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Sole Welting

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Quarantanove, Apr 19, 2012.

  1. emptym

    emptym Moderator Moderator

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    Great to see you here, J. And great post. Sometimes, I wonder too what people are arguing about since everyone here believes that, all things being equal, HW<GW.

    In light of your post, I think the point of contention arises at the line between practicality and excellence, quality and quantity. Different people draw the line differently. Here the faultline is between the two groups at the highest levels: bespoke HW and high end GW.

    Before DW, the faultline was a little lower: between high end GW and low/mid GW (How much better is EG/Lobb vs Alden/AE, really?).

    Lowering the faultline, we have the common debate between noobs with their corrected grain, entirely glued rubber soles vs. the GW proponents. Such noobs can be high end (Prada) and middle (Ecco) and low (Payless). The question is still, Do the differences between my shoes and the ones you recommend really matter?

    Some will say yes, others will say no. And the reasons for rejection of the “higher calling” will vary. As you say, some prefer quantity. Some are unable or unwilling to pay more than a certain amount. Some do not think the incremental differences are important, or at least not as important as those who say they are. Most of SF thinks one reason GW < “glue jobs” is that they can be resoled and they last 30+ years. Others say corrected grain and glued rubber soles can last as long as full grain and GW.

    We all draw our line somewhere. DW has made it clear that he doesn’t think all people must buy bespoke HW shoes at all times. But he isn’t speaking to all people. He’s addressing SF, where many have the resources to buy bespoke. It seems to me as though he believes that those who can do so but choose to buy GW are making a choice similar to, but at a higher level than, those who can afford a few pairs of full-grain GW shoes but choose to buy corrected grain, glued shoes, be they Payless or Prada.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2013


  2. emptym

    emptym Moderator Moderator

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    Durability is important, but, as I’m sure you’d acknowledge readily, there are other factors involved.

    Once we get past the point of buying shoes for the important necessities of protecting our feet and fitting in, we have other things to consider: personal aesthetic taste, the message we want to send to others, the businesses we want to support. As Justin said, some prefer to buy local, some prefer the mystique of “made in Italy,” some prefer to support someone who’s nice… and some don’t care at all where, how, or by whom their goods were made.

    All of us here have similar taste and I’m sure most if not all of us would prefer not to buy goods made by slave labor or from factories that pollute prodigiously. After that, we all have our standards and we all make our compromises. I prefer handmade shoes made of natural leather by highly skilled artisans. But due to various reasons for compromise (a desire for quantity/variety, different priorities, some measure of desire for immediate gratification, and probably laziness), I own and will probably continue to buy GW shoes.

    I think everyone involved knows there’s a difference, the disagreement is simply on how much the difference matters, how much we’re willing to compromise.
     


  3. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Yes and no. I am almost entirely unconcerned with what people choose to buy or wear. Nor would I castigate anyone who revels in their shoes, be they GY or HW or cement. As you say we all draw a line. I am not immune to retreat, myownself.

    All I want to do is give people the leverage to make an "informed" decision. As I've said many times I don't engage in disparaging other makers...be they bespoke or RTW. I'm talking about techniques and materials. Things that, I suspect, do matter in the overall scheme of things if you are pursuing excellence...or pretend to be. And isn't that (the pursuit of excellence) what StyleForum is, at least ostensibly, about?

    So maybe it's more "yes" than "no"...bottom line, I'm not concerned all that much with brand names or the cachet attached to them. I do, however, think it's defending the indefensible esp. if you acknowledge in the next breath that it is inferior. Everyone in this discussion has directly or implicitly acknowledged that there is/are inherent, fundamental weaknesses in GY construction compared to HW (a number of weaknesses, in fact).

    So I join the chorus...what is the argument about? Sometimes it's a matter of ignorance (lack of knowledge)...that's where folks like me come in; sometimes it seems more a matter of blindness, stubbornness, excuse, what??? I don't know.

    --
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2013


  4. emptym

    emptym Moderator Moderator

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    ^Sounds good. Thanks DW.
    This is a good point. We tend to speak in black and white, to assume that rules of society or laws of nature must operate absolutely, universally, necessarily -- if they are to be valued at all. But they don't all operate in this way. Many operate according to contingency and probability. This is not to say all there is no objective truth or goodness. There is middle ground between fundamentalism and relativism.

    In this discussion, everyone is in the middle, but the language on both "sides" has sometimes tended toward the extreme. It would be great if we could all moderate both our own language and the way we interpret others.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2013


  5. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    m,

    I keep coming back to the cigarette analogy. I suspect that you could interview 100 cigarette smokers and they would all tell you they've never had any problems. And if you quoted from the scientific and medical data or the Surgeon General's report they would, to a man/woman, shrug their shoulder, repeat that they have never had any problem and light up another one.

    Are we then to believe that the warnings are bogus? Are such warnings hyperbole? Are they "catastrophizing?"

    The problem here is that no one wants to accept the evidence...I accept that some people...maybe most on this forum...don't have any problems with GY. But that acceptance is obviously a one way street. Despite photos.

    That said, almost all of these shoes...such as the 30 year old pair cited by a previous poster...have been "recrafted" at some point in their lives. It is my understanding that most of the big names makers completely strip out and replace the old gemming and the old insole during the recrafting process. As a matter of course.

    It begs the question. Why?

    Is it because the gemming has failed so badly it's not worth putting back in place? Or do they just know that to leave it in place guarantees failure of the recrafting job?

    And it begs another question that I've raised but no one has ever answered...If you send a shoe in for recrafting and the insole and gemming are replaced, how do you know if you had gemming failure or not? Only the recrafting department would know that.

    --
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2013


  6. jaywhyy

    jaywhyy Senior member

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    I could care less about the debate between GY vs hand-welting, but please don't give the pretense that anectodal photographs are equal in footing to the correlations between smoking and lung disease.

    If you can find a proper sample and show that the p-value for gemming failure in GY shoes is statistically significant, then you can make that claim. Testimonial/photographical "evidence" is anectodal and unconclusive.
     


  7. emptym

    emptym Moderator Moderator

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    Jaywhyy, I think you meant "couldn't care less." On the analogy of smoking to gemming, there are similarities and there are differences, as there are in all analogies. Sure, there have never been the same scientific studies of gemming and its failure as there have of smoking and cancer. But the similarity remains. Gemming fails according to probability, not necessity. If you want to avoid that chance completely, you'd have to avoid gemming.

    DW, I suppose people define problems differently, just as we all make compromises. If gemming failure is never noticed by the wearer, is it a problem? It is to the repair person. And it is to the consumer if the repair person doesn't do a good job, which is more likely at the corner store, than at the manufacturer or a really competent third party shop, like Nick's.

    Another example, perhaps less threatening, is sugary drinks. Soft drinks corrode teeth. So does juice. Some are aware of this; some are not. Different people draw the line at different places depending on their resources, needs, and standards. Everyone admits that heathy teeth are good, that juice is more nutritious than soda, and that both can corrode teeth. A dentist may find juice as bad as soft drinks when it comes to tooth decay. But a consumer may not care, or may think the benefits of juice outweigh the costs, at least for him at that time. Another may value the taste and price of soft drinks over perfect teeth. Another may drink juice rarely and take good care of his/her teeth.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2013


  8. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Oh, I agree. But they are certainly as valid as simple, singular anecdotes alone, aren't they?

    And when accompanied by information and details that explain what is going on, in general, from someone who is intimately acquainted with the processes through near continuous hands-on experience over the course of forty plus years, they take on a little extra weight, don't you think?
     


  9. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    The problem with that...no specific person referenced...is that I don't know of a single shoe repair shop in the US that has the resources to to a credible "recraft" that involves replacement of the insole and the gemming. The original last is critical and essential if nothing else.

    From a makers' point of view this is just another failure of the GY process, as shoes spent 10,000 years evolving towards the goal of any shoe repair being able to address all but the most massive breakdowns related to wear.

    There again we see "planned obsolescence" in all its glory. Sending them back to the manufacturer is the only guaranteed way to ensure...that the manufacturer has a steady income stream.


    Well you hit it in one there. I drink juices daily (never soft drinks) and my teeth are a wreck. Is there a correlation between the juice or does it have something to do with the fact that I neglected them most of my life but esp. during my time in a remote jungles far from home?
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2013


  10. Reginald Bartholomew

    Reginald Bartholomew Senior member

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    If this was the process of judgement applied by a competitor in my industry, I'd enjoy the resulting gains I would accrue by applying a more rigourous, statistically driven approach.
     


  11. emptym

    emptym Moderator Moderator

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    Well, I'm guessing that different people define "credible" differently. I agree that one increases the probability of a recraft being done well if the original last is used. Certainly some shops can reheel and resole well. And there may be shops that can do good job at gemming replacement. I know Nick's place gets a lot of respect here. Although I believe he said they rarely need to replace gemming.

    An as you imply, even sending the shoe back to the maker doesn’t guarantee a perfect recraft. But it is interesting that most if not all GY makers advise sending their shoes back to them for full recrafting. Some require it. And I believe some even require that they handle any repairs. This may be because the consumer doesn't know if the shoe will need new gemming or not. As you point out, it's partly for the benefit of the original last and probably partly for an additional revenue source. There usually is a higher cost though, a longer duration, and the chance that things will get lost in the mail. So some consumers may still prefer to deal with a local shop.
    Thank you. Both/and?
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2013


  12. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    You see there's the rub...how does a shop replace the insole without the last? How does one duplicate the original shape and size? I wouldn't want to try it myownself.

    Some will say..."oh, you just trace around the old insole". Doesn't really answer. If I cut a chunk of 10 iron virgin Baker insole shoulder and wet it, temper it, mould it to the bottom of a last, let it dry thoroughly, trim it, and then take it off the last for just half an hour, when I go to put it back on the last it will have have lost perhaps an eighth inch in length and a tiny bit in width. If I wet it again and let it dry it will shrink up more.

    And many makers actually deliberately stretch the insole when they mount it.

    When the insole is exposed to heat and moisture (salt water) it shrinks. It also deforms to accommodate to pressures imparted by the foot during walking. For example, If the foot pronates, the insole may, almost certainly will, twist to the inside.

    So now you have a shoe that has been worn for nine months? A year? and you take the insole out and trace around it. How is that going to relate to the original? Who knows? Who can know...with surety...without the original last?

    Added to that, where will you place your new gemming? If the insole is shrunk or distorted, how will that placement relate to the original inseam?

    It's similar to the question I've had thrown at me so many times I quit counting--"Why can't you take my old shoes/boots and fill them with plaster and make a new pair on the plaster cast?"

    The answer is that the plaster cast is going to reflect all the stretching and the distortions that the shoe encountered during its lifetime and even if it seems to fit perfectly initially, all the resistance to stretching and distortion that the original shoe had is gone and, as a result, the new shoe will start where the old one left off with more...significantly more...distortion and stretching to come.

    I guess my definition of credible is just unable to encompass that degree of variation from original intent.

    --
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2013


  13. RogerP

    RogerP Senior member

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    Very well said.
     


  14. The Shoe Snob

    The Shoe Snob Affiliate Vendor Affiliate Vendor

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    Thanks M, happy to share when/if I have time and see a need for stating an opinion. With the baby and wife asleep, it would appear that I have a spare hour or so!

    okay, now I guess I see the argument a little better, where I apparently did not before. I, for some reason, thought that DW was stating that all people should buy HW and that all RTW makers should convert to HW because GY is crap. This was my understanding. Which I was not in accordance with whatsoever and found quite silly to be honest. But from what you state, this was not the actual argument so I stand corrected on that front.

    But if you are saying that DW was simply addressing those on SF who come here to seek excellence in their sartiorial decisions and have the means to buy HW/Bespoke vs GY, that they should clearly and only buy HW/Bespoke, then I can see a bit more the point. However, I still do not think that just because someone is capable of getting something (due to financial security) and that fact that they want to look and dress smart, that they MUST buy the best thing available.......That sounds quite rigid and dictatorial, if I must be honest.... I do think that should one have the means to do so, then they should at least try it in order to understand it, but should they not see a "necessity" for it and wish to go back to GY welted shoes, then there is nothing wrong with that...

    I do very much agree with the thought that those who can afford and wear Prada should immediately convert to C&J or the likes, but there is a big difference between C&J and Saing Crispins and/or bespoke in price and should one not see the value (HW vs GY) in the difference between the two but could easily afford the SC/Bespoke, does not mean that he SHOULD/MUST buy the SC/Bespoke just because it's a better product.

    I plan to have enough money (one day) in my life to be able to afford a Ferrari, but I would never buy one. I would rather have a simple Audi or BMW, even though a Ferrari probably has a better engine, more handwork, attention to detail etc.... Being a denim freak who loves to wear jeans on a daily basis, I am happy with getting cheapos from Uniqlo even though I could have my friend knock out a bespoke pair for me at cost price, which would clearly be a better pair. Does that mean that I am retreating for second-rate living? No, that's absurd...I prefer convenience and quantity in my jeans, over quality and waiting 6-8 weeks to get them....I could care less if the bespoke ones would last me 10 times the life of the cheapos or fit and feel better....

    I am clearly in accordance with the fact that HW is better than GY, hands down. I have made both (obviously I do not physically make my RTW, but you know what I mean) and there is no comparison in feel and comfort. But I can't say that I agree that just because I know this and agree to it that I should then only seek to wear HW or have a shoe line with only HW shoes....That to me is just silly and has nothing to do with "not striving for excellence" in life or in what I do...

    All that I know is that everything has it's place in life. Without the bad we could not appreciate the good. Are GY RTW shoes at £1000 ripping people off? I don't think so. Is it the best value for money? No definitely not. But does it have it's place? yes, for those that appreciate the detailing and elegance that those shoes bring....Is a HW shoe at £1000 a better value, in my opinion, yes. So why should anyone buy the GY RTW ones? Well because everyone has different values and no one should be so high & mighty to tell people with different values than their own, that the other person is wrong or stupid or ignorant or whatever. Some people want comfort, some want style and some simply want to shout out a brand name.....are any of them wrong? No. People can disagree in their opinions/outlook on life, but who is to say that either one is wrong? No one...

    Do I agree with people that want to wear things for brand recognition? No, definitely not and I have made that clear in my own blog, sometimes being a bit crass and/or high & mighty myself. But I state opinions and don't try to pass them off as facts... So are those people wrong? No, that's their prerogative. I would strive to educate them otherwise, but I would never tell them that they are settling for less in life because their values to be recognized in their attire are different from my values of wearing good quality products....

    But maybe again I am missing the point of the entire argument here, I don't know...many of you have a vocabulary that is far greater than my own and sometimes I find it hard to follow as there are too many big words to keep up in the understanding...I should have read more in my life!

    This is my 2 cents.....an opinion and nothing more... good day to all.
     


  15. RogerP

    RogerP Senior member

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    That was a truly excellent contribution, Justin. Thank you for taking the time.
     


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