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Shoe construction methods

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by alchimiste, Apr 30, 2005.

  1. alchimiste

    alchimiste Senior member

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    How do the different constructions

    - Goodyear welting (one-piece sole)
    - glued-on feather welting
    - Blake
    - rapid-Blake
    - norvegese

    compare in terms of

    - cost
    - sturdiness
    - waterproof
    - difficulty/cost of resoling
    - thinness of the sole


    Mathieu
     
  2. alchimiste

    alchimiste Senior member

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    Also, what's Bologna?
     
  3. gqelements

    gqelements Senior member

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    curious as well, bump
     
  4. RIDER

    RIDER Senior member

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    There have been a few questions about shoe 'construction' methods lately, and I thought it might be more useful to see an Allen Edmonds shoe de-constructed to examine the process... http://img258.echo.cx/my.php?loc=img...ishview0rt.jpg Here is an open view of the details. So, the uppers are assembled, wrapped around the last and the insole is placed on the last. The leather insole has a glued on paper feather that is covered with cotton/linen and glue. http://img207.echo.cx/my.php?loc=img...feather5ih.jpg The upper assembly which consists of the upper, adhesive tape, layer of cotton (muslin?) and lining is stapled to the feather to secure it for stitching. http://img17.echo.cx/my.php?image=ou...ples4jb7rs.png Then a multiple layer, twisted thread is used to sew the welt/upper/feather/insole together. http The welt has two seperate stitches run thru it - the single heavy stitch mentioned above, and then the outsole is secured to the welt (and therefore the upper assembly) by means of a lockstitch. http://img251.echo.cx/my.php?....6kf.jpg You can clearly see the two threads (one black, one white) that run thru the welt and 'lock' together in the welt photo. As you can also see, a glue/cork mixture is spread into the space created by the raised feather before the outsole is attached. As for the upper assembly, here is a scan of the components that make up a toe box... http://img168.echo.cx/my.php?loc=img...xlayers6iy.jpg They are: upper leather, adhesive tape, cotton , paper with a glue covering, and the lining leather. Hope this helps clear up how a 'welted shoe' is made. The main difference between a 'welted' shoe and a 'Goodyear welted' shoe is that the insole should have a feather carved from the insole itself and the stitches that run thru the upper/lining/insole are done by hand. Also, this is a relatively minor distinction that I use more to seperate the truely handwelted shoes that I have (Borgioli Roma) and the many welted shoes that I carry. I'll try and get a tear-up of a Blake shoe posted as well...
     
  5. alchimiste

    alchimiste Senior member

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    Here is a picture of Blake construction: [​IMG] My original question was not really about how are shoes made, but rather what are the consequences in terms of durability, ease of resoling, thinness, waterproofing, etc. Mathieu
     
  6. A Harris

    A Harris Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Cost: You'd have to divide this into two categories - cost to produce and retail price. Welted shoes with a hand carved feather and Norvegese are the most difficult/expensive to produce, followed by machine welted, then blake-rapid, then blake. As for retail prices - that depends entirely on the brand name and retailer, for instance, you have Rider's Shell cordovan Norwegians selling for around $600, vs. Blake stitched Berluti's going for double that price... Sturdiness - Norvegese usually has a double or triple sole and is therefore the sturdiest, followed by welted shoe, then blake rapid, then blake. waterproof - Norvegese shoes are the most waterproof, then welted shoes and blake-rapid shoes, with blake stitched shoes being the least water resistant, especially if the soles are not channeled. In reality though, I'm not likely to wear any of my high-end dress shoes in anyhting more than a drizzle, so this is not really an issue. I've a few pair of midrange shoes to take care of that duty... difficulty/cost of resoling - welted shoes are going to be the easiest. I don't know about Blake or blake rapid, I would guess they would take some specialized training/equipment. Norvegese shoes would probably be the most difficult to resole and would likely have to be sent back to the original manufacturer. On the flip side, Norvegese shoes generally have very thick soles - add toe/heel protectors and you may never have to resole them. thinness of the sole - blake shoes can have the thinnest soles. Blake rapid and welted shoes should be tied for second, but in my experience, welted shoes with a single sole generally have a thinner sole than a blake rapid shoe. Norvegese are usually the thickest. Some comments based on personal preferences and observations: Norvegese refers to a specific sort of shoe construction - there are all sorts of different ways to reverse-welt a shoe and they all have different names. See this thread. You will probaly end up as confused as I was... I prefer welted shoes personally. Perhaps it has to do with the shape of my foot, but the soles of Blake and Blake rapid shoes tend to 'round' when I wear them, they don't have the torsional rigidity of a welted shoe. The welted shoes hold their shape better, yet when broken in, a welted shoe with a single sole develops a wonderful 'feel' to the sole, almost like a moccasin. Not clunky at all. I have also had trouble with section of blake rapid shoes that corresponds to the externally visible section of the welt on a welted shoe - the sort of rim extending around the shoe when looking at it from the top, or on the foot. This area can pull away from the upper on some blake rapid shoes as there is some distance from the internal blake-stitch and the external blake-rapid stitch, and the sole is held to the upper in between by adhesive. The bond can break, which is unsightly to me. I have no problem wearing blake shoes, but am not willing to pay as much for them as I would for a quality welted shoe. IMO many Italian brands who sell blake shoes are rather overpriced - Tanino Crisci, Barrett, etc. The main advantage of the different Norwegian constructions to me is aesthetics, they look great on some models.
     
  7. alchimiste

    alchimiste Senior member

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    Thanks Andrew.
    One thing I had in mind was: if I like how a shoe looks like, should I stay away from it just because of the way it's stitched? do you choose the technique first and then look only at welted shoes?

    Mathieu
     
  8. A Harris

    A Harris Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    No, if you want a particular style and it is only available in a particular construction, don't let that stop you.

    Give us an example, what shoe styles do you like?
     
  9. alchimiste

    alchimiste Senior member

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    J. April recently asked about the construction of French shoes (think Berluti, Altan, Aubercy, Corthay, etc.). Looks like many are Blake stitched. Many English shoes are welted but the styles are not very varied. Are French/Italian shoes good-looking crap? Is it a choice between cheap construction/leather vs. boring styles?

    Mathieu

    PS: Thanks for the Norwegian headache.
     
  10. johnapril

    johnapril Senior member

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    Apparently JM Weston (French shoemaker) is welting their shoes. But, look, I'm going to do some research in Paris in a few weeks, and I'll report back whatever I am able to learn.

    I, too, thank all the informed folks on this forum regarding this subject. It will definitely aid me in my research and shoe shopping.
     
  11. RIDER

    RIDER Senior member

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    Keep in mind something - most factories are capable of numerous constructions and can also change the overall quality of an item within the same construction. Just as Hickey-Freeman can produce canvas front, handmade suits (they don't get much press, but they are producing a line of suits to compete with Oxxford) as well as completely fused, robot made suits under the Burberry label, a shoe manufacturer can produce crap to very fine - all in the same process. For example, I have been told that the C & J shoes produced for BB are made using much less expensive linings and outsoles than the regular line. The appearance, construction and upper materials are the same, but the final product is not. Maybe a better example would be what they used to do years ago at J & M. At the end of the year, they used to produce what we called 59 line code shoes. They were the exact same models as in the regular line (same patterns) but they were produced with pigskin linings, cheaper insoles and cheaper outsoles. The model numbers were the same except for the first two digits, which were 59 instead of 24. The shoes retailed for 40% less than the regular shoes and always sold out, as they were promoted. The customers always assumed they were buying the regular merchandise. They were not.

    Also, I would place Blake/Rapid at least on par with welted footwear - many times ahead. I personally feel that the use of a full leather mid-sole instead of a layer of glue/cork provides for a more sturdy construction. Again, though, materials are more the issue here than construction. I believe Martegani Blake/Rapid shoes are better made than Allen Edmonds welted shoes, and E. Green welted shoes are probably better made than Martegani. Why? Materials. Vass is better made than them all, and this is why I think it is useful to use the term 'Goodyear' welted only in this construction. To say Allen Edmonds and Vass are both 'Goodyear' welted would mean that they are made the same...but they clearly are not.

    Finally, you should always be a little wary of shoes produced by brands that do not have a factory themselves. In many cases (although not all) you are paying a hefty premium for the story that goes along with the name. Berluti, for example, sub-contracts the RTW production to Italy, and the shoes are marked-up exorbitantly. They have put alot of money into real estate and that website though...
     
  12. alchimiste

    alchimiste Senior member

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    But Weston makes shoes of a different style than the ones I referred to.
     
  13. alchimiste

    alchimiste Senior member

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    I would believe this. However I don't think that the said factory sells their own shoes. And if they do they wouldn't be Berluti style-wise.
    what you talk about may be more relevant when big name like C&J or EG make shoes for some designer/dpt store. Then you can buy similar shoes sold under different names.

    Mathieu
     
  14. A Harris

    A Harris Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    This is an excellent point. I must say that I have not worn many top-end Blake stitched shoes so I've not experienced how they feel/wear when rendered in the best materials. I might add that for some excellent values on shoes in the different constructions discussed here, check out Rider's site -www.francos.com.
    Stefanobi does sell shoes under their own label, they are significantly less expensive, and though I've not seen the current Berluti line I'm guessing the styling/finishing is very similar, judging from the many Stefanobi shoes I've seen.
     
  15. A Harris

    A Harris Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    This thread prompted me to look through the whole Berluti line on their new website just now, which I had not done before. With the exception of the simpler designs in the Club and Olga lines, especially the 3-eyelet Norwegian whole-cuts and the Andy loafers (both great shoes,) I must say that there is not much there I would wear, and there were a whole lot of hideously UGLY shoes. Anybody with me on this?? I'd say now that comparing the Stefanobi line to Berluti does it an injustice, the Stefanobi shoes are infinitely better looking...
     
  16. Manton

    Manton Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Yes.
     
  17. RIDER

    RIDER Senior member

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    Actually, they do. What IS different is the finish Berluti requires...which is nothing more than alcohol and 1 hour under the brushes to build the sheen. Of, course, this is why many of the models turn 'milky' after a few creases - I've heard the shoes look alot better on the shelf, than in the closet, so to speak. If you search the archives, you will see many threads about the flexability of the Italians in how they produce shoes. It is a very different mentality than the US/UK production line process. It is not just changing the heel seats in the shoes and putting them in different boxes. Anyone, you included, can go to Italy and, if you have enough money, can detail your own shoes/designs/lasts, etc. I have been doing it for years, and I am just small potatoes. I am working on a concept now where a customer can come to my shop and, first, have his foot measured in either 3D or in the traditional 'bespoke' process for a custom last, have the last profile processed into a CAD/CAM program and then we can use that program to design a pattern individually. The dimensions of the last are sent directly to the last maker outside of Milan and run into a CNC lathe to produce the last which is then forwarded to the factory in Vigevano where the shoes are made. The computer manages this entire process so that the customer/last maker/shoe design/factory relationship is seamless. At this time, it appears that all this is possible for a retail price of around $500...at least at this early stage of development. So, as you can see, it is very easy for a 'brand' to come up with different designs and have them produced in a modern factory so as to appear as unique production. Finally, every Italian manufacturer I work with also produces for more than one of the marketed 'brands'...one that I carry produces for Gucci, Prada, Valentino, Bruno Magli, and many I have never heard of. My most popular line is a factory that was offered the Berluti contract and passed as Berluti was only offering 15 euro per pair for the finish, and that was not worth it to him...
     
  18. johnnynorman3

    johnnynorman3 Senior member

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    Weston uses a Goodyear welt. They have a cut open shoe in the Boston store to show the design. I could be wrong, but I believe the feather is hand-carved, as opposed to glued.
     
  19. alchimiste

    alchimiste Senior member

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    [​IMG]
     
  20. johnapril

    johnapril Senior member

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    Nice one. Thanks for that post. I will certainly try out their shoes in Paris.
     

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