Hand lasted vs machine lasted

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Tidybeard, Feb 23, 2010.

  1. furo

    furo Senior member

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    Nor is it important whether a shoe is hand- or machine lasted as long as it is lasted correctly.

    +1000

    This is exactly the point I was trying to make.

    How one can determine that shoe A is of higher quality than shoe B simply due to hand vs machine lasting is beyond me.
     


  2. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    So if there were no alignment problems and the uppers had a balanced placement there is really no difference between the machine lasted and hand lasted. The primary diference is with quality control, to the point which you were alluding.
    As B-S said...if done correctly, a machine lasted shoe is probably not significantly different than a handlasted shoe. But the caveat is that little bit about "correctly." Go back to that...perhaps too subtle...bit about the way leather can vary even within a relatively small area and add that to the fact that lasting machines have a set "stroke." The lasting machine may pull a section of leather 1/2 inch. But what if there's 5/8th inch of stretch in that section? The machine...and the almost inevitable bored silly operator... isn't gonna say "oops, not enough!" dismount the whole shoe, and readjust the stroke at that one particular spot. Chances are he won't even notice. Or if he does, he'll leave it for the quality control sorters to figure out. So what happens? You do know that heat is not particularly good for leather, don't you? What factories do when they have a shoe that is not lasted "tight to the wood"...in the ball area, as an example...is fire up an electrically heated iron--like a spade shaped curling iron--and "iron" the leather until it shrinks. Since I don't use these kinds of devices, I can't tell you how much damage is done to the upper...I will even, for the sake of argument, allow that none is done, although the fact remains that heat is not good for the leather. But, more to the point, it begs the question, doesn't it? Why do they need to shrink the leather in the first place.? And bear in mind that such shrinkage is not permanent unless they absolutely scorch the corium...so what do you think happens if a lasting machine has not been operated to best advantage?
     


  3. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    ... skill is not required in a factory setting...Once you have set-up your machine optimally, which takes time, it should go through all swimmingly: that whole batch, from the first to the last. Then you set the lasting up for the next batch.
    That's absolutely correct and it applies in the the factory setting as well...insofar as skill is nurtured or encouraged at all. But in the workshop there is an added factor that is not present in the factory--responsibility. The shoemaker has to take responsibility for his work...past, present, and just as importantly, future. In the factory the operator of the machine only has to make sure the machine is running correctly. He only has to get through the next eight hours. He doesn't have to face the customer. He doesn't have to constantly monitor himself and refine his techniques and think about balance and harmony and negative space and textural contrasts. He's not...not...thinking about "aesthetic sensibilities," he's not even thinking about how this shoe is going to fit the customer--that's somebody else's job. And that somebody else is not thinking about the variations in temper in a particular vamp...that's not his job. And so it goes. Sure there are indifferent and sloppy hand shoemakers out there...but you know what? The chances that they will survive converge on nil. Given the willingness of the customer to defer discernment and that unreasonably onerous burden of thought in favour of appearance and/or marketing hype, the same cannot be said of a factory made shoe. In passing it should be noted that although "quality" is a sum of parts, when the parts are tallied...when the sum is figured...some parts will be seen as negative numbers. Not all sums yield a positive result.
     


  4. furo

    furo Senior member

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    ^ it sounds as if you're ignoring the essential quality argument altogether and instead focusing on the probability that a hand lasted shoe will be done better than a machine lasted shoe

    The two principles are wholly separate, and rightly so
     


  5. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    In DWFII, in all seriousness, you might have fun shifting gears out of shoes and taking a look at jefferyd's blog. Analogies are not always reliable mental shortcuts, but I would say there is a reasonable analogy between shoemaking and the making of tailored clothes. Many of the same topics are there in both, particularly the history, presence and relevance of making things by hand, and the effect of machines, automation, and the influence of the approaches of mass production on the methods for making goods for consumers who spend more than others. I don't suggest that in an attempt to change your mind, but I think you would still find it interesting to see how the themes that concern you play out in a different but closely related craft. - B
    I say this again...calmly, patiently...I am not against machines per se. A machine is just another tool. I am against tools or machines or situations that take the human being out of the process...that make thinking and responsibility moot. I understand jefferyd's comments, on both levels. Gemming, fiberboard insoles, celastic toe stiffeners, nailed heel seats, all make an adequate shoe. But they do not make an exceptional shoe, they never will...I don't care if they come from the most famous, highly touted firm in the western world with the Royal imprimatur and a five figure price tag. I doubt that such techniques even yield a "quality" shoe...unless you don't know or don't want to know the alternatives.
     


  6. Doxe

    Doxe Senior member

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    I believe the elephant in the room when dealing with any sort of production technique is profitability. For example, SFers extol the virtues of WW Chan because it is cheaper in cost than North American or European bespoke but without a compromise in quality (to be debated in a different thread please). The reason for the reduced cost, to my understanding, is that labour costs in Asia are less than North America or Europe.

    But the shoes we're talking about are made in North America and Europe - locations which are very expensive places to hire labour and are subject to exorbitant taxes.

    As well, I've heard again and again how little money there is in tailoring. I'm sure bootmaking is the same. Do we really believe that there is a market that can support the cost associated with true hand-made shoes? Ready to wear John Lobbs already run $1,000 + And we've seen that they are mostly machine-made. How much are full bespoke Corthay's? $2K? $3K?

    I'm going to go to Budapest this summer to buy Vass shoes because I believe they are made to the standards the DWFII propounds. I plan on sizing my feet on the various lasts and then buying enough shoes to last my lifetime a la Vox. I believe the reason Vass shoes are still a "value" is the reduced labour costs of Eastern Europe. Let's see how long that lasts...

    FWIW, I admire craftmen like DWFII. I just wish there was enough of a market for a younger generation to follow after him.
     


  7. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    ^ it sounds as if you're ignoring the essential quality argument altogether and instead focusing on the probability that a hand lasted shoe will be done better than a machine lasted shoe The two principles are wholly separate, and rightly so
    Please re-read...for content...post #47 again. I'm not ignoring the quailty argument at all but I'm not ignoring probabilities either--it's a genetically acquire survival trait.
     


  8. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Do we really believe that there is a market that can support the cost associated with true hand-made shoes? Ready to wear John Lobbs already run $1,000 + And we've seen that they are mostly machine-made. How much are full bespoke Corthay's? $2K? $3K? FWIW, I admire craftmen like DWFII. I just wish there was enough of a market for a younger generation to follow after him.
    Thank you. There is a market for bespoke shoes. Lobbs St James are in the $5000.00 range. Relatively speaking that probably not much more than they were 100 years ago. Hey, if there's a market for $10,000 Ferragamos (not bespoke) there's a market for good hand made shoes in the $1000-$5000.00. For some people $5000.00 is pocket change even in this economy. They will always have hand-made bespoke shoes. They will always have the best. All the rest...and all the rest of us...are just pedestrian(s).
     


  9. voxsartoria

    voxsartoria Goon member

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    I doubt that such techniques even yield a "quality" shoe...unless you don't know or don't want to know the alternatives.

    I'll bite.

    Where can you buy alternatives for $1K or under in the United States?


    - B
     


  10. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I'll bite. Where can you buy alternatives for $1K or under in the United States? - B
    I'm not going to be so crass as to answer that but again, think about the relative cost of living. What is $1000.00 in the US economy? A week's worth of work for the upper middle class white collar worker? I pay nearly $3.00 for a loaf of bread...same as you. What was it in 1950? 39cents? how about in 1910? A nickel a loaf? In the 1880s a man could by a high end, fancy pair of boots for $30.00 and a horse for $10.00. But $30.00 was a month's wages.
     


  11. Imperator

    Imperator Senior member

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    I'm not going to be so crass as to answer that but again, think about the relative cost of living.

    What is $1000.00 in the US economy? A week's worth of work for the upper middle class white collar worker? I pay nearly $3.00 for a loaf of bread...same as you. What was it in 1950? 39cents? how about in 1910? A nickel a loaf?

    In the 1880s a man could by a high end, fancy pair of boots for $30.00 and a horse for $10.00. But $30.00 was a month's wages.



    I would characterize this as "nonresponsive."
     


  12. furo

    furo Senior member

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    Please re-read...for content...post #47 again. I'm not ignoring the quailty argument at all but I'm not ignoring probabilities either--it's a genetically acquire survival trait.

    But your mingling the two principles and using one theory to justify another. The quality of the shoe vs the probability of such shoe being of quality are two entirely different discussions.

    I'll bite.

    Where can you buy alternatives for $1K or under in the United States?


    - B


    I can get hand made boots for about $800 - $900 but that's about the cheapest I've seen. Specifically, JB Hill boots made in Texas. I did a factory tour and I can attest to the entire process being entirely by hand, from the cutting to the stitching/welting and hand lasting. They do bespoke.
     


  13. greekgeek

    greekgeek Senior member

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    I'll bite.

    Where can you buy alternatives for $1K or under in the United States?


    - B


    I'm not going to be so crass as to answer that but again, think about the relative cost of living.

    What is $1000.00 in the US economy? A week's worth of work for the upper middle class white collar worker? I pay nearly $3.00 for a loaf of bread...same as you. What was it in 1950? 39cents? how about in 1910? A nickel a loaf?

    In the 1880s a man could by a high end, fancy pair of boots for $30.00 and a horse for $10.00. But $30.00 was a month's wages.


    [​IMG]
     


  14. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    But your mingling the two principles and using one theory to justify another. The quality of the shoe vs the probability of such shoe being of quality are two entirely different discussions.
    I don't think so, not really...the more I think about it the more I thin they are, in fact, one and the same.
     


  15. Doxe

    Doxe Senior member

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    Having read the posts by DWFII, I'm now very conscious of things like exposed stitches on the soles of shoes. The more you know, the more you expect of your purchases...

    This Christmas I tried on a pair of the triple monk-strap shoes by Bontoni. The only maker that I am aware of who makes a triple-monk strap. The cost was a mere $3,000 plus 14% sales tax (I alas, am in Canada). I also tried on a few Attolini suits for $7,000 a pop. And the only thing I could think of was how - were I to spend that kind of money - I would prefer to have something made by Edwin DeBoise from Steed. Vox is a very good spokesman [​IMG]

    I'm in a profession which is paid by the hour - it is therfore a value proposition when retaining my services: will the benefit outweigh my cost? Usually, but not always, it does. I take the same approach when buying shoes. A well made shoe will last longer than a poorly made shoe. Amortized over the life of the shoe the cost for quality is probaly worth it. I am willing to pay for quality. But if I'm paying the cost - I want to know that the quality is as good as I can get. Gemming does not make the grade. Nor does fusing in a suit.

    Am I disappointed that certain high-end shoe manufactureres use inferior techniques? Well, I'm glad I learned that before laying my money down. But I'm more confident that when I find a maker who does not compromise on quality I will happily pay the price.
     


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