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Assessing quality of leather in shoes

Discussion in 'Menswear Advice' started by Casaubon, Feb 8, 2019.

  1. Casaubon

    Casaubon Member

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    Hi all,

    Newbie here, so please pardon any misused terms when it comes to clothing or, in this case, footwear. Although what I am about to ask is mostly of interest to me, I will try to include a more broad question which I haven't seen addressed on the forum, hoping therefore that it might arouse general interest.

    I am on the lookout for new shoes that I can wear to work a few times per week, especially in summer in rotation with my suede desert boots. There is by no means any pressure to dress nicely at work, so at this point I am simply trying to keep it smart casual, leaning slightly more towards the casual side - chinos/slacks, sweaters and button down shirts.

    There's nothing specific in terms of the style of the shoe, the only thing I am insisting on is for it to be a dress shoe, with laces, leather soles and lining. Ideally, I would like a shoe which would last at least a decade with proper care.

    Now, I am on a budget, and cannot afford to spend much more than $150. Following advice from this website and elsewhere, normally I would go for a pair of Meermins or Johnon & Murphy's on sale. However, online shopping in my country (Serbia) is made more expensive by import duties and VAT, and if you add the delivery fee, it would exceed my budget significantly.

    Unfortunatelly, options in stores for shoes that fit the abovementioned criteria are limited, to say the least. To make the problem worse, salespeople are usually not knowledgeable at all about their product (when asking about leather, I would usually receive the response "Oh, it's very high quality, it's genuine leather!"). Also, they usually don't know the answer to the question if the shoes are glued or stitched. Which means that it's up to me to determine the quality of the shoe in question.

    When it comes to stitching, I can pretty much figure it out myself. I also assume that there are no Goodyear-welted shoes to be found in stores. Actually, there is only place that I know of that sells such shoes. There most affordable ones are Berwick, which fall into the upper limit of my budget only when they are on sale. At the moment there are no sizes for the models I like and I would have to wait for SS19 models to go on sale which would not happen until October or November. Is it worth the wait?

    What I suppose I was trying to ask this whole time is how does one check the quality of the leather? What properties am I looking for? Does it stretch or is it firm? Also, is it possible for one to find good quality leather in cemented shoes?

    The place that sells Goodyear-welted shoes also sells Church's (which are completely outside of my price range). I held a pair in my hands, trying to get a feel of the material, but couldn't honestly tell the difference between these and most of the other, much cheaper ones (I am speaking merely of the quality of leather itself, not the finishing which was obviously finer). So, what methods should I resort to in order to determine what is a good investment?
     

  2. Anachronist

    Anachronist Senior Member

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    Hi Casaubon,

    First of all, to answer your main question, have a look at Justin Fitzpatrick's "The Shoe Snob" website and blog... this man has collated a tremendous amount of knowledge on shoes and leather and shares it very generously here. Here are some links on your specific ask about leather quality:
    https://www.theshoesnobblog.com/2017/07/leather-quality-how-it-varies.html
    https://www.theshoesnobblog.com/tag/leather-quality

    To your question about where to source decent shoes: I would recommend within your budget:
    https://www.bexley.com/Bexley/shoe-EN.htm
    https://www.herringshoes.co.uk/

    The latter may become more expensive though if a hard Brexit comes. Berwick appear to be of decent value for money in my opinion and are definitely worth waiting for to be reduced. Regarding Church's, the used to be fantastic 30 years ago, today I would completely ignore them. They were purchased by Prada in the early 2000 and the quality is nowhere near where it used to be and for the price they command you can get much better shoes (it's a shame, sadly).
     

  3. saracoxsaddler

    saracoxsaddler Member

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  4. saracoxsaddler

    saracoxsaddler Member

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    Do have a look at the Barbour Redcar brogue. Their shoe quality has always been excellent and there are sites in the U.K. doing good deals on them.
     

  5. Casaubon

    Casaubon Member

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    I very much appreciate the detailed reply, Anachronist! Thanks for giving me new options to choose from; although herringshoes.co.uk does not offer anything I can afford once I include the customs and VAT, Bexley has a few reduced items that might just be right.

    Another thing, since I see that you are from Germany. Are there any quality brands from your home country within this price range that you could recommend? The reason I'm asking is because I'll be in Berlin and Leipzig for a short while next week, and if need be, I can find the time for shoe shopping.
     

  6. Casaubon

    Casaubon Member

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    Thanks for the suggestion! I'm a bit wary of broguing as I've never worn such shoes, so I guess I'd rather try them on first to see how they look, but they are a good look in their own right.
     

  7. Anachronist

    Anachronist Senior Member

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    Dear Casaubon,

    I'm not too familiar with shoe shops in Berlin as I live in Bavaria, but just googled the following:

    Shoepassion has well made and fairly affordable shoes, though not as reasonable as Bexley. The address is Ackerstraße 23-26, 10115 Berlin

    There as another reasonably priced, quality shoe maker called Prime Shoes that are sold at three locations in Berlin (post code 1...) and one in Leipzig (post code 0...): https://prime-shoes.com/shopfinder.html

    As there are winter sales going on in most German cities, you might be able to strike a bargain.

    The most popular German shoemaker is Lloyd (similar to Hugo Boss, both of which most Germans deem the most desirable brands), but I can't really recommend them. Glued soles and spray painted leather... high quality is something different ;-( The do have an Goodyear welted series called "1887", but they are more expensive than other quality shoes and not necessarily better, but the only ones I can recommend if you do stumble over that brand, which is very likely (virtually every German shoe shop has them).

    In any case, have fun in Germany and I wish you the best of luck in finding some good shoes at a fair price!
     

  8. Casaubon

    Casaubon Member

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    Dear Anachronist,

    Sorry for the late reply. I was going to see if I'll buy something in DE and post my choice here, but in the end opted not to. It seems that, given all that you've written, it is worth to wait for Berwick shoes to go on sale here. Since I'm not that much in a hurry, and their price can drop well below other examples that you noted, it makes the most sense.

    I know what you mean about Hugo Boss. A friend of mine paid more than 400 EUR when buying a pair for his wedding, and it pains me every time I think of all the better uses of his money. But he does seem to put brand names before anything.

    Thanks once again for all the detailed advice!
     

  9. aj2603

    aj2603 Well-Known Member

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    you might want to check out thursday boots. they have recently started doing shoes as well.

    i have never seen or when their shoes, but their boots are fantastic value for the money. so i am presuming that the shoes will also be good quality
     

  10. Casaubon

    Casaubon Member

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    Thanks for the tip! Both the boots and the shoes look really good, and seem to be of nice quality. There exists however the same problem of the delivery which would exceed my budget significantly. However, if some of the people I know in the US decide to visit me and bring a pair with them, I would take up the opportunity!
     

  11. Orbis881

    Orbis881 Member

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    Not the OP, but thank you for the informative links.
     

  12. Anachronist

    Anachronist Senior Member

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    You're welcome... I always thought I knew a decent bit about shoes but I learnt a lot (also about how little I knew ;)) from JFP's website... probably one of the best out there at the moment on shoes
     

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