Sole Welting

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

  1. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Justin,

    This is from me to you, by way of an explanation, a peace offering and hopefully the seeds of understanding...

    I think it was June Swann or maybe Thomas Wright who said shoemakers have always been philosophers...probably because they usually work alone at occupations that require some intense bursts of highly concentrated mental activity interspersed with lots of rote. I don't know which came first, the hat or the cattle, but I'm afraid that I fit the description, although I don't consciously think of myself in those terms. Nevermind whether I'm a good or wise philosopher, I tend to slip into thinking about shoemaking in ways that seek to understand more than what is readily apparent and how it relates to the larger story.

    I don't claim to be a world traveler or particularly well educated but I am a curious fellow and I've dabbled and turned my hand to many things. I can't think of too many occupations that engage the mind and the heart so completely as shoemaking. What's more it brings together so many different disciplines, so many eclectic techniques and materials. And even if one isn't formally trained, one has to have a working sense of mechanical engineering, chemistry, biophysics, geometry, and metallurgy, to put names to a few, as well as aethetics--colour harmony, spatial relationships, line awareness, etc..

    All of which brings me to the point...namely, that in post #207 my remarks were not personal. They were not directed at you. There was no disrespect or offense intended. Your post turned on a switch and in response I riffed off your ideas...as. I. perceived. them. It was a set of philosophical observations about the world we live in and how we got there.

    Like yourself, I'm sure, I am to some degree a self-made man. I work alone and answer to no one. My livelihood and everything I own...my house, my shop building, my equipment, my automobile--all free and clear...comes straight from my hands and my heart and a compassionate God.

    All by way of saying I'm not a particularly social person but neither am I a suck-up...or a stool pigeon, for that matter. I don't get my feeling hurt easily and I don't go running to other people to solve my problems if I can deal with them myself. For the record, I have never reported or whined to a moderator about anyone or any post.

    We have fundamental philosophical disagreements, you and I, but we have much more in common than that which separates us. If nothing else we both know shoemaking in a way that few here do--in the calluses, the scars, the wax under our fingernails.

    In passing, I would urge you to re-read, at least all the remarks that prompted your #200. I have. I don't see where I said anything that you might have disagreed with...based on your own subsequent remarks. I see in your post #200 that you are bothered by an interpretation of my comments. But that was not me, those were not my words.

    My comments ...my thoughts...have consistently (five years here and 40+ in the Trade) been that the major manufacturers could never go back to HW. Can never recapture the quality that made their firms famous to begin with. Not and maintain their profit margins and investor satisfaction...Lobb St. James notwithstanding.

    They can emulate the superficial aspects but they can never go home. It is a slippery slope that they find themselves on, with the quality of materials declining all around them--almost certainly and entirely as a result of the choices they have made pursuing the bottom line--and being forced to take yet additional measures to compensate....which only serves to further degrade objective value/quality.

    All that makes me sad for the Trade. It's ouroboros--the mythic snake eating its own tail.

    And finally, I am sure that there are those who will find fault with all of this. For any number or reasons not the least of which is that I myself am imperfect. It's long winded, if nothing else, and few tender the respect that they themselves reserve to themselves--namely to be read thoroughly and with an open mind.

    But I am what I am. And like most people I have strengths as well as weaknesses. I am an experienced...and some would say accomplished...shoemaker (despite those who bitterly resent that fact). I have immersed myself in it--the history, the techniques (even lost techniques)--the details. I am also open-minded enough to read for content (and not just openings for argument), and if I engage I try to be sure of what I am responding to--I don't kibitz--and if I cannot be sure, I will almost always ask for clarification. Those are my strengths--a paltry list, no doubt. I'm not going to delineate my flaws as there are other people who are so much better at it. But they (my faults) are admittedly numerous.

    In any case I was always taught in my creative writing classes to make a point and, in closing, reiterate it: We may have fundamental philosophical disagreements, but we have much more in common than that which separates us. If nothing else we both know shoemaking in a way that few here do--in the calluses, the scars, the wax under our fingernails.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2013


  2. Stirling

    Stirling Senior member

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    DW your wisdom and knowledge and your unimpeachable integrity sets a standard for us all.

    Carry on Sir.
     


  3. RogerP

    RogerP Senior member

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    There are indeed many other factors beyond durability. But durability, as I'm sure you'll acknowledge, has been the focal point for the critics of GYW. Which is why I addressed it.

    Aesthetics for me are a push. I have seen beautiful examples of both methods of construction, and I have seen horrid examples of both methods as well.

    As for the message we want to send to others - I can't really think that I am sending one message when I slip on a pair of Edward Green GYW and a different one when I slip on a pair of Vass hand welt. In both cases my selection likely places me comfortably within the top 5% of any random sampling of adult males. No, I'm not advancing that as an actual statistic - it's merely my perception gleaned over a couple decades as a footwear enthusiast. Far more to the point, however: I am buying the shoes to please no-one but myself. If someone else is impressed by my choice - hey - I'll admit that's nice. But it is not what motivates the purchase in the first place.

    Mystique? I'll readily concede that as an operating factor. Whether it be custom knives or premium shoes, there are those who buy fully into the romance / mystique of a particular construction method (damascus steel in knives, for example) to a point where all else is of no value to them. Which is fine for any individual or group of individuals. But it doesn't mean that different construction methods cannot be legitimately valued by others. I don't claim to speak for anyone else on this forum, but I suspect that by and large, the active participants on the G&G and EG threads here understand how their shoes are made and do value them highly. It's not that they don't care or don't understand - it's that they have made informed choices and find both solid value and purchase enjoyment in the products which they have selected.

    Justin's Ferrari example is apt. The fellow who is easily the wealthiest of my friends wears a $100,000 watch that next to nobody would recognize as such, and drives a 10 year old Audi A4. If someone tried to tell him that he has compromised on the quality of his vehicle because he could easily afford to drive something vastly better and considerably more expensive, I expect he'd grant an accommodating smile while backing away slowly.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts in this thread.
     


  4. The Shoe Snob

    The Shoe Snob Affiliate Vendor Affiliate Vendor

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    Dear DW,

    I very much appreciate everything you said. It shows integrity and honor, traits that I find are not as common as they once were. I therefore thank you for that. To be honest, I could not tell whether or not your comments were made directly or indirectly at me, but some of the generalities I did feel pertained to the way in which I think, so I guess that I took them as being directed at me as I fell under the umbrella.

    Either way, I have always appreciated what you bring to the forum: knowledge on shoes. At the end of the day all I hope to achieve, as one might guess from my blog, is the education of footwear to the men of the world. I do this with the hopes to see more men wearing better shoes, whether it is getting one to go from $100 to $300 shoes, from $300 to $500 shoes or from $500 to $2000 custom handmade shoes. I believe that like me, you attempt to do the same but only for that last jump, from $500 to $2000 shoes in the hopes to educate those on what a real handmade shoe is, a shoe that will ultimately be of better quality than anything else. Fair enough, like you said we after all are more similar than dissimilar.

    I am not a person that is easily offended online only that I, like you, am not afraid to stand my ground and speak my mind. Therefore, while my words may have seemed in defence and from being offended, they in fact were not so much, only that I felt the need to lay out my thoughts as peacefully as I could.

    Peace for me is always the best solution as there is no reason for two people who have never met face to face to ever have hostility towards ones another.

    That being my friend, I thank you again for your genuine response. It was very much appreciated and I think that it showed true greatness on your part.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and if I ever make it back to my roots, the lovely NW, I will look you up.

    Justin
     


  5. MSchapiro

    MSchapiro Senior member

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    DW,
    After reading this thread I have a relatively simple question. I've learned a lot from the back and forth between you and others and found it extremely interesting and a bit of a learning experience. I own my fair share of GYW shoes and have rubber topys places on all of them. Although I do not wear them too hard, I tend to walk in them about 3 miles a day. At what point can I expect that simply replacing the rubber topys will no longer be good enough and I'll have to send them in for recrafting? Alternatively, had I purchased a hand welted pair, how long could I expect them to go under the same conditions? I realize there are probably huge differences in quality between manufacturers, just looking to add some real world context to my thought.
     


  6. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    MShapiro,

    Again, everyone will have a different experience. I don't use topy, myself (maybe for the same reason manufacturers require that shoes be sent in for recrafting-- because it allows me to check on my shoes and determine where they are in their life cycle) but my wife likes it. And esp. on her shoes that are channel stitched, it makes sense.

    One of the photos I posted was of a shoe that had never been resoled and wasn't yet at the point where it needed resoling...except when you looked inside it was clear that the gemming had failed...or, it was clear to an informed eye.

    What to do? Does the customer continue to wear the shoe with the increased possibility that the upper, having no anchor, will stretch and distort? Or does the customer send them back for recrafting? The outsole will hold the shoe together to some extent. But the fact that the slipped gemming (about three to four inches of which) was visible at the edge of the insole indicates that some stretching/distortion had already taken place. In this particular instance, the customer didn't appreciate me pointing out that there was a problem with his expensive English shoes and so I held off giving him any further advice.

    In the case that you describe, the bottom line is that if it is welted, there will probably come a time when replacing the topy is problematic, if only because to do it correctly the underlying outsole must be clean and roughed up--eventually cutting into the stitching. Where the obvious benchmark for recrafting would be the stitching being worn through or a hole in the outsole, in your case at the point where you cannot continue to replace the topy without replacing the outsole, that's the time to send them in.

    That's not to say that you might not experience some problems related to the GY construction in the meantime...as detailed above...but again you might not. I've never claimed otherwise. It depends on your feet and your environment and your habits. And while there might be some trivial differences between the low end RTW and the high end RTW with regard to the materials and the machines and the way in which they approach GY construction, I suspect they are very trivial, indeed.

    The only other thing I would say is that there is a certain structural integrity and even fit integrity that is potentially affected by the way the shoe has been put together. But handwelted has little or no bearing on how long the topy will last. Or when the outsole will need to be replaced. The only factor that comes into consideration is whether you want to send your shoes back to England or have them repaired down on 12th and Main. That's the genius of handwelted--all other things being equal, most cobblers can replace the outsole without any significant working knowledge of how shoes are put together, fancy schmancy machines or the original last. No harm no foul. It can be done down on the farm...as our grandparents would have told us had we but asked.

    For those who are unconcerned by such issues, or who don't purchase shoes for those and other associated reasons, macht nichts.

    Hope this helps.

    --
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2013


  7. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    :cheers:

    And Merry Christmas to you and yours, as well.

    PS...you'll be welcome...maybe we could slip down into the Deschutes Canyon for some steelhead fishing, and a little Highland Park SMS.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2013


  8. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    There's a good chance of factories closing down, changing ownership, or dilute in quality.

    On the other hand, "recrafts" of bespoke articles might not be done by the same shoemaker that made your pair of shoes. And the quality of out-workers variates significantly even for shops like John Lobb.
     


  9. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    Once I bought a pair of LV shoes with this little booklet inside touting the superiority of its blake construction. And I thought it was really special.

    Since discovering manswear forums a decade ago, I've been sold on GY welting thinking its even better for the serviceability. It made sense to me and I bought a few pairs.

    Now thanks to DWFII and other shoemakers posting on different forums, I learned the fault of GY welted shoes and acquired a lot more knowledge regarding construction methods. Now I am deep in this sink hole.

    Every construction method has their marketing and economical purposes.

    And every pair of shoes I've bought have their own story. I still enjoy all of my shoes and kept most of those that I acquired new. And I intend to grow old with them.
     


  10. Crat

    Crat Senior member

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    My guess is that there are too many people walking this earth in GY welted shoes that haven't failed for your statement to be true.
    I havent counted them though.


    I don't disagree that hand welting is the better construction method, I just don't thing GY welting is the fundamentally flawed construction you perceive it to be.
     


  11. RogerP

    RogerP Senior member

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    ^^^^ Read Nick's post on this issue several pages back. He places the whole issue of gemming failure in proper context, IMO.
     


  12. TheWraith

    TheWraith Senior member

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    +1

    +1
     


  13. MSchapiro

    MSchapiro Senior member

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    DW,
    Thanks, that was an excellent answer. In an unrelated bit of context I actually prefer the grip that the topy I use provides. Perhaps as a bit of a hold over from New York, I sprint up stairs whenever I see them. I've also found that they are far cheaper to replace than going for a resole after simply wearing them down. I can get the same mileage out of a pair at a fraction of the cost. As a current student it has been an essential cost saver for me. I do wonder when they day will come that I cannot have them done again.

    Can you just clarify what you mean by "if only because to do it correctly the underlying outsole must be clean and roughed up--eventually cutting into the stitching"? While I think I understand, I'm not sure I'll have the attention of an expert again anytime soon.

    Thanks and merry christmas!
     


  14. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    But do you agree that cement is the only thing that holds GY welted shoes together?
     


  15. Crat

    Crat Senior member

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    I've never experienced gemming failure so I don't know what would happen or how it would feel like.

    That particular stitch goed through 3 layers, the canvas (of the insole), the upper and the welt. I can see how serious problems would arise if the cement holding the canvast to the insole fails but even then my guess is that most 'SF approved' manufacturers would be able to re-last and replace the insole. My main point was that in my perception the cemented canvas/insole bond isn't as weak as others make it out to be. I doubt its the only thing that holds a GY welted shoe together though.
     


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