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How to judge shoe quality?

johnnykio

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Hi all!

Recently I've been snooping around, searching for some good quality shoes (300-500$ range) to accomodate my wedding suit (royal blue, two piece, MTM. when it arrives I'll surely upload pics + tailor review).
I live in Israel, and sadly I came to the conclusion that there's just no "elegant/classic style" culture here - while I can discuss the reasons why, the fact is that there's no good quality to be found here as far as I've seen. It's either normal consumer shoes (Rockport, Aldo, etc.) or "high end" fashion brands - Boss, Gucci, D&G and such - where I've come to realize you pay more for brand than for quality.

During my search, I found a small place, owned by this couple, that sells elegant clothes (suits, shoes) in reasonable prices. I've found a pair of monk straps I like and decided to buy them. Coming home, I couldn't quite find any info on the brand - "Golf & Green". They are said to be made in Italy, and are marked as "Made in Italy" in the official import ticket on the box, but I've found no info on the brand anywhere.
While the shoes do feel like a decent quality pair, I don't really know how to judge the quality and would really appreciate the help.

A couple of remarks I feel are necessary:
  • I bought them because they look and feel good, even if they turn out to be low quality I'm fine with that (else I'd post here before buying)
  • The sole does feel and look like a leather sole, and so does the shoe's body.
  • They also sell suits and jackets made by "Golf & Green". While I don't know too much about shoes - I can judge a suit. The suits felt good and were made of good quality material, and seemed of decent build quality - which led me to assume that the shoes are also fine.
  • The shoes cost ~$250. While this isn't a high-end price, "G&G" Being an anonymous brand could lower the "brand tax", so while I don't expect a $5,000 shoe quality for a steal, I wouldn't be surprised if they are decent either.
Attached are some pictures. I would really appreciate your help.
Thanks!
2.jpg golfngreen.jpg 3.jpg
 

Panama

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If a shoe is either made by the Good Year Welt or Blake Stitch method, then it is better than most massed produced cemented shoes. A Good Year welt shoe will almost certainly say that it is Good Year welted. Blake Stitch will have stitching that you see on your shoe. Your shoe is Blake Stitched.
Made in Italy shoes are also made with the Bologna/Sacchetto method. I am not sure how you identify these. Apart from the construction method, the other sign of quality is the quality of the leather. Is it corrected grain leather etc? Also called binder leather which has a high shine. From your photos it looks like normal calf leather. There are far more knowledgeable peole on here than me.
 
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Anachronist

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Agree with Panama’s statements. You can typically recognize Blake stitched shoes when you see the stitches on the inside of the shoe in the sole area. Generally speaking Blake welted shoes can be seen as the entry level to quality shoes, with Goodyear often seen as superior (although I personally believe there is a bit of overlap as I have seen really cheap Goodyear welted shoes that were worse than some decent Blake stitched shoes). The price for your pair is IMO still just okay, bordering on expensive. Blake welted shoes usually start at around 150 USD. To judge the quality the best is to look for how even is the stitching, how wide are individual stitches (shorter and more stitches per week inch being better), is the leather “spray painted” or coated in color or is the natural grain still visible (and is it free of blemishes, indicating higher quality of leather selection).
 

Phileas Fogg

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Agree with Panama’s statements. You can typically recognize Blake stitched shoes when you see the stitches on the inside of the shoe in the sole area. Generally speaking Blake welted shoes can be seen as the entry level to quality shoes, with Goodyear often seen as superior (although I personally believe there is a bit of overlap as I have seen really cheap Goodyear welted shoes that were worse than some decent Blake stitched shoes). The price for your pair is IMO still just okay, bordering on expensive. Blake welted shoes usually start at around 150 USD. To judge the quality the best is to look for how even is the stitching, how wide are individual stitches (shorter and more stitches per week inch being better), is the leather “spray painted” or coated in color or is the natural grain still visible (and is it free of blemishes, indicating higher quality of leather selection).

I wouldn't necessarily label Blake stitching as being inferior to GYW. They are different methods of construction both with different qualities of their own and for different purposes. Both can be re-crafted.

Blake does offer a bit more flexibility out of the box and also is a bit sleeker, which for a proper dress shoe may be desired. GYW is stiffer and more resistant to water.

Both, if done well, can offer years of service and will last a long time. I have both and have had no complaints from either. Rancourt, though I don't own any, are all Blake stitched and well regarded at the same time.

I agree with you on the other conditions, however. The construction of the shoe is only part of the overall characteristic of what determines a quality shoe. The leather and the care that has gone into the overall crafting matter just as much; what relevance is the construction when the uppers have fallen apart?
 

Panama

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I have never owned or handled a pair of John Lobb's or Edward Green's. I do have Loake 1886, Barker Professional and Handcrafted, and Cheaney's. To be honest they all seem to be much of a muchness. Although the Cheaney's are twice the price. Do definitions of hand grade/crafted and bench grade make much difference?

I haven't gone higher up the alleged hierarchy as Church's are too clunky and Crockett and Jones too narrow at least in the retailers I have visited.
 
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Phileas Fogg

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I have never owned or handled a pair of John Lobb's or Edward Green's. I do have Loake 1886, Barker Professional and Handcrafted, and Cheaney's. To be honest they all seem to be much of a muchness. Although the Cheaney's are twice the price. Do definitions of hand grade/crafted and bench grade make much difference?

I haven't gone higher up the alleged hierarchy as Church's are too clunky and Crockett and Jones too narrow at least in the retailers I have visited.

each manufacturer will have it's own designation and what that means. Bench grade vs. hand grade could be distinctions without any real difference. Crockett & Jones has a hand grade line which offers different designs, burnishing and lasts specific to the line.

At some level, many of these shoes are going to come out of the box looking relatively the same. Without really knowing much about any particular brand, one notices little difference. However, after wearing the shoes over the course of a period of time, how they break in and how well they age (with proper care of course) is really what sets apart a quality shoe vs. one that is not.
 

johnnykio

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Thank you all for your replies!

If a shoe is either made by the Good Year Welt or Blake Stitch method, then it is better than most massed produced cemented shoes. A Good Year welt shoe will almost certainly say that it is Good Year welted. Blake Stitch will have stitching that you see on your shoe. Your shoe is Blake Stitched.
Made in Italy shoes are also made with the Bologna/Sacchetto method. I am not sure how you identify these. Apart from the construction method, the other sign of quality is the quality of the leather. Is it corrected grain leather etc? Also called binder leather which has a high shine. From your photos it looks like normal calf leather. There are far more knowledgeable peole on here than me.
It does look like a Blake, but I've read once about fake Blake Stitches, so I was wondering how (or IF) can I spot if it is. I believe it's not - because the shoe does feel good, but the anonymous brand kind of baffles me.

How does one measure the quality of the leather without cutting the shoe?

Agree with Panama’s statements. You can typically recognize Blake stitched shoes when you see the stitches on the inside of the shoe in the sole area. Generally speaking Blake welted shoes can be seen as the entry level to quality shoes, with Goodyear often seen as superior (although I personally believe there is a bit of overlap as I have seen really cheap Goodyear welted shoes that were worse than some decent Blake stitched shoes). The price for your pair is IMO still just okay, bordering on expensive. Blake welted shoes usually start at around 150 USD. To judge the quality the best is to look for how even is the stitching, how wide are individual stitches (shorter and more stitches per week inch being better), is the leather “spray painted” or coated in color or is the natural grain still visible (and is it free of blemishes, indicating higher quality of leather selection).

Well, to my untrained eye the leather looks natural - I mean, while the shoes are brand new, looking close you can see it's not 100% smooth, it has some (probably) natural "defects".

Do you guys have any decent reading/watching material on the subject? Or is this just a matter of experience?

I know that's a weird line of questions, but being from a non famous brand, If they're any good - I might buy more of them next time I'm there :)
I'm searching everywhere for a decent pair of shoes in Israel. Am yet to find something I know of - so I'm hoping this brand would turn out to be my go-to.
 

Panama

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The sole of your shoe is stamped Blake.
I have seen stitching done as cosmetic exercise, rather than to fool anyone. Genuine Blake stitching will be visible inside the shoe as referenced above and visible in your photos.
 

Panama

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I would search on Shoe construction and read the articles and watch the videos.
I would emphasise that no shoe construction is better than another when the purpose of the shoe is taken into consideration, you can't dance or run very well in GYW shoes. There are many shoe construction methods such as Stitch down, a stitched down Desert boot is far better than a cemented boot.

Some construction methods:
Blake, Blake Rapid, Goodyear, Norwegian, Bologna, Bentivegna, Stitch down, San Crispino and Veldtschoen.
 
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wesleeatl

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Thank you all for your replies!


It does look like a Blake, but I've read once about fake Blake Stitches, so I was wondering how (or IF) can I spot if it is. I believe it's not - because the shoe does feel good, but the anonymous brand kind of baffles me.

How does one measure the quality of the leather without cutting the shoe?



Well, to my untrained eye the leather looks natural - I mean, while the shoes are brand new, looking close you can see it's not 100% smooth, it has some (probably) natural "defects".

Do you guys have any decent reading/watching material on the subject? Or is this just a matter of experience?

I know that's a weird line of questions, but being from a non famous brand, If they're any good - I might buy more of them next time I'm there :)
I'm searching everywhere for a decent pair of shoes in Israel. Am yet to find something I know of - so I'm hoping this brand would turn out to be my go-to.
i personally enjoy Robert Powers on youtube. Very detailed, and has a few videos on leather quality and shoe construction. He’s not a professional, but he does his research. You’ll learn something I’m sure.
 

Anachronist

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Don’t worry too much about them, judging from the pictures they look decently made and the most important aspect of a shoe is still how well it fits. If you haven’t already got some, buy shoe trees (preferably those that look like last and not the ones with the coil spring and ball at the end. www.bexley.com has decent ones at a fair price); they are the key to long lasting joy next to only wearing the shoes every other day with a day of rest for them in between. I also have some Blake welted shoes and can confirm that they hold up very well. Wear them in good health!
 

johnnykio

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I would search on Shoe construction and read the articles and watch the videos.
I would emphasise that no shoe construction is better than another when the purpose of the shoe is taken into consideration, you can't dance or run very well in GYW shoes. There are many shoe construction methods such as Stitch down, a stitched down Desert boot is far better than a cemented boot.

Some construction methods:
Blake, Blake Rapid, Goodyear, Norwegian, Bologna, Bentivegna, Stitch down, San Crispino and Veldtschoen.
Thanks! I knew Blake and Goodyear, I'll read about the rest.
i personally enjoy Robert Powers on youtube. Very detailed, and has a few videos on leather quality and shoe construction. He’s not a professional, but he does his research. You’ll learn something I’m sure.
Will check him out :)
Don’t worry too much about them, judging from the pictures they look decently made and the most important aspect of a shoe is still how well it fits. If you haven’t already got some, buy shoe trees (preferably those that look like last and not the ones with the coil spring and ball at the end. www.bexley.com has decent ones at a fair price); they are the key to long lasting joy next to only wearing the shoes every other day with a day of rest for them in between. I also have some Blake welted shoes and can confirm that they hold up very well. Wear them in good health!
YES! Thank you! I was searching for decent priced shoe trees. It's such a rarity here - even the store where I bought the shoes, while selling shoe care products (which luckily I have already, even for my Rockports who need some love here and there), didn't offer trees.

Thank you all for your help, very much appreciated :)
 

Wordstorm

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Those are definitely Blake stitched. In terms of other quality characteristics it would be helpful to have pictures of the upper leather to assess leather type and quality and strap hardware.
 

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