Leather Quality and Properties

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

  1. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Glen,

    In English influenced parts of the Trade, outsoles and insoles are typically measured in "irons"...with one iron being equal to 1/48". So 12 iron is 1/4" or 16 ounce. How that convention originated, I don't know but many of the old weights and measures were based on common and easily referenced body parts or materials--such as "three barleycorns=one inch.

    It varies from maker to maker, and according to style, of course, but in this country, a 10-11 iron insole is "typical" for a a man's shoe. In other parts of the world all leather--uppers and soling--may be measured in millimeters. It's certainly been that way in all my dealings with German companies.

    Insole thicknesses probably vary more widely but I would say 8 iron is probably considered neither too heavy nor too light. I myself might be more in the neighborhood of 9-10 iron depending on whether I am making a man's shoe or a boot. I might go as thin as 6 iron for a woman's shoe. I do know makers who use 6 iron insole shoulder (from Baker, mind you) for men's shoes, as well.

    Of course, it goes without saying that much of this depends upon construction techniques. A goodyear welted shoe need not have a very thick insole at all. May not even be leather.

    Upper leather is usually measured in ounces...a nice man's dress shoe probably tops out at 4 ounce. I use some leathers such as kangaroo that can be as lightweight as 2-3 ounces. 6 ounce is really too heavy for a dress shoe, in my opinion. And when you factor in a lining that will usually be at least 3 ounce and sometimes 4...for all quality shoes...an 8 ounce upper, even for work boots, is going to be plenty heavy and stiff.

    --
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013


  2. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    JLP bespoke uses 3/16" insole. I was told if it won't be comfortable if going thicker. And they use very dense part of the hide for durability.
     


  3. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    3/16" would be 8 iron.

    And I may be mistaken...so don't hold your breath...but I think JLP is making primarily GY welted RTW.

    Regardless, the common wisdom (as well as the hallowed and Traditional wisdom) holds that a less dense, longer fibered insole...cut from the shoulder usually...is preferred for hand inseaming and for comfort. The longer fibers in the insole shoulder actually hold the stitches better than short fibers...hence smaller stitches and tighter inseams are the result.

    And a less dense fiber mat will more readily conform to the bottom of the foot...creating what is known as a 'footbed." And one that is unique to the wearer.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013




  4. VegTan

    VegTan Senior member

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    It is the flesh side. I just introduced it to those who haven't seen it. I know you are a bespoke bootmaker.



    Yes I know, but I am confused why you started talking about outsole/insole leather, not shoe upper leather.



    I am not an expert, so I quoted only from experts such as a leather buyer, a saddler and a leather chemist. If my opening postings are wrong, it means the experts are wrong.:)
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2013


  5. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    Was talking about the Paris bespoke operation, not RTW
     


  6. clee1982

    clee1982 Senior member

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    was it suppose to be before/after deerbone or something? I can't tell, though looks super nice in any case :slayer:
     


  7. VegTan

    VegTan Senior member

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    I hope this helps.




    (for work boots)
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013


  8. glenjay

    glenjay Senior member

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    Thanks DW, I always appreciate your vast knowledge about all things shoe/boot.



    Thanks chogall. The soles on my RTW JLP shoes seem thinner than that, so they must use a thicker sole on their bespoke than their RTW.



    Thanks for all the links to the various thickness references VegTan, they were very useful.
     


  9. Dagon

    Dagon Active Member

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    Lovely shoes, especially the U-Caps.

    Is it just me, or does it look like they're playing spin the bottle?
     


  10. bengal-stripe

    bengal-stripe Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    This thread is all over the place, mixing upper and bottom leathers almost randomly.
     


  11. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I didn't see much differentiation being made by the "experts" you quoted. As I said, once upon a time shoes were made entirely of veg tanned leather. Still being done today. To some extent, the deficiency of any leather will be the same whether it is used for uppers or for bottoming.

    But more importantly, the initial post referenced remarks about upper leather as well as bends, welts, croupons and even about making saddles and holsters.

    The other thing is that you are 100% correct--the "experts" are often wrong. Because they are not experts. Again, there is a lot of misleading and even downright ignorant information on the internet. The shoemaking Trade is not immune to this. Many of these articles are written by people who are essentially by-standers or shoe groupies. No dirt on their hands or tar under their fingernails.

    Commenting on stuff that you really don't know anything about...and I'm not saying that you are or even that you should stop...is not really like being a movie producer. It's more like being an extreme hypochondriac--who has all the textbook knowledge of a physician (knows all the symptoms and all the causes of disease) but doesn't have a clue about how to recognize or treat those diseases...even in him/herself.

    Someone proclaiming or styling himself an expert doesn't make him one. Not really. Quoting other people who may or may not know what what they are talking about...may actually be quoting yet another person...doesn't make anyone an expert either.

    Again...my apologies--this is not personal. The information itself is neutral and can take no offense by itself. It's either right, or mostly right (misleading) or wrong.
    --
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2013


  12. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    But are they GY or hand inseamed?...that would heavily influence the choice of insole leather.
     


  13. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Th Paris bespoke ones are handwelted. Their RTW, is goodyear.

    DWF, does leather thickness necessarily indicate quality/longevity?
     


  14. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Certainly not, but it may indicate appropriateness to task. Objectively shoulder is not as good a quality of leather as the butt area. However, using the butt for insole is a poor choice, IMO.

    In the example of JLP that was cited, a dense/firm insole...at any thickness...not only flies in the face of centuries of received wisdom and Tradition, it doesn't make sense for handwelted shoes. No footbed at the simplest and problematic strength for stitching even if only in the long(evity) term.

    Another example...traditionally welts were taken from the belly. Now that may be a holdover from a time when leather was simply better tanned, better sourced, etc., than nowadays (I don't see much belly that I would want to use for welts...fact is I don't see much belly, period.) but I have made welts out of shoulder. Some good, some not so much. Bellies are generally considered offal nowadays but with the right tanning, the logic is fine.

    Parenthetically, "firmness" is not indicative of quality either, especially in veg tans. Most outsoling is "rolled"--compressed to induce firmness. It is not unusual to see insole shoulders that are not naturally firm, rolled to be firm. Incidental to that, the "density" is also up a notch or two by rolling.

    IMO, density of the fiber mat as well as the length of the fibers is a better gauge. But again even if the leather is deemed poor or third quality it may be premier for any given application.

    --
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2013


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