Sole Welting

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

  1. thelonius

    thelonius Senior member

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    Don't understand what you're saying.

    "Crafts and economics are two separate discussions." Why ? Not necessarily. Craft industries have economies, important economies in many parts of the world, and the shoe industry cannot be limited to the concept of "craft" (which needs defining as well).

    "shops with lower labor cost will always produce better shoes" - well, you've really lost me there.

    "Today it's Eastern Europe and China. Tomorrow it will be China and ASEAN." --- It was China, now it's come back to E Europe, and other parts of the world, including parts of Asia. But it depends on the evolution of the standard of living of these peoples. Rare is the economist who would make such a prediction! The Chinese are already asking for much higher wages than 10 years ago.

    "It is difficult to transition from mass production factory into artisanal shops, thus the rapid decline of British shoemaking factories." Not clear what you're saying. Are you saying that the British (let's call it English) industry declined because it was artisanal, or that because it was industrial it couldn't compete on the industrialized world market. The history of Sears and the British Shoe Corporation is edifying in how the British industry became massive, buying up all the smaller firms, and then closed down all its "onshore" production sites and moved "offshore" -- that's to say to cheaper-labour-force markets. That's what ruined the English shoe industry. Is that what you were saying ? Maybe I misunderstood. What remains of the Northamptonshire shoe industry is about 1 % of what it was in terms of production and workforce in the beginning of the 1960s.
     


  2. RogerP

    RogerP Senior member

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    I think you're probably right.
     


  3. TheWraith

    TheWraith Senior member

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    ^ Yeah.

    TV was supposed to be the death knell of radio, but the latter still exists. eBooks signaled the doom of the print book, but there will always be books in print in some form. The internet killed the newspaper, but now said newspaper is online. Things will change/lessen, but there will always be a market, albeit a changed market, for just about everything out there. Change, whether it's right or wrong, will always come, but there will always be some sort of a market for just about everything out there, including hand welted shoes.
     


  4. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    Either you talk about craft, or you talk about the economics of the operation; nothing meaningful will come out when you mix the two. For example, a economics discussion is Shoe Snob/Justin saying GY welted is necessary as it lowers the cost of production and allows more people to own shoes. An example of a crafts discussion is DWFII saying gemming is inherently bad construction method. Both are valid arguments in their perspective but invalid the other way around.

    And if you cannot understand that at the same price point, workshops with lower labor cost will be able to produce better shoes, maybe you should try to compare Vass vs. Carmina/Alden in terms of construction and quality.
     


  5. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    You're right and you're wrong. Sure there will always be some iconoclast somewhere that still knows how to do some of it (we've lost so much already) by hand or actually does things...sort of...by hand. But the knowledge will for all practical purposes be lost.

    Why? Simply because the industries that support the shoemakers will not be able to survive. And the people who have the skills will not be employed and so the skill and knowledge will die with them.

    What will be left... Foxfire 13?

    How many grinderies (companies that make shoe tools) existed in England in the ...say...1960's? Dixon, Cheney, Barnsley, those three and one other I knew of and I am in the US. How many were there in the 1940's. In the1920's?

    George Barnsley...perhaps the best known...is gone. And destroyed most of the irreplaceable casting molds in passing. Where can you buy quality shoe tools?

    The great Irish linen mills have closed. Where do you get linen or hemp yarn?

    How many tanneries like Baker existed in England in the 1900's? How many now? Where do you get good oak bark soling leather? Baker's still with us but for how long?

    There were at least three last makers in the US when I began...now there is only one. The makers of shoe tools (only one left) in the US, sell crap and reduce their offerings with each passing year.

    Lobbs of London has boots in their collection that are stitched at 50+ spi. Who knows how to do that anymore? Do you seriously propose that stitching at 8spi, by machine, is equivalent? Or in any way true to the Traditions and the knowledge?

    The indicators are there, they are all pointing one way. To ignore them is whistling past the graveyard.

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    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014


  6. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    And BTW...if the production at Northampton is so drastically curtailed...you have to ask yourself why that is.

    They compete for a certain market. It is not an artisanal market. It could be argued that, despite the hype, it is not even a particularly quality market when compared against Traditional standards of quality.

    But they chose to compete for that market niche, thinking that they could take advantage of what could be argued is a form of mass hysteria--the desire for cheap and cheaply made shoes--right now.

    Who is the biggest player in that market? Why, it is China and Taiwan and third world nations.

    Where did all of Northampton's business go?

    To China and Taiwan and third world nations, of course.

    Northampton has simply been out-competed by the very monster it created. Some...maybe even most...are acknowledging that fact and moving their production off-shore.

    Few if any will survive the next decades. And none will go back to artisanal shoemaking. It cannot happen. No one knows how anymore and the support network is long gone. As is the public's recognition of quality and the advantages thereof.

    What goes around comes around.

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    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014


  7. TheWraith

    TheWraith Senior member

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    No, there will always be some people that want handwelted shoes and are willing to go to some effort/cost to get it. Where there's demand, even smaller demand, there will be avenues to fill that demand. Handwelted shoes will never truly go away. They might lessen in number, as they have over the years, but there will always exist some makers with the skills and material to make them. In smaller numbers? Sure. There are less handmade bespoke tailors today than there were in the past. But they're still there and they'll always be there to some degree. I firmly believe that.
     


  8. Exdeath

    Exdeath Senior member

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    Won't most manufacturers of handwelted shoes do this too? That's kind of a disingenous argument.

    I'd imagine if you made handwelted shoes for a living the last thing you'd want to be some cobbler doing a hack job and the guy sending it back to you and going 'fix this!'
     


  9. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Not really.

    That's a misunderstanding of the Trade. Shoes have evolved over the years to be handled by shoe repairmen--no harm no foul. The last thing a shoemaker wants is to fool with dirty, mucky, abused shoes. Shoemakers / cordwainers work with new leather...this was codified and ratified by Royal Decree by the Great Leather Act of 1604.

    Part and parcel of the Great Leather Act and its amendments (1663, 1725, 1800) was to forbid trades from meddling in the knowledge of other Trades... such as it forbade UK shoemakers currying or finishing their own uppers. It may very well be that cordwainers were forbidden to do repairs, just as cobblers were forbidden to make shoes.

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    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014


  10. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    You can say it. You can believe it. But history doesn't bear you out. Talk to Al Saguto at Colonial Williamsburg or June Swann at the Northampton Shoe Museum. I suspect...from contact, both direct and indirect... with them that they would agree with me, although honestly I don't know for sure.

    But in my lifetime I've seen it decline so precipitously that I despair for the ones who come after. I have a lifetime supply of most critical materials and duplicates and even triplicates of essential tools. But I teach and I see the problems that the student are having getting started.

    The HCC was founded to try to slow the loss of our collective memory. But so much has already been lost. We ourselves are iconoclasts despite the fact that most of us earn at least a marginal living.

    If nothing else, no one want to work that hard anymore. No one on the telly has to, why should we?
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014


  11. TheWraith

    TheWraith Senior member

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    Yes, much has been lost, I agree. As I said, and as we all know, the handwelted shoe trade is much smaller today than it ever was in the past. But that's not the same as disappearing all together. It may shrink further, I don't know. Nobody knows for sure what the future holds, but I don't think it will totally disappear. Just how I feel.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014


  12. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    And further to...

    While some would blame the factory repair shops for putting mom and pop shoe repairs out of business, that too misses the point. They are factory set-ups. Fundamentally it is the factory that is underwriting and promoting the factory repair shops.

    It is the factory itself that is putting the mom and pops out of business.

    I suspect the factories are happy to have the increased cash flow and they are so much better placed to compete for the work.

    The best mom and pops are losing business and have been for decades...and not to the likes of me, I can guarantee.

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    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014


  13. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    No I'll give you that. I said as much above. But at what point is so much lost that no one can make sense of it? At what point is so much lost that it becomes something almost unrecognizable to even us in this day and age?

    Did you know that there is no...zero...evidence in the literature and the history, of heels, as we know them, before the last quarter of the 16th (?) century?

    Yet in period pieces depicting the Middle Ages it rare to run across a movie or a book that takes that fact into account. Most people simply expect that those guys storming the castle will be wearing dirty versions of Wolverines. Is that recognizable history? How long before modern misunderstanding and indifference drive all memory of that small reality out of the public domain and consciousness? Forever?

    I don't know anyone who can consistently mount a high wooden heel on a pair of woman's shoes without nails or screws. Yet once upon a time it was done, elegantly and with almost unimaginable finesse...with thread...and the heels were stable. That technique is lost. Maybe, probably, forever. Who can do a channel stitch? Who can stitch the outsole at 18spi? Who even knows where to get a square awl so necessary for such work? (They're out there but few and far between and mostly, if not entirely, old stock)

    When enough is lost forever can it really be the same thing?

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    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014


  14. TheWraith

    TheWraith Senior member

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    I honestly don't know what the future holds. Nobody does. I can only say what I feel and think. Whether I'm right or not, who can say.
     


  15. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    That same principle applies to me...I just have a greater depth and breadth of knowledge to draw upon--to guide me in what I "feel and think." And before anyone bridles at that simple fact...don't begrudge me it--it's not heart surgery or rocket science, its just shoemaking.

    For that matter, who cares if it passes into obscurity?

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    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014


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