Leather Quality and Properties

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by VegTan, Jul 8, 2013.

  1. Munky

    Munky Senior member

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    I think we could all do with a machine like that!
     


  2. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    The late 19th and early 20th century saw a lot of devices invented...an explosion, really, in the wake of the industrial revolution...and most of them turned out to be gimcrackery or simply over-thinking. They impressed the uninformed but didn't really contribute much to the Trade or the understanding of the underlying principles. Few survived and even the theories behind them seem to have passed into justifiable obscurity.

    On the other hand...if you're into machines and technology...that same period saw some major advances in mechanizing/industrializing/dehumanizing all the Trades. Old catalogues from the time sometimes complain quite bitterly about "wage slavery" and the like.

    In fact, it was during this time that the great International Exhibitions got started (World's Fairs)...ostensibly to promote handwork and make the point that no machine could equal Traditional techniques for quality. John Lobb got his start and gained his reputation by winning the Gold Medal at several of these exhibitions, as I recall. Gold Medal flour was named after the awards it won. Spinners and Weavers were deeply involved in this movement against the machine. A number of shoes were created especially for exhibition that were sewn at 64spi...on the uppers and in attaching the sole. This has been documented by June Swann.

    The thing that has always struck me is that, esp. in that time period between the Wars, the Trade and those who spoke for it seemed deeply conflicted. As if no one could decide whether the old ways which had produced such amazing and beautiful work...but slowly...was worth preserving in the face of "modern" methods which produced such objectively inferior work...quickly. As a consequence there is a lot of literature from that time that is nearly as misinformed as today's internet.

    --
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2013


  3. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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    64 spi? Do any shoes today have this level of stitching? I can barely fathom that.
     


  4. SuitedDx

    SuitedDx Senior member

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    I think shell cordovan, especially with Alden, is seen more like a trendy material that people like (shiny :bounce2:). Most of the conversation on the Alden thread is on the styles/color combinations and there is less emphasis on quality demands (Alden has serious issues with consistency and quality control). To the Alden crowd, shell is a favorite material, some might think it's the Holy Grail of leather, but to me, it's just another leather with unique properties.

    Personally, I find the aniline and crust conversation interesting and I did not know that aniline is more common here in the States. Have learned a lot from this thread...
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2013


  5. Munky

    Munky Senior member

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    DWFII,
    Thank you very much for this unexpected and fascinating detail. I think a similar, Victorian, period of machinery and device development occurred in the UK.

    I really do think that you might consider publishing your knowledge and experience through formal publishing. I have had quite a lot of books published (in a different field) and publishers are always open to ideas. Few, outside of blockbuster fiction writers make any money out of publishing but it is gratifying that your work is considered worthy of reading. I would certainly give it some though. You give away, freely, huge amounts of information on here.
    Munky
     


  6. SuitedDx

    SuitedDx Senior member

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    I think the lightening/darkening of materials was discussed previously, but did it include why some Horween shells (e.g., #8) tend to lighten while others (e.g., whiskey) darken over time? My guess is that the dye of #8 eventually fades because the dye does not really soak into the shell whereas the whiskey is more of a natural shell color and darkens because it "tans" with time.

    Can anyone provide me with more knowledgeable information to this effect on shell?
     


  7. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Most people...even some highly respected shoemakers, can't.

    But as I say, June Swann, the former Keeper of the Shoe Collection at the Northampton Museum, and perhaps the foremost authority on shoe history in the world, has documented a number of pairs. Supposedly there's a pair of boots in the LA County Museum sewn at 50 spi.

    She has also said that it would be very hard to do today given the quality of the leather we have access to. Veg tanned kangaroo comes the closest. Besides there's no one who has the fire in the belly to do this work and no reason--the machines won.

    I think it was John F. Rees in The Art and Mystery of a Cordwainer (London, 1813)...or maybe James Devlin The Guide to the Trade, The Shoemaker (London, 1839) (?)...who said that when doing this kind of work he had used a hair from his daughter's head as a bristle/needle and an awl so fine that when he slipped and punctured the base of his thumb it neither hurt nor bled.

    June said that one of the stories about a pair she examined from the Philadelphia Exhibition had a shoemaker working in his attic for more than a year doing nothing but one pair of boots and wearing three pairs of spectacles. When finished, he never made another pair of shoes again.

    I've tried it on some veg kangaroo. I was getting about 50 spi using a magnifying glass but it was really uneven and crude. An inch took me most of the day.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2013


  8. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Most of the literature prior to 1950 comes from the UK.

    Almost all the literature published in the US is manufacturing oriented.


    That's my job....that's why I get paid the big bucks.:satisfied:
     


  9. Numbernine

    Numbernine Senior member

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    I walked my dog once LA to Seattle and back never walked him again
    Great story though DW I've made my living with my hands all my life love stories like this .
    I worked with a guy once who engraved silver he did a lot of western stuff and lived in Reno Nev. The local organized crime boys liked his work so much they made him an offer he couldn't refuse engraving counterfeit money plates . He ended up spending 8 years in the pen. I met him after he'll of a nice guy
     


  10. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    First thing that came into my head...
    [​IMG]
     


  11. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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    This is a gif waiting to happen.
     


  12. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Looked for one, couldn't find.
     


  13. JubeiSpiegel

    JubeiSpiegel Senior member

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    Can we discuss the real advantages that last specific shoe trees have compared to generic trees? How prone to loosing its lasted shape is any given shoe, with use of a generic trees?

    I have always wondered what info regarding the use of lasted trees is fact, and what part is marketing fiction.
     


  14. wurger

    wurger Senior member

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    Here are my initial thoughts, mainly the reason to be cheap.... :embar:

    As for the shape, the from the vamp to the toe, that's the most shape defining parts of the shoe, but they should never deform no matter how you wear the shoes, and I guess that is where the exact shape of the lasted shoe tree will fill in those parts perfectly.

    From vamp to the heel counter, the upper should wrap around our feet, so I am not too fussed about keeping the exact shape for that area.
     


  15. Munky

    Munky Senior member

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    Human and animal skin absorbs very little. That is one of the main points of it. While I appreciate that shoe leather is dead, is it the case that it absorbs very little? If this is the case, are we just being sold expensive cosmetics for shoes? Or, even it does absorb some things put on it, are we still being sold expensive cosmetics?

    Talking of cosmetics, are there any women on this or the shoe site? If not, what does this say about mens' and womens' attitudes towards shoes? Remember that it was Emelda Marcos who had 3000 plus shoes.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2013


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