kev777

New Member
Kev, you are not going to be alone. I am going to shop at Walmart for shoes this weekend for the first time in 20 years. :icon_smile_big:
This is the worst thing to happen to me since i found out that Santa wasnt real and worse still wasnt a geordie !!;)
 

DWFII

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I don't doubt that some customers have gotten good wear out of gemmed shoes...and not all Goodyear welted shoes are gemmed...I have gotten 20 years out of a pair of crappy moccasins before they fell apart. If I had paid $1200.00 for them, I guess I would feel pretty satisfied--that's only $60.00 a year.

On the other hand, I have been making shoes and boots for almost 40 years and I spent the first 20 of them doing shoe repair in order to support my "downtown" shop. Because I was simultaneously a shoemaker, I had/have insights that the average cobbler does not have. And I was/am very good at what I did and do. I have dealt with many many cases of failed gemming. Enough that it soured me on the process. Sometimes even in shoes being opened for the first time--where the cork was so clean that it might have just come from the pot.

There are other alternatives to gemming...like Blake/rapid...which are not only yield a vastly superior product but are not that much more expensive to implement. But a hundred pennies makes a dollar.

More to the point, I suspect I have a wealth of experiences that afford me a unique perspective on the mechanics of this (or any shoemaking related technique) not available to individuals who make purchases based as much on the cache associated with certain brand names and less on assiduously gathered information...or deliberate consideration.

The use of gemming is a prime example of what I call the "factory mentality." At some point, with most if not all of these firms, it was decided that "job one" would be making money...not shoes, at least in the RTW line. And in pursuit of this noble goal every skilled shoemaker in the firm was replaced with a machine or a dumbed down technique capable of being handled by a three year old. This reduced payroll and increased profit margins. Every scrap of leather was evaluated for substitution with something less costly. Every aspect of the process was examined to determine if it could be done faster and cheaper. Little or no consideration was given to that wildly hyperbolic notion of "quality" unless it could be shown that to ignore it altogether would affect the bottom line. That is the mandate of the factory and that is the decision tree that is inherent in making the decision to make money rather than make shoes. Making shoes takes second or even third place with regard to the motivating principle. Not job one, in other words.

What is sad is that many consumers buy into this same philosophy...they really don't care how the shoe is made or if there is a degree of built-in obsolescence. It's all about convenience and expediency--quick and easy. Big macs and French Fries. Used shoes on Ebay.

Sadder is the impulse to defend the mediocre. John Lobb has always been a beacon of quality and prestige for me. I have looked closely at their work and tried hard to emulate it. But I will not defend second-rate work (especially since it undoubtedly springs from a clone owned by a suspiciously disconnected conglomerate). It is what it is. Many of the names on the blog surprised and saddened me.

But whether as as maker or a consumer, I am not responsible for the workmanship (or lack of it)...only the company putting it out there at outrageous prices is responsible. In me, at least, there is no impulse to defend other people's cynicism and/or duplicity. For which I am grateful.

I have had a pair of shoes (given to me) for nearly 20 years. The original cost was less than $75.00. They are not Lobbs or any other recognizable brand name.

But then the manufacturer wasn't trying to foist off shoddy as premier and the buyer wasn't buying the blue shy of a name.

Finally, I once again direct your attention to the link provided. I comment, and (hopefully) provide insight...always and forever from the viewpoint of a shoemaker...and you decide. Shooting the messenger won't change anything. Nor will sticking your head in the sand.
 

adhoc

New Member
Some thoughts:

1.
subjective perceptions of which is more 'elegant' are useless - one man's 'elegant' is another man's 'elongated' and yet another man's 'effeminate'

2.
impressions of 'fit' are even more useless - EG 888s do not fit my feet as well as C&J 358s; does that make the C&J a 'better shoe'? Of course it does note

3. finally, equating 'more antiquing' with 'better' is the high-end RTW shoe equivalent of preferring 'distressed' jeans
 
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lee_44106

Senior Member
Some thoughts:

1. subjective perceptions of which is more 'elegant' are useless - one man's 'elegant' is another man's 'elongated' and yet another man's 'effeminate'

2. impressions of 'fit' are even more useless - EG 888s do not fit my feet as well as C&J 358s; does that make the C&J a 'better shoe'? Of course it does note

3. finally, equating 'more antiquing' with 'better' is the high-end RTW shoe equivalent of preferring 'distressed' jeans

Agreed. Although more antiquing does require more time (human time)
 

DWFII

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Kev, you are not going to be alone. I am going to shop at Walmart for shoes this weekend for the first time in 20 years. :icon_smile_big:
Good on you! You're a thinking man, no doubt!

In passing, one of the points made here (and on SF) is that if a shoe is made to the lowest standards of quality...and gemming is used in the cheapest and poorest quality shoes, as a matter of course...why should a shoe made with techniques that are indistinguishable, cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars, more?

How is it that "thinking" people will pay highest dollar for lowest quality?
 
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Orgetorix

Honors Member
Does the quality or strength of the adhesive used to glue the feather matter? Do some makers use stronger adhesive than others? I only ask because there was a thread on this some time ago, and someone seemed to indicate that the adhesive used for gemming feathers is so strong that it's more likely for the insole leather under the feather to tear away than for the feather to come unstuck.
 

Sir Walter

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Looking at a finished product does not reveal the intricate techniques used to make the shoe. Consumers are forced to make judgments concerning quality based on material that is visible to the eye. Some qualities that all of the so called premier shoe manufactures have in common are;

1. Shoes are made of premium calf skin leather

2. The soles are made from oak bark leather

3. The heels are stacked leather

4. The shoes are Goodyear welted

5. The shoes are fully leather lined

6. The leather is supple and burnished.


It is difficult for me to find the criticism posted here posted by DWFII to be of much value because it does not point me in the right direction other than to wonder if quality can only be had via bespoke services. If the construction used by the excepted premium brands is not of high quality and subject to such degradation, why are there no complaints of such. I have lesser shoes as does DWFII that have endured for years, so what is the measuring barometer consumers should use as an indication for how long shoes should last and thus makes them worth the price. At some some point value is derived from aesthetics after a minimum amount of qualitative bench marks for construction are demonstrated.
 

teddyriley

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I'm not a fan of the artificial antiquing. It's like buying ripped jeans. The antiqued/patina look should come with time. It's part of the joy of moving through life with a pair of shoes that you've had for a long time. The whole "pre-antiqued" thing is rubbish.

This isn't to say that I dislike EG or Lobb or anything, I just don't like things that are new, but are made in a way so that they look old and worn (like ripped jeans).
Simply your opinion. Apparently Lobb, EG and G&G and many of their customers purchasing shoes that are "antiqued" feel much differently that you do.
 

DWFII

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Does the quality or strength of the adhesive used to glue the feather matter? Do some makers use stronger adhesive than others? I only ask because there was a thread on this some time ago, and someone seemed to indicate that the adhesive used for gemming feathers is so strong that it's more likely for the insole leather under the feather to tear away than for the feather to come unstuck.
It's certainly possible that in the last ten years adhesives have changed significantly but I have access to everything that is on the market and although I am moving more and more to traditional glues rather than super solvent adhesives, I am not aware of any real advances. Then too, a lot of it depends on the quality of other components. For instance...and ironically...a good leather insole is more likely to pull apart than a cheap fiberboard insole. The substrate of the leather is simply too fibrous and less dense.
 

rider

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I thought we covered this a couple of years ago......and glad the French decided to copy my lead! Haha......I think it is a good thing, although I would be careful about totally knocking the materials used in the welted examples - not every shoe can be handmade in the lap, and not every client can pay $3000+ and wait a couple of years for a shoe to be made that, based on more than a few customers I serve who also order from Bespoke makers, may or may not fit any better than RTW. Now, I do not do welted shoes (all Blake/Rapid, which I like and tout, but certainly has it's detractors) so this makes no difference to me, but a plastic feather (or whatever you want to call it) covered in linen has been standard for welt factories for some time now. We did this:

https://askandyaboutclothes.com/com...47476&highlight=inside+shoes+rider#post947476

******the A/E example is now outdated.....they now use PVC welts, not leather as in the cut-up.

As well as a longer one on StyleForum which seems to be down at the moment, but is called 'Inside Shoes Martegani + A/E'.

Nothing new here, and I wish I had more time to participate in these threads that DWFIII has been on - he is a great resource for knowledge. BUT, there does seem to be a bit of a disconnect with reality, IMO, at play lately. Not the least of which are examples of shoes falling apart, causing injuries or some comparison 'shopping' of shoes and the typical prices that would better indicate value - which will always been in the individual clients mind regardless.

Finally, the few 'handmade' shoes that are available on the market are not without their own shortcuts - mainly in finishing. Few things are perfect and few makers are without fault if someone wants to look hard enough to find it.
 

DWFII

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
snip...because it does not point me in the right direction other than to wonder if quality can only be had via bespoke services.
Of course it does. Aside from the fact that I have repeatedly pointed out that Blake/rapid produces a better, sounder shoe with no significant difference in costs to implement, what are we really talking about here? Black painted sneakers with tuxedos? Salvation Army goods? Military surplus?

Aren't we talking about quality? Isn't information (knowledge) that impacts your understanding of quality important to you?

Or am I mistaken? And we're really talking about expediency?

In all likelihood only certain lines of shoes from these firms are gemmed. If people not only questioned this practice but refused to buy shoes that were gemmed, the manufacturers would be forced to go to something better.

The fact that people don't think to do this and even defend practices that they fundamentally don't understand...at some level don't really want to understand...only serves to underscore my point about how easily we all buy into the factory mentality.

If you could buy shoes that you knew were better quality for the same price or only marginally more, why would you even consider potentially flawed shoes?
 
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Flanderian

Connoisseur
FWIW, I thumbed through an old J. M. Weston catalog. It specifies that Weston sews the welt to the insole. Falsehood, outdated information? I can't say.
 

Nick V

Senior Member
I don't doubt that some customers have gotten good wear out of gemmed shoes...and not all Goodyear welted shoes are gemmed...I have gotten 20 years out of a pair of crappy moccasins before they fell apart. If I had paid $1200.00 for them, I guess I would feel pretty satisfied--that's only $60.00 a year.

On the other hand, I have been making shoes and boots for almost 40 years and I spent the first 20 of them doing shoe repair in order to support my "downtown" shop. Because I was simultaneously a shoemaker, I had/have insights that the average cobbler does not have. And I was/am very good at what I did and do. I have dealt with many many cases of failed gemming. Enough that it soured me on the process. Sometimes even in shoes being opened for the first time--where the cork was so clean that it might have just come from the pot.

There are other alternatives to gemming...like Blake/rapid...which are not only yield a vastly superior product but are not that much more expensive to implement. But a hundred pennies makes a dollar.

More to the point, I suspect I have a wealth of experiences that afford me a unique perspective on the mechanics of this (or any shoemaking related technique) not available to individuals who make purchases based as much on the cache associated with certain brand names and less on assiduously gathered information...or deliberate consideration.

The use of gemming is a prime example of what I call the "factory mentality." At some point, with most if not all of these firms, it was decided that "job one" would be making money...not shoes, at least in the RTW line. And in pursuit of this noble goal every skilled shoemaker in the firm was replaced with a machine or a dumbed down technique capable of being handled by a three year old. This reduced payroll and increased profit margins. Every scrap of leather was evaluated for substitution with something less costly. Every aspect of the process was examined to determine if it could be done faster and cheaper. Little or no consideration was given to that wildly hyperbolic notion of "quality" unless it could be shown that to ignore it altogether would affect the bottom line. That is the mandate of the factory and that is the decision tree that is inherent in making the decision to make money rather than make shoes. Making shoes takes second or even third place with regard to the motivating principle. Not job one, in other words.

What is sad is that many consumers buy into this same philosophy...they really don't care how the shoe is made or if there is a degree of built-in obsolescence. It's all about convenience and expediency--quick and easy. Big macs and French Fries. Used shoes on Ebay.

Sadder is the impulse to defend the mediocre. John Lobb has always been a beacon of quality and prestige for me. I have looked closely at their work and tried hard to emulate it. But I will not defend second-rate work (especially since it undoubtedly springs from a clone owned by a suspiciously disconnected conglomerate). It is what it is. Many of the names on the blog surprised and saddened me.

But whether as as maker or a consumer, I am not responsible for the workmanship (or lack of it)...only the company putting it out there at outrageous prices is responsible. In me, at least, there is no impulse to defend other people's cynicism and/or duplicity. For which I am grateful.

I have had a pair of shoes (given to me) for nearly 20 years. The original cost was less than $75.00. They are not Lobbs or any other recognizable brand name.

But then the manufacturer wasn't trying to foist off shoddy as premier and the buyer wasn't buying the blue shy of a name.

Finally, I once again direct your attention to the link provided. I comment, and (hopefully) provide insight...always and forever from the viewpoint of a shoemaker...and you decide. Shooting the messenger won't change anything. Nor will sticking your head in the sand.

While I respect your knowledge and opinion. I disagree with much you have said. After seeing thousands of high-grade G.Y. welted shoes in the shop I see little fault in their making. While the high end makers may charge a premium for their product, over the past 30 years I have not seen anything significant in terms of them using cheaper components. From my experience I know that some of the companies that makers would use to supply components for their shoes are no longer in business and, other companies have not replaced them. Therefore, the makers were stuck with the task of trying to replace a particular component (material) on their own. It may not always be the best but, what can see (and hear) the effort is always there. The materials used by the high-end makers are always top notch sighting upper, lining and, soling leather as examples.

Further, regarding your "factory mentality" comments in terms of production, if you apply your views to the auto industry, are they not the same? IMO they are. Then the question would be, compare the auto of yester-year to todays which is made better?
 

DWFII

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
While I respect your knowledge and opinion. I disagree with much you have said. [snip]
I guess it depends on your perspective on quality. If you think that corrected grain leather is top quality, I doubt that you will miss full grain calf. If you think that fiberboard insoles are acceptable, you won't even look to see if your shoes have leather insoles. If you think gemming is anything other than bottom scrapings, well why in the world would you pay four and five times the price for a shoe that is not significantly different in any way excepting that it has a name that is getting all the buzz.

Or maybe "finish" is your holy grail. But no matter how shiny or how subtly patina'd, finish doesn't have any impact...zero...on the life or fit of the shoe. It's blue sky you're paying for, me boyo, in all these cases.

I was watching a "recrafting" video on another forum where there's at least an equal number of folks who are in denial about gemming. And as slick as it was, the odd thing is that no one picked up on one of the major points I made in my original remark--that it is a slippery slope that leads ever downward--because there, for all to see, who wanted to see, was a shoe that clearly did not have a leather insole.

As for the auto industry, this is an industry that had its birth long after the industrial revolution. There is no "hand" or "quality" standard to compare it to, unless you want to look at the carriage trade. And if we do that, when's the last time you saw ornately carved rosewood appointments or gilded hardware in your Nissan? If only because there is no real alternative, we buy, and buy into, what the auto industry sells...and for the most part it is aimed at the lowest common denominator. Even styling changes are overrated...the new models are almost always just more of the same old...and more importantly are, at the most fundamental level, just more glitter.

Superficiality on every level...that's what the "factory mentality" is really all about.

To understand shoes...really understand them and to understand what comprises quality in shoes...you have to have some sense of what the traditional standards of quality are and when and where they originated. Only then will you know what is important and what is not.

Beyond that, as implied in the above post, I didn't write or participate in the blog linked early on in this thread. Like everyone else I had one of my sacred cows destroyed right before my very eyes. But I don't see that defending the indefensible or the mediocre helps. There's no learning or objectivity in it.

And to know what quality is...in any field...only objectivity, unflinching and measured, will do.
 

Flanderian

Connoisseur
And what of bespoke shoes?

If John Lobb uses gemming to make its RTW shoes, might they also use this method for their bespoke shoes? If not, why do they not, if it is their established method?

And what of an artisan bespoke maker like Perry Ercolino?

https://www.perryercolino.com/styles.php

Could it be that his bespoke shoes might also be gemmed?
 

DWFII

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
If John Lobb uses gemming to make its RTW shoes, might they also use this method for their bespoke shoes? If not, why do they not, if it is their established method?
First, there's John Lobb, St. James Street and then there's John Lobb, Jermyn Street--actually, as I understand it, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hermes.

And if the first were using gemming in their bespoke shoes I would be shocked.

And what of an artisan bespoke maker like Perry Ercolino?

https://www.perryercolino.com/styles.php

Could it be that his bespoke shoes might also be gemmed?
I can't speak to that but I doubt it.
 

thefancyman

Super Member
If John Lobb uses gemming to make its RTW shoes, might they also use this method for their bespoke shoes? If not, why do they not, if it is their established method?

And what of an artisan bespoke maker like Perry Ercolino?

https://www.perryercolino.com/styles.php

Could it be that his bespoke shoes might also be gemmed?
John Lobb Bootmaker owned by Hermes does not offer bespoke shoes only a made-to-measure option. If John Lobb utilizes gemming on their RTW shoe collection then they would most likely use it on their MTM line because it is essentially a RTW shoe that is being customized to the client's taste with an existing last.
John Lobb Ltd. of St. James Street only offers bespoke but I don't know if they use gemming in the crafting of the shoes.
 

bengal-stripe

Super Member
John Lobb Bootmaker owned by Hermes does not offer bespoke shoes only a made-to-measure option.
John Lobb (Paris) owned by Hermes, do offer bespoke shoes, but not in England, this is part of the deal with John Lobb (London).
John Lobb (Paris) offers some of the finest and most expensive bespoke shoes. They are traditionally handmade.

John Lobb Ltd. of St. James Street only offers bespoke but I don't know if they use gemming in the crafting of the shoes.
Equally John Lobb (London) makes a traditionally handmade product.
 

Nick V

Senior Member
I guess it depends on your perspective on quality. If you think that corrected grain leather is top quality, I doubt that you will miss full grain calf. If you think that fiberboard insoles are acceptable, you won't even look to see if your shoes have leather insoles. If you think gemming is anything other than bottom scrapings, well why in the world would you pay four and five times the price for a shoe that is not significantly different in any way excepting that it has a name that is getting all the buzz.

Or maybe "finish" is your holy grail. But no matter how shiny or how subtly patina'd, finish doesn't have any impact...zero...on the life or fit of the shoe. It's blue sky you're paying for, me boyo, in all these cases.

I was watching a "recrafting" video on another forum where there's at least an equal number of folks who are in denial about gemming. And as slick as it was, the odd thing is that no one picked up on one of the major points I made in my original remark--that it is a slippery slope that leads ever downward--because there, for all to see, who wanted to see, was a shoe that clearly did not have a leather insole.

As for the auto industry, this is an industry that had its birth long after the industrial revolution. There is no "hand" or "quality" standard to compare it to, unless you want to look at the carriage trade. And if we do that, when's the last time you saw ornately carved rosewood appointments or gilded hardware in your Nissan? If only because there is no real alternative, we buy, and buy into, what the auto industry sells...and for the most part it is aimed at the lowest common denominator. Even styling changes are overrated...the new models are almost always just more of the same old...and more importantly are, at the most fundamental level, just more glitter.

Superficiality on every level...that's what the "factory mentality" is really all about.

To understand shoes...really understand them and to understand what comprises quality in shoes...you have to have some sense of what the traditional standards of quality are and when and where they originated. Only then will you know what is important and what is not.

Beyond that, as implied in the above post, I didn't write or participate in the blog linked early on in this thread. Like everyone else I had one of my sacred cows destroyed right before my very eyes. But I don't see that defending the indefensible or the mediocre helps. There's no learning or objectivity in it.

And to know what quality is...in any field...only objectivity, unflinching and measured, will do.

Okay, you win.
But a few q's:
Are you empling that Lobb, Grenson, Green and the sorts are using corrected grain, fiber and, other inferior products/components? Please answer directly.

I questioned you directly about your "factory mentality" opinion and you responded with a very skewed answer. Using your thoughts, think back to when you were riding in your parents car. Compare it to what you drive today. Which is more comfortable, quiet, handles better. We can go on and on. Notice I excluded the bells and whistles. Now add your hand carvings to the Nissan. How much would that car cost?

Now, use the same reality in making a pair of shoes. Remember we all have to eat (not a lot).

Walk us through how you would make us a pair of shoes using your preferenced materials, time and, labor, and how much you would be willing to sell them to us for. How many can you make in a day?

Last, my name is NICK do not refer to me as "me boyo" unless, of corse you want to have some fun.
 
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