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Gemming !!!! The Shoe Devils Work !!

kev777

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Have a look at this thread regarding a process called "Gemming!"

http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/f...d.php?t=100133

Its quite worrying that what we once thought about goodyear welting of our "top end!" shoes is being undermined by a process that seemingly all the renowned manufacturers are using.

Any thoughts from our resident shoe experts regarding both validity of the claim and explainations of the process. Any comments from manufacturers maybe helpful too.

The explanation of gemming from a quote within the thread by a respected authority...DWFII .

"Gemming is a process that involves laying down a canvas rib around the perimeter of the under-surface of the insole. The rib is called gemming. And its purpose is to substitute for the leather holdfast...and to do it cheaply and quickly. It can be recognized by the white strip you see in most of those photos...sometimes "pinked" sometimes not. The gemming is cemented to the insole. That is the only thing holding it (and the shape of the shoe) in place. The welt is machine stitched to the gemming and the resultant insole cavity is filled with cork.

Now, it bears repeating...in almost all instances, the gemming is held in place solely by cement. And that is its first weak spot. The cement will fail, probably even before the shoe is in need of a resole. When the cement fails the gemming slips and the shoe will walk out of shape. And anyone attempting to resole without the original last, faces the nearly impossible task of trying to re-position the gemming."
 

DWFII

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Originally Posted by kev777
Have a look at this thread regarding a process called "Gemming!" http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/f...d.php?t=100133 Its quite worrying that what we once thought about goodyear welting of our "top end!" shoes is being undermined by a process that seemingly all the renowned manufacturers are using. Any thoughts from our resident shoe experts regarding both validity of the claim and explainations of the process. Any comments from manufacturers maybe helpful too. The explanation of gemming from a quote within the thread by a respected authority...DWFII .
First and foremost this subject has its own Style Forum thread, entitled "deconstructed fashion plate. " The AskAndy thread came second. Next, I offer opinions and commentary...and hopefully valid insights and worthwhile information...from the perspective of a bespoke maker of shoes and boots who has made his living at the Trade for nearly 40 years. Yes, my perspectives are unique but I am not sure that makes me an authority. If it does, it is the "big fish in a small pond" syndrome--I know my field...and (hopefully) my limitations. Goodyear welting...and there is some doubt even among shoemakers as to whether this refers specifically to machine sewn welt or can also include hand sewn...is, in my opinion, the best construction technique...provided it is done to certain standards--namely in a hand channeled insole of good quality and inseamed by hand at the traditional three stitches to the inch. If it is done by machine and into gemming, however, it is one of the worst methods of construction if only because the degree of built-in obsolescence is greater than any other. The potential for failure approaches unity, in other words. And the ironic thing is that there are other options. Blake/rapid is not my choice but results in a vastly superior shoe and can be implemented in production at a price reasonably close to what is required for gemmed construction. In passing, one of the points made here (on SF) and at the other forum is that if a shoe is made to the lowest standards of quality...and gemming is used in the cheapest and poorest quality shoes, as a matter of course...why should a shoe made with techniques that are indistinguishable, cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars, more? I suspect there is terribly cynical to not, at the very least, consider the ethics. No devil...I'm afraid, but as a wise being once said "we have met the enemy and he is us."
 

kev777

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Originally Posted by DWFII
First and foremost this subject has its own Style Forum thread, entitled "deconstructed fashion plate. " The AskAndy thread came second.

Next, I offer opinions and commentary...and hopefully valid insights and worthwhile information...from the perspective of a bespoke maker of shoes and boots who has made his living at the Trade for nearly 40 years. Yes, my perspectives are unique but I am not sure that makes me an authority. If it does, it is the "big fish in a small pond" syndrome--I know my field...and (hopefully) my limitations.

Goodyear welting...and there is some doubt even among shoemakers as to whether this refers specifically to machine sewn welt or can also include hand sewn...is, in my opinion, the best construction technique...provided it is done to certain standards--namely in a hand channeled insole of good quality and inseamed by hand at the traditional three stitches to the inch.

If it is done by machine and into gemming, however, it is one of the worst methods of construction if only because the degree of built-in obsolescence is greater than any other. The potential for failure approaches unity, in other words. And the ironic thing is that there are other options. Blake/rapid is not my choice but results in a vastly superior shoe and can be implemented in production at a price reasonably close to what is required for gemmed construction.

In passing, one of the points made here (on SF) and at the other forum is that if a shoe is made to the lowest standards of quality...and gemming is used in the cheapest and poorest quality shoes, as a matter of course...why should a shoe made with techniques that are indistinguishable, cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars, more?

No devil...I'm afraid, but as a wise being once said "we have met the enemy and he are us."


Can i just ask a couple or three of relevant serious questions?

How long has gemming been used as a factory technique with most manufacturers?

Why on earth would a manufacturer or so called upper end shoes , im thinking C&J EG here, use a procedure that seemingly is well known to be the lowest form of quality (according to your goodself) and sell these things at £375 & £550 respectfully.?

Why would they sell shoes they know will fall apart?

I'm at a loss to understand why a shoe manufacturer of esteem would "lower" themselves knowing that the cost cutting theyve employed would come back in the future to bite them on the backside. Or is this a calculated risk, in as much as, there are very few failures using gemming in the "real factory made" world.? I havent exactly read of a lot of people here shouting about how their shoes have fallen apart because of gemming, you say youve seen plenty but im surprised others here havent and im forever reading of shoes that are 5 10 15 yr old and still strong etc etc.

This , again, prompts other question regarding to purchase.... we need a list of who gems who doesnt etc etc EG RTW Gemmed ?? Topline Non Gemmed?????
 

DWFII

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Well first, to quote Thornton (thanks Rolf) "Gemming’ with a strip of fabric was universally introduced into machine-welted footwear sometime between the late 50s and mid 60s. It replaced the older technique of a machine-cut welt, which was bent-up at a right ankle to accept the welt. " Second, there is a point where having addressed most of these issues already (and repeatedly) I become less and less articulate simply because I cannot find new words to express the concepts. So I repeat myself: "The use of gemming is a prime example of what I call the "factory mentality." At some point, with most if not all of these firms, it was decided that "job one" would be making money...not shoes, at least in the RTW line. And in pursuit of this noble goal every skilled shoemaker in the firm was replaced with a machine or a dumbed down technique capable of being handled by a three year old. This reduced payroll and increased profit margins. Every scrap of leather was evaluated for substitution with something less costly. Every aspect of the process was examined to determine if it could be done faster and cheaper. Little or no consideration was given to that wildly hyperbolic notion of "quality" unless it could be shown that to ignore it altogether would affect the bottom line. That is the mandate of the factory and that is the decision tree that is inherent in making the decision to make money rather than make shoes. Making shoes takes second or even third place with regard to the motivating principle. Not job one, in other words. And almost every firm...most especially the ones that do have their name up there in lights...started as minor expansions of bespoke businesses. And everyone continued down that slippery slope. It is a very predictable model, you know. The better question is, having originated in a high quality, high price market, how in the world does any company lower its prices commensurate with it's lowered cost of doing business. The whole point is to maximize profits!! Wh y in the world would they diminish them? Ethics aside, I mean? What is sad is that many consumers buy into this same philosophy...they really don't care how the shoe is made or if there is a degree of built-in obsolescence. It's all about convenience and expediency--quick and easy. Big macs and French Fries. Used shoes on Ebay. Sadder is the impulse to defend the mediocre. John Lobb has always been a beacon of quality and prestige for me. I have looked closely at their work and tried hard to emulate it. But I will not defend second-rate work (especially since it undoubtedly springs from a clone owned by a suspiciously disconnected conglomerate). It is what it is. Many of the names on the blog surprised and saddened me." Again when I hear about all the shoes that are gemmed, and how well they have held up...especially from folks who until this very moment didn't know, much less give any thought to such considerations...I have to swallow and take it with a grain of salt. It's that unpalatable. I was speaking to a customer about buying shoes on Ebay...a discussion prompted by the many folks on Style Forum who buy used shoes off ebay and swear that they fit perfectly and that they never experience any problems. In the course of the discussion I mentioned that i had come back from Vietnam with a toenail fungus. Despite numerous full bore courses of medication I have not been able to shake it. And while it is not immediately contagious...like every human being I shed skin constantly. Now the question is if I were to sell a pair of my many...still mostly pristine...boots on Ebay, how would you know about the fungus? And which customer is gonna get on Style forum and complain about the problems he encountered with his Ebay specials? Despite all the glowing testimonials about used shoes and gemming, I repeat, the potential for failure approaches unity. Which prompts several questions of my own: Why would anyone buy a product that they know is constructed with the poorest and most problematic techniques unless they are buying a name? Unless, like urban magpies they are more attracted to the glitter than the goods? And second, is it ethical to make a shoe with mediocre materials (or techniques) and charge premium prices for it? You will have to ask the makers...but it is not out of line with the axiomatic "maximization of profit." If people, through willful ignorance or naivete will pay "x" amount for a product...why then, that it is what it is worth. It's called "fair market value." A Ferragamo woman's pump is not significantly different from a hundred dollar pair of "WalkGood's" (sic)...neither in materials nor in construction techniques but the first are ten times more expensive. Go figure...but it is not as outrageous a proposal, nor all that unusual, for that matter, as you wish it to be.
 

upnorth

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Originally Posted by DWFII
Why would anyone buy a product that they know is constructed with the poorest and most problematic techniques unless they are buying a name? Unless, like urban magpies they are more attracted to the glitter than the goods?

And second, is it ethical to make a shoe with mediocre materials (or techniques) and charge premium prices for it? You will have to ask the makers...but it is not out of line with the axiomatic "maximization of profit." If people, through willful ignorance or naivete will pay "x" amount for a product...why then, that it is what it is worth. It's called "fair market value."


I'd imagine several issues come into play. The top brands have a monopoly of the best leather uppers and the exterior is all that seems to matter at least for the regular joe who buy $1000 shoes to wear rather than to take them apart. The exclusive sourcing of good leather lets them get away with charging more money even when construction and internal materials used aren't the best. Then there is also that brand premium which you mentioned.

Secondly, to be fair, many shoemakers only ever used that method since they either do not have knowledge of better alternatives or are prevented from doing so because of they are taught otherwise by their mentors or restricted by management who do not have practical skills and experience in shoe making and are more concerned with cost management.

It seems that gemming has already been so well-entrenched within most of the shoe building community that the market value has been fixed either by traditional supply and demand or perception. Now if only those walmart shoes were made on better lasts and uses better leather and classically designed uppers.
 

bengal-stripe

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Originally Posted by DWFII
Well first, to quote Thornton (thanks Rolf)

"Gemming' with a strip of fabric was universally introduced into machine-welted footwear sometime between the late 50s and mid 60s. It replaced the older technique of a machine-cut welt, which was bent-up at a right ankle to accept the welt. "


Actually, that is not Thornton, that is my summarizing. I only mentioned Thornton as the book was published in 1953, and so proceeded the widespread introduction of the gemming strip. (As the old film shows, the reinforcement over the entire sole area was also called 'gemming'.)

I rather doubt whether any method which has been in practice for some fifty year, used millions of times can be all bad and is bound for immediate failure. Probably someone like Church's who has every month some 500 repairs jobs going through, could give a definite answer on the number of "˜gemming-failure"˜. My (zilch) and DW's (frequently) experiences are at best anecdotal.

Originally Posted by DWFII
The better question is, having originated in a high quality, high price market, how in the world does any company lower its prices commensurate with it's lowered cost of doing business. The whole point is to maximize profits!! Wh y in the world would they diminish them? Ethics aside, I mean?

After WWII there were some hundred shoe factories in Northampton (the town) and all together two hundred in Northamptonshire (the county). Today, I believe there are five factories in the town and, all in all a dozen or fifteen in the entire county. It might less be a question of maximizing profits and more a question of survival. Maybe during the time when all the major shoe factories were set up (last quarter of the 19th century), entrepreneurs could get rich (but not as rich as foundry owners or ship-building magnates). Those days have long gone. I doubt anyone gets 'rich' in shoemaking, be he artisan or industrialist. Maybe "˜comfortably off' - but definitely not rich.


Originally Posted by DWFII
Despite all the glowing testimonials about used shoes and gemming, I repeat, the potential for failure approaches unity.

The potential for failure of life is absolute - it is all a question of time.
 

Wes Bourne

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Originally Posted by kev777
"And anyone attempting to resole without the original last, faces the nearly impossible task of trying to re-position the gemming."

Originally Posted by kev777
Why on earth would a manufacturer or so called upper end shoes , im thinking C&J EG here, use a procedure that seemingly is well known to be the lowest form of quality (according to your goodself) and sell these things at £375 & £550 respectfully.?

Why would they sell shoes they know will fall apart?


So you have little choice but to send your EGs back to the factory for a 195GBP resole instead of using a local cobbler?

 

DWFII

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Originally Posted by bengal-stripe
Actually, that is not Thornton, that is my summarizing. I only mentioned Thornton as the book was published in 1953, and so proceeded the widespread introduction of the gemming strip. (As the old film shows, the reinforcement over the entire sole area was also called 'gemming'.)
Well, I have a copy of Thornton right here in front of me and wondered why I couldn't find it.
I rather doubt whether any method which has been in practice for some fifty year, used millions of times can be all bad and is bound for immediate failure. Probably someone like Church's who has every month some 500 repairs jobs going through, could give a definite answer on the number of "˜gemming-failure"˜. My (zilch) and DW's (frequently) experiences are at best anecdotal.
No? How about DDT? Vinyl running shoes? Asbestos for fire marsupialant? Plastic for toe stiffeners? Fiberboard (paper) heel stacks?
It might less be a question of maximizing profits and more a question of survival.
[sigh] It always is.
Maybe during the time when all the major shoe factories were set up (last quarter of the 19th century), entrepreneurs could get rich (but not as rich as foundry owners or ship-building magnates). Those days have long gone. I doubt anyone gets 'rich' in shoemaking, be he artisan or industrialist. Maybe "˜comfortably off' - but definitely not rich.
If you're making 40,000 pairs of shoes a day (as one company in the sates was doing in the 1980's, and buying leather by the freight car load...even if you are only charging $100.00 a pair. it adds up.
The potential for failure of life is absolute - it is all a question of time.
Yes, and life is short enough. Why make it shorter?
 

Arkolm

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Well, I have to say this depressed me perhaps moreso than I should have let it. I haven't had any issues with gemmed shoes so far, but if one were to want goodyear welted shoes at an affordable price, how would they be able to tell? I guess if you cannot afford custom shoes and have to stick to used/RTW you just have to make due, then?

Also, you have completely turned me off ebay shoes. Foot fungus! Argh! What a bad day.

thank you to everyone in all the threads for all the information. I learned a huge amount. I wonder how much money this could potential cost to shoe sellers just due to the amount of shoes purchased buy us finicky forum-grazers?
 

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