the mechanics and the essence of quality and skill are, by default, deprecated to the point where such concepts begin have no meaning in contemporary society.
The fact that Goodyear welted shoes are now so divorced from their roots that they must be returned to the factory in order to be restored (a job that a skilled repairman in every neighborhood could have done in years past) begs several questions:
Isn't it convenient for the manufacturer to have a captive audience so dependent on their singular product and services? That's the crucial impact/import of "marketing"--that no one questions it. So is it the shoe you're buying or the marketing?
What happens to the footbed...so essential for long term comfort and foot health...that a good shoe develops with wear? Or have both customer and maker so abandoned reasonable expectations...along with quality leather for the insoles...that the idea of objective quality becomes meaningless--style trumping substance.
What happens to the concept of "quality?" What happens to the skilled workers? The human resources?
What happens to the skills themselves? The knowledge?
And yes, you can spend almost any imaginable amount of money to insure you are acquiring quality. But esp. if quality is your primary goal there are literally hundreds of makers who can give you bespoke quality for not much more than all the endless clones and ticky-tacky currently being marketed as RTW.
How does the very concept of "Style" square with endlessly repetitive iterations of the same-old-same-thing ?
Because when you come down to it the issue is not whether Goodyear welting/gemming has any objective value relative to accessibility or affordability or even utility...despite everything that is sacrificed in its implementation...but rather, in light of the alternatives, whether it deserves to be held up as an exemplar of quality much less as desirable for those seeking quality. Especially in a milieu where paragons-of-the-exceptional meet and take tea together.
Oh, I could go on and on...as I'm sure you're aware...I've already formulated and lost half a dozen striking and important thoughts composing this post to this point. Because, admittedly, it's a complicated issue. But just because it's complicated is not reason enough, in my estimation, to avoid thinking about the subject. Or to pretend it isn't important.
Wasn't it Socrates who said "The unexamined life is not worth living."?
^I may have a contact for you. He has an inside man in Austro-Hungarian shoemaking, offering truly handmade shoes. Send me a PM and I'll give you the details.
We'll see how this gemming text develops, I may have to spend a bit more time on finding proper sources.
Let's hope, it's not handmade like that:
I would have to entirely agree with you with regard to the first photo--I can't even begin to imagine how anyone could think this was "best practices."
On the other hand, while I would want my inseaming stitches to be both closer together and better set in the insole than in the second set of photos, I nevertheless believe it is better...much better...than gemming. If only because the foundational binding principle is thread whereas with Goodyear it is glue (who would want their uppers to be put together with glue only)
I really enjoy the perspective you bring to the discussions. I laughed out loud at the notion of those "cooing" over their shoes, and you are absolutely right that there are many to be found who do this. Personally, I care for my shoes with basic and reasonable care that is typically recommended by the manufacterer, and beyond that I have no precedent for purchasing the horribly expensive products that may or may not make them last longer. I thoroughly enjoy knowing that there is a standard out there that exists to the point that a pair of leather shoes/boots can be made with such strength and quality of materials that it can handle the abuse you described above and not be made of the boring materials found on most boots from your local sporting goods store. I can say without question that if I fell into the realm of people that your quote above applied to: "...but rather, in light of the alternatives, whether it deserves to be held up as an exemplar of quality much less as desirable for those seeking quality. Especially in a milieu where paragons-of-the-exceptional meet and take tea together", I would only be buying shoes of the caliber that you make. I generally conclude after reading your comments that I am doing the best I can with what is reasonably available at this point in my life, and I simply have to be ok with that.
Where are these pictures from?
It's not only the length of the stitches, which must be close to half an inch it is also the lack of any feather/holdfast, which means the awl pokes right through the insole without the depth guidance a properly cut holdfast will give. I'm sure someone inseaming this way for 30 or more years can judge the required depth pretty good, but what about the not so experienced worker? He might go in too shallow or too deep and introduce weaknesses. If he pulls the thread too tightly, it might tear out.
Wide stitches and a thread which is not pulled as tightly as it should be, combined with a welt that lies on top of the insole (without being recessed) is a potential recipe for water seeping into the shoe. Whether or not it will happen, nobody can say until it's too late and the damage has been done. Gemming has the advantage, if properly done, that the whole thing is entombed (like Aida and Radames in the opera).
They come from the www.
That's very enlightening.
Do you expect me to name names?
Well, if you're going to use someone's pictures, I don't see why you wouldn't. After all, we all write plenty about how we love this maker or that. If you're going to write that a maker has crappy hand-welting you might as well say who it is, otherwise why mention it? The forum gives, the forum taketh away...
Separate names with a comma.