chotzo

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Dear DWFII....I appreciate your enthusiasm for the towering ideal of ultimate quality. It also seems your knowledge of shoe construction is hard to argue with.

Your knowledge of the Automobile industry, however is lacking. Your statement:
"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."

I am a practicing car designer at a major oem. The cars being made today are superior in almost every way conceivable to the cars of yesterday. When we create a new model (FMC) it is always a major leap forward in safety/ build quality/ performance (NVH/handling/HVAC/comfort...etc) than the outgoing model. Two FMC's down the line and you are talking about a quantum leap difference.
The lowliest Honda will have hand work at the factory to achieve the best quality fit and finish possible. A high line vehicle like a Ferrari will have hand sewn and hand wrapped leather interior coverings and virtually handmade seats, as do many Audi's, Mercedes and other German marque's. Handmade engines are also the norm on high end performance vehicles. Watch the excellent "Ultimate Factories" series for an education.
The factory mentality is "really" about creating the highest quality/ safest/ highest performing product at the most reasonable cost for our customers.
Lets say you have a bespoke shoe, that costs 3K. An entry model car from a mainstream brand will cost you 20K. That is a lot of money. As a designer I am deadly serious about making a product that is worth that kind of financial investment. Also understand, that even at that cost (with the factory method), typically about half of a manufacturers vehicles are sold at no profit or a loss to the company. They cost that much to make.
Please understand that the car you can buy today is a fantastically complex and difficult product to make, typically taking hundreds of employees 3-5 years and hundreds of thousands of manpower hours to design and ultimately build.
As for alternatives to cars?....Walk...in your, no doubt, finely made shoe.
Please do your research before you make such sweeping uneducated statements.
A video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHp1GAFQzto
 

oroy38

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I think we're taking DWFII's statements a little bit too far. The basis of his argument is that the "factory mentality" that has overtaken not just the shoe industry, but other industries as well, is to blame for the downfall of quality in shoes and other products. And when you have a company that isn't as expansive as some of the major manufacturers in the world, the survival instinct kicks in and you do whatever it takes to stay in business.

Assuming that DWFII's information is factual, and I believe that it is, then even the most respected shoe makers are undertaking these procedures in order to maximize profit. They are BUSINESSES after all. Businesses need to make money to stay afloat. Cutting costs and maximizing profit isn't something we should be overtly surprised by, even though it is painful to look at a pair of shoes that costs several hundreds, even thousands, of dollars and see that its construction isn't what it could be.

It is what it is.
 

chotzo

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I think most people on this forum have a desire for the greatest quality.
That desire can lead you into intellectual dead ends, like knowing some aspects of the construction of an Edward Green shoe is the same as a cheap shoe made at Walmart, therefore Edward Green shoe=Walmart shoe, or Edward Green shoe is no better than Walmart shoe but cost hundreds of dollars more. Preposterous!

Fundamentally the design and construction of the cheapest Hyundai is the same as a 1.4 million dollar Bugatti Veyron. They are not the same.

To get back on original topic, I have a pair of CJ's and a pair of Edward Green's. The EG's are definitely the finer shoe, but I can't say conclusively why. The stitching quality is superb on the EG's....and they are so light on my feet. I love them!
 

MF177

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Although i dont have even the 1/12th the knowledge of shoes that DFW and Nick V have, i do understand value and cost in general. In fact one could say its my specialty.

The cost of shoes versus another shoes has to do with several broad categories:


I.Quality of construction: this can be of more than one kind. The things you can see and the things you cant. This bears on how well the shoe holds up as well comfort although obviously it has to fit your foot too.
a)Base Materials- quality of uppers, outsoles, insoles, etc.
b)Other, construction methodsstitching, toe caps gemming/ non-gemming whatever. Applies to both materials and labor.
c)You could put quality control in here too or give it its own header. That is how much of a reject rate does the producer have.

II.Quality of aesthetics- although taste enters here, this results in costs as well. Again, more than one sub-category:
a)Aesthetics everyone can see- that includes the quality, type and extent of the finishing and antiquing. I do believe of the two RTW makers that started thsi thread, EG has richer, more interesting browns than C&J. (Then again who the hell cares if its flat black!)
b)Aesthetics you or the shoe maker can see-i put beveled waists in this category. Nobody seeing your shoes gives a damn when you walk by and they look at your shoes, but you, the maker, and other knowledgeable aficionados can take pride in an extra level of craftsmanship when they pick them up. That hs a worth in itself, but it is separate from the value and cost of the construction quality and of the widely noticeable aesthetics.

III.Individual economics of the factory and other parts of the delivery chain. Maybe one factory chooses to encourage a long term future and puts apprentice programs. Maybe two equal shoe makers are in different countries with different exchange rates and on and on. All sorts of thigns here.
IV.Name brand, reputation, scarcity, and other intangibles

This all has a lot of implications. You could produce a shoe of equal construction quality and beauty but leave off a few bells and whistles and maybe save some cost. In theory it should be possible to make an EG, save a few quid on some of the fancy treatments and change the gemming and keep the same price. You could move the components around. Best construction ,save $$ on antiquing. Best leather, save $$ on construction. Whatever, but theyre mixable.

Hypothetically, Maybe grenson masterpiece is $200 cheaper than an EG to produce all in all, and $100 is due to finishes, $100 due to other causes, none due to construction. The final price difference may be $400, and part of that represents extra profit related to the extra cachet.
 
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DWFII

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I did not bring up the issue of the automobile industry. I am relatively knowledgeable about shoemaking...period. I have never claimed privileged information about any other subject.

That said, oroy38 gets a big +1 from me. And a "thank you," as well. It is gratifying to find people who "get it." The factory mentality thing has always struck me as a particularly fine example of the "Catch22 syndrome"--You can't see the flies in your eyes, because you've got flies in your eyes.

I have two comments to make...regarding this whole issue, including much that applies to my feelings about the automobile industry (and not because I have anything against the automobile industry except as a previous point of reference to to the factory mentality).
The shoemaker is committed in a way that the shoe manufacturer is not. If he misses a fits, he personally has to deal with the consequences and make it good. He may agonize for hours or days to figure out where he went wrong. If he turns out rough product, his personal reputation will falter. Even if he gets a bad piece of leather, it is his judgment and his knowledge that is the central factor. He can't transfer the blame to someone else--some semi-skilled piece-work peon. It's him, the maker hisownself, who must shoulder the blame.

I might add one other thing that has been running around in my head...the standards of quality for this Trade evolved quite literally over the course of 10,000 years (yes, you read that right). Every standard...such as 3 stitches per inch for inseaming; every technique...such as hand channeling the insole, or choice of techniques such as welted construction versus say, riveted or blake construction; even the choice of materials--the thicknesses and tannages; and the hidden things such as mid-linings which add structure and support for both the shoe and the foot; came about for a reason. The people who originated these techniques or standards weren't fools. And they had access to, and knowledge of, almost every alternative technique that has ever existed. Most they rejected on the way to the best that they could do. That's what a good shoe maker does. That's the standard(s) the hand shoe maker works to.

A shoe manufacturer merely rejects the difficult, the time-consuming and the expensive. And what's left are the standards that most people accept. That's business. But it's also a commentary on our willingness to buy in.

Bottom line is, I simply don't believe that such comparisons between products that have long histories and, more importantly, that are informed by standards of quality that pre-date the Industrial Revolution...and products that post-date the Industrial Revolution are valid. The Industrial Revolution was all about factories and the standards of quality that factories would establish. In every instance that I am aware of, the factories abandoned...almost wholesale...the older hand standards (providing such even existed) as well as the skilled artisans that were the primary source of those standards. And reason was simple expediency--the shortest distance to maximizing profit. That's business and as has been stated more eloquently than I could have "It is what it is."

Second comment:
I don't blatantly push my business. I offer most of what I post in the same manner and for the same reasons that I administer a forum for bespoke shoe and bootmakers. There, I post detailed explanations of techniques, and essays that explore aesthetic considerations, philosophies, motivations, etc.. Parenthetically, I teach bootmaking and have several books that I have written that do the same. I sell them. I derive a significant portion of my income from them. Nevertheless, sometimes I post excerpts...and not just teasers..wholesale from the books. No charge.

I post these kinds of things because I am dedicated, and have been for several decades, to the preservation of the Shoemaking Trade. And yes, understand that if bespoke making is better understood and respected, I will benefit even if only by some trickle-down effect. But the main goal is to "preserve and protect" (the motto of my Guild) and to see to it that the knowledge is passed onto another generation without too much being lost on my/our watch.

I don't want to be seen as an "expert." I don't think of myself that way. But that said, and although it still smacks of self promotion to too great a degree for my complete comfort, I do think of myself as an educator. And as someone who feels like he is doing more than just using oxygen.

In the end you can take the information I have provided and do what you want with it. It's free...no advertisements. Take it for what it is worth.

Most people (and many who have disagreed with me on this subject) didn't even know what gemming was before I commented on the link at the beginning of this thread, much less how it affects the integrity of the shoe and how or when to attribute a shoe problem to gemming. How would they even begin to assess the reasons why a hitherto comfortable shoe that has just been resoled is too tight?

And yes, I've heard all the glowing testimonials about shoes that are gemmed from many of these same people. That they fly in the face of the experiences of someone who does know what gemming is and has dealt with the consequences is not important. But I will leave you with this thought...

As a long time cordwainer I could tell you that I have never had a misfit. Many, many (maybe most) of my colleagues and contemporaries make exactly that claim. Do you believe them? I personally cannot dispute their claims...nor do I really have any interest in doing so. But I have always thought that any shoemaker who claims to never to have had a misfit is either lying or needs to revise his standards of fit.

Think about that...it's appropriate.
 
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DWFII

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
This all has a lot of implications. You could produce a shoe of equal construction quality and beauty but leave off a few bells and whistles and maybe save some cost. In theory it should be possible to make an EG, save a few quid on some of the fancy treatments and change the gemming and keep the same price. You could move the components around. Best construction ,save $$ on antiquing. Best leather, save $$ on construction. Whatever, but theyre mixable.
This was a good post. I thank you. As I mentioned several times...here and abroad...Fairstitched construction (what is being called Blake/rapid) is probably no more expensive to implement in the factory environment than gemming, yet it produces a shoe that is miles beyond any Goodyear welted shoe in terms of integrity, stability, and durability. [From here on in I will refer to gemmed shoes as "Goodyear welted" and hand-welted as just that]

It might be noted that there are quite a few RTW shoe manufacturers that are nevertheless hand-welt and hand lasted. Somehow they have found a way...and a will...to offer quality commensurate with price.
 

Nick V

Senior Member
I did not bring up the issue of the automobile industry. I am relatively knowledgeable about shoemaking...period. I have never claimed privileged information about any other subject.

That said, oroy38 gets a big +1 from me. And a "thank you," as well. It is gratifying to find people who "get it." The factory mentality thing has always struck me as a particularly fine example of the "Catch22 syndrome"--You can't see the flies in your eyes, because you've got flies in your eyes.

I have two comments to make...regarding this whole issue, including much that applies to my feelings about the automobile industry (and not because I have anything against the automobile industry except as a previous point of reference to to the factory mentality).
The shoemaker is committed in a way that the shoe manufacturer is not. If he misses a fits, he personally has to deal with the consequences and make it good. He may agonize for hours or days to figure out where he went wrong. If he turns out rough product, his personal reputation will falter. Even if he gets a bad piece of leather, it is his judgment and his knowledge that is the central factor. He can't transfer the blame to someone else--some semi-skilled piece-work peon. It's him, the maker hisownself, who must shoulder the blame.

I might add one other thing that has been running around in my head...the standards of quality for this Trade evolved quite literally over the course of 10,000 years (yes, you read that right). Every standard...such as 3 stitches per inch for inseaming; every technique...such as hand channeling the insole, or choice of techniques such as welted construction versus say, riveted or blake construction; even the choice of materials--the thicknesses and tannages; and the hidden things such as mid-linings which add structure and support for both the shoe and the foot; came about for a reason. The people who originated these techniques or standards weren't fools. And they had access to, and knowledge of, almost every alternative technique that has ever existed. Most they rejected on the way to the best that they could do. That's what a good shoe maker does. That's the standard(s) the hand shoe maker works to.

A shoe manufacturer merely rejects the difficult, the time-consuming and the expensive. And what's left are the standards that most people accept. That's business. But it's also a commentary on our willingness to buy in.

Bottom line is, I simply don't believe that such comparisons between products that have long histories and, more importantly, that are informed by standards of quality that pre-date the Industrial Revolution...and products that post-date the Industrial Revolution are valid. The Industrial Revolution was all about factories and the standards of quality that factories would establish. In every instance that I am aware of, the factories abandoned...almost wholesale...the older hand standards (providing such even existed) as well as the skilled artisans that were the primary source of those standards. And reason was simple expediency--the shortest distance to maximizing profit. That's business and as has been stated more eloquently than I could have "It is what it is."

Second comment:
I don't blatantly push my business. I offer most of what I post in the same manner and for the same reasons that I administer a forum for bespoke shoe and bootmakers. There, I post detailed explanations of techniques, and essays that explore aesthetic considerations, philosophies, motivations, etc.. Parenthetically, I teach bootmaking and have several books that I have written that do the same. I sell them. I derive a significant portion of my income from them. Nevertheless, sometimes I post excerpts...and not just teasers..wholesale from the books. No charge.

I post these kinds of things because I am dedicated, and have been for several decades, to the preservation of the Shoemaking Trade. And yes, understand that if bespoke making is better understood and respected, I will benefit even if only by some trickle-down effect. But the main goal is to "preserve and protect" (the motto of my Guild) and to see to it that the knowledge is passed onto another generation without too much being lost on my/our watch.

I don't want to be seen as an "expert." I don't think of myself that way. But that said, and although it still smacks of self promotion to too great a degree for my complete comfort, I do think of myself as an educator. And as someone who feels like he is doing more than just using oxygen.

In the end you can take the information I have provided and do what you want with it. It's free...no advertisements. Take it for what it is worth.

Most people (and many who have disagreed with me on this subject) didn't even know what gemming was before I commented on the link at the beginning of this thread, much less how it affects the integrity of the shoe and how or when to attribute a shoe problem to gemming. How would they even begin to assess the reasons why a hitherto comfortable shoe that has just been resoled is too tight?

And yes, I've heard all the glowing testimonials about shoes that are gemmed from many of these same people. That they fly in the face of the experiences of someone who does know what gemming is and has dealt with the consequences is not important. But I will leave you with this thought...

As a long time cordwainer I could tell you that I have never had a misfit. Many, many (maybe most) of my colleagues and contemporaries make exactly that claim. Do you believe them? I personally cannot dispute their claims...nor do I really have any interest in doing so. But I have always thought that any shoemaker who claims to never to have had a misfit is either lying or needs to revise his standards of fit.

Think about that...it's appropriate.
Fine! I would love you to make a pair of your shoes for Me!
We can post the pictures along the waY. Give us the cost when you are done.
 

DWFII

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Thank you. I accept.
But now, how about answering my valid questions?
Frankly, I don't think they are valid questions...I think you've already made up your mind long ago. The answers are here, and repeated, for those who want to see or hear them and at least a few others have understood. Beyond that, I simply have no taste for interrogation...from either side of the light.
 
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emptym

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
... Most people (and many who have disagreed with me on this subject) didn't even know what gemming was before I commented on the link at the beginning of this thread, much less how it affects the integrity of the shoe and how or when to attribute a shoe problem to gemming ...
Great point. This is the important piece of information that was new to me.
Fine! I would love you to make a pair of your shoes for Me!
We can post the pictures along the waY. Give us the cost when you are done.
Why not commission a pair in the usual way and pay half at the beginning?
 
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MF177

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
This was a good post. I thank you. As I mentioned several times...here and abroad...

It might be noted that there are quite a few RTW shoe manufacturers that are nevertheless hand-welt and hand lasted. Somehow they have found a way...and a will...to offer quality commensurate with price.

Thank you
 

MF177

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Most people (and many who have disagreed with me on this subject) didn't even know what gemming was before I commented on the link at the beginning of this thread, much less how it affects the integrity of the shoe and how or when to attribute a shoe problem to gemming. How would they even begin to assess the reasons why a hitherto comfortable shoe that has just been resoled is too tight?
.
some of us, such as me have more fit issues than others, and thus are more sensitive to problems in shoes. others are not.
2nd..your last point here is very interesting about resoled shoes. after combining everything you wrote, with rider's deconstrucitons and my own experience, i also believe i finally understand why more than one pair of shoes was never again comfortable after resoling. Problems with the cork, thin insoles, etc.
 

chotzo

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
DWFII! I've enjoyed reading your informative and thoughtful responses. I really appreciate your efforts towards educating us in the finer aspects of the shoe making craft. I respect those individuals who uphold time honored crafts, even when the culture at large, or the moment, don't value such skills. I find your dedication impressive.

I could only wish that the disconnect from the customer, that some unfortunately think exist, and designer (engaged in the industrial/factory system) were true. Then I wouldn't have to sit in consumer clinics with my customers telling me to my face how ugly my proposal is. I wouldn't have to worry that if I f**k up a 300 million dollar new model development that factories may close and people I've never met get laid off. Or consider that a bad floor mat design may contribute to a paying customer's death. I wouldn't have to read enthusiast forums calling for me and my coworkers firing/ dismemberment/ or worse...sometimes by name!
This is no pity party. That's par for the course, what one accepts to have the fantastic opportunity to craft a beautiful, meaningful product for the customer. A sincere effort to understand anothers craft pays dividends.
PM if you are interested in learning more about the astounding amount of hand craft that goes into vehicle development, I would love to share that with a fellow sincere crafts person.

I do understand (I think) your argument of quality vs price vs name branding. In my own journey up the ladder of higher and higher quality shoes I've had to really consider value for price. I started out with my discount Gordon Rush shoes at 100$ at the Nordstrom Rack. Boy, did I think those were great, most I ever paid for a shoe, and compared to my 50$ shoes they were twice as good. I come here (AAAC) and learn about even better shoes and then try to exercise my new found knowledge. I finally peak out with a fantastic pair of Edward Green made (if I'm correct) RLPL shoes that I was able to score for less than 600 dollars complete with lasted shoes trees on EBAY! After wearing them, I understand the hoopla. They're wonderful, and as for value, at least 5 times better then the GR shoes. Now these shoes still retail for @ 1200$ on the RL website. Are they worth that much money? If what you say is true about the construction methods(and it is!), maybe, maybe not. Is there a viable alternative @ 1200 dollars? Can I get a true bespoke shoe that uses the great quality construction methods you promote for 1200$? If so, then the EG shoes may not be worth the money. But I paid 550$ for mine! Is there a true bespoke alternative at 550$? If so, let me know..lol...
I can get John Lobb rtw shoes on Ebay all day long for @ 600$. I have to assume that is a great deal. I would also only pursue factory resoles hopefully with the original lasts to alleviate some of your valid concerns about re-crafting the shoe.
Now as a single man, making a reasonable (but not amazing) amount of money I am able to indulge my shoe folly to a cetain extant. I also understand, that I am very fortunate to be able to do so. For probably 90% of this country, anything more that 200$ for a pair of shoes is extreme. 1K for a pair of shoes would be considered astronomical and 3K (usually where true bespoke shoes land pricewise..if I am wrong please correct me) just ludicrous.
But at AAAC, we all work hard and are lucky, so lets assume we can all afford it.
Now, if I could get a true bespoke shoe for 1K, will it be twice as nice as my EG's? I can imagine that. If I get a 3K pair of bespoke shoes, will they be 5 times as nice as my 550$ EG's...well now....wow...that would have to be some amazing shoe.
 
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DWFII

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
DWFII! I've enjoyed reading your informative and thoughtful responses. I really appreciate your efforts towards educating us in the finer aspects of the shoe making craft. I respect those individuals who uphold time honored crafts, even when the culture at large, or the moment, don't value such skills. I find your dedication impressive.
Thank you!

Is there a viable alternative @ 1200 dollars?
Yes, Fairstitched (Blake/rapid)

Can I get a true bespoke shoe that uses the great quality construction methods you promote for 1200$? [
Yes, others have...

Now, if I could get a true bespoke shoe for 1K, will it be twice as nice as my EG's? I can imagine that. If I get a 3K pair of bespoke shoes, will they be 5 times as nice as my 550$ EG's...well now....wow...that would have to be some amazing shoe.
Well, I guess it depends on what you're looking for. Some evidence of the heart/hand connection perhaps? Or just a bit of machine oil? Or a few flakes of rust? :cool:

If you have fitting issues, good bespoke can address that to a degree that would astound you (not that it's magic, mind). But I suspect that fully 80% of the folks here, wearing RTW, are not fit as well as they could be. Just the simple issue of narrow heels and wide forefeet, make that a given.

Beyond all that, there may be some degree of refinement that, as a connoisseur, you might appreciate--beveled waists if done properly are not just aesthetically pleasing they are difficult to do and add a degree of refinement that is one of the hallmarks of a really fine shoe. Channeled outsoles, as opposed to exposed stitching, is another, for the same reason.

Bespoke isn't for everyone. And poor bespoke is no better...maybe worse, if only for the disappointment that ensues...than good RTW.

How would you know? Objective evaluation. Once you've established that the shoe is made to sound, traditional standards, then look carefully at the fine points--the evenness of stitching the treatment of edges, etc.. Over the holiday weekend I saw a pair of highly touted MTO shoes from Europe. The topline edge was beaded...common enough...but! the quarter leather that butted up against that bead was not only not skived (refined) but was so much heavier than the bead, it looked like a chop job. And the outsole was sewn by machine so roughly that I was appalled. That's just a couple of examples. On the other hand, I saw a pair of RTW, fairstitched Berlutti's several weeks ago that impressed me immensely.

The devil...and the angels...are in the details.
 

bengal-stripe

Super Member
II might add one other thing that has been running around in my head...the standards of quality for this Trade evolved quite literally over the course of 10,000 years (yes, you read that right). Every standard...such as 3 stitches per inch for inseaming; every technique...such as hand channeling the insole, or choice of techniques such as welted construction versus say, riveted or blake construction; even the choice of materials--the thicknesses and tannages; and the hidden things such as mid-linings which add structure and support for both the shoe and the foot; came about for a reason. The people who originated these techniques or standards weren't fools. And they had access to, and knowledge of, almost every alternative technique that has ever existed. Most they rejected on the way to the best that they could do. That's what a good shoe maker does. That's the standard(s) the hand shoe maker works to.
Welted footwear, as we know it today, is basically a child of the 19th century. Until that point the most common construction method would have been the turnshoe made on symmetric lasts (left and right shoe would have been identical). I believe it was only the discovery of the asymmetric last (from the 1820s on) that encouraged the creation of stronger methods of construction. Yes, previously there had been a need for utility/working shoes for the lower classes, but they were unbelievably crude ’cobbled together’ (with nails, pegs, what-have-you).

Up to the early Victorian age there were two types of footwear.: delicately soft and finely made for carriage folk and hard-wearing (and probably unbelievably uncomfortable) stuff for those who had to walk. At about the same time, from the 1850s onwards the shoe industry as we know it today evolved, which forced the run-of-the-mill cobbler to join the industry, initially as outworker (work masters would take partly finished product to the various outworkers who did no longer make shoes in its entirety, but only one particular step. From the 1870s centralised facilities (factories) evolved and the workers had to go there.

Beyond all that, there may be some degree of refinement that, as a connoisseur, you might appreciate--beveled waists if done properly are not just aesthetically pleasing they are difficult to do and add a degree of refinement that is one of the hallmarks of a really fine shoe. Channeled outsoles, as opposed to exposed stitching, is another, for the same reason.
All those refinements are likely to be the result of an anti-factory initiatives. Those firms of shoemakers that did survive, could not compete with the factories on price so they were forced to go into the more luxury end of the trade. So they invented styles and construction methods that the factories could not compete with.

All those developments you list, would not have come into existence without the factory.
 

shoefan

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Well, there really seems to be a divergence of opinion here. I understand where DW is coming from, given his personal observations. On the other hand, Nick, who has repaired thousands of shoes, says he doesn't see the frequent failure of the gemming that DW cites. So, what is reality?

I think there are a couple of separable issues. Can we agree that, assuming quality materials, that a welted shoe is superior to other constructions? Perhaps, particularly if you believe that a cavity between insole and outsole is desirable, since it allows the insole and filling to develop a footbed corresponding to the owner's foot. Further, resoling is easier.

So, the next issue is whether the gemming and cork footbed are suffering frequent failure. I find it a bit hard to believe that the quality GY welted (gemmed) shoes are failing that often. Don't Alden, AE, C&J and EG, among others, resole/refurbish thousands of shoes each year? If they were seeing such common failure, wouldn't they implement a different construction method, e.g. Blake/Rapid? Surely repairing the gemming while resoling a shoe would be a somewhat expensive undertaking, and one that the customer doesn't know he is paying for. As for the cork footbed, some argue the cork can help the footbed adapt to the customer's foot; DW obviously feels differently. Most customers don't really care about the construction of their shoes, so why would these companies not change? EG moved to a new factory recently, so they had the opportunity to implement a new production process if this were desirable. So, I wonder.... DW is arguing from experience, but is that experience representative of the larger sample?

There are lots of other issues here about the disposable nature of our society, the preference for quantity over quality, the impact of advertising and marketing on our perceptions, and the notion of a 'factory mentality.' Don't have time to comment on those now, but perhaps later.

One final note: anybody interested in the tension between handwork and automation in the auto industry should read "The Machine That Changed the World," a great book addressing auto manufacturing. Automation -- and statistical process control and other techniques -- have decidedly improved the quality, reliability, and affordability of autos. Not that these lessons have direct relevance to shoes whatsoever.
 

DWFII

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Welted footwear, as we know it today, is basically a child of the 19th century. Until that point the most common construction method would have been the turnshoe made on symmetric lasts (left and right shoe would have been identical). I believe it was only the discovery of the asymmetric last (from the 1820s on) that encouraged the creation of stronger methods of construction. Yes, previously there had been a need for utility/working shoes for the lower classes, but they were unbelievably crude ’cobbled together’ (with nails, pegs, what-have-you).

Up to the early Victorian age there were two types of footwear.: delicately soft and finely made for carriage folk and hard-wearing (and probably unbelievably uncomfortable) stuff for those who had to walk. At about the same time, from the 1850s onwards the shoe industry as we know it today evolved, which forced the run-of-the-mill cobbler to join the industry, initially as outworker (work masters would take partly finished product to the various outworkers who did no longer make shoes in its entirety, but only one particular step. From the 1870s centralised facilities (factories) evolved and the workers had to go there.

All those refinements are likely to be the result of an anti-factory initiatives. Those firms of shoemakers that did survive, could not compete with the factories on price so they were forced to go into the more luxury end of the trade. So they invented styles and construction methods that the factories could not compete with.

All those developments you list, would not have come into existence without the factory.

Let me start by reiterating a point I thought I had made obvious (I certainly stated it): shoemaking, and the standards of quality that existed up until the early 20th century, evolved. Some might try to make the point that shoe factory standards are a further evolution. But given the evidence, I don't think so. What's more, I think a strong case can be made that with the Industrial Revolution a whole other and new standard came into being.

Now, we can sit here and exchange personal opinions...and you're entitled to yours. But since it is unlikely that we will agree on much in this context, and hesitating to impose my opinion on you, I feel compelled to defer to some of the leading authorities in these matters.

We have both of us cited J.H. Thornton whose Textbook of Footwear Manufacture, The National Trade Press, London, 1953, which includes this, on page 28:

"During the seventeenth century (my emphasis) the soft turnshoe types began to give way to the thick-soled heavy leather riding boots, at least for men. The Civil War--the first since the disappearance of armour (other than breastplates and helmets) now rendered ineffective by gunpowder--may have been the reason for this. Such boots could not be 'turned' and so the WELTED method was developed (the writer has found some evidence that it was used before this period).
Welting [snip] is the most important method of construction at present in use."
June Swann, past Keeper of the Shoe Collection at the Northampton Museum for over 30 year, and author of numerous tracts, essays and books and considered one of, if not the foremost authority on shoes and the history of shoes, writes in her book Shoes, B.T. Batsford, London, 1982, Chapter 1--1600-1660, Early Stuart
"HEELS
There had been hints of changes in shoe styles in the 1590's, the most momentous being the introduction of the heel, which was very quickly made quite high for both men and women. [snip]
With the introduction of the heel came the innovation (my emphasis) of 'straights', shoes made, like socks for either foot and no longer (my emphasis) left or right, (fig.3) though some heel-less and low-heeled shoes continued rights and lefts into the 1620s. [snip] Rights and lefts returned in c.1800 when high heels were abandoned and, with the development of the pantograph in the early nineteenth century, have remained with us."
R.A. Salaman who, in close collaboration with some of the foremost shoe historians in the world, as well as such inestimable sources as Devlin, Garsault, Golding, Leno, Plucknett, Rees, Swaysland and Thornton (copies of most of which I own) wrote a book entitled Dictionary of Leatherworking tools c. 1700 to 1950, Geo, Allen & Unwin, London, 1986.

I quote:
"There has been no basic change in the design of boots and shoes since the Middle Ages. The chief improvements have been the development of the welt (q.v.) and improved tanning and currying methods. The penetration by water was, and remains, one of the unsolved problems of shoemaking. There is an old story that when king George IV )c. 1830) was asked whether he considered water to be a wholesome beverage, replied, 'I don't know what it does to my stomach, but I know it rots my boots.'

Much skill and effort was devoted to the design of boots and shoes by makers of the period c. 1800-1920. A look at their products in museums such as that at Northampton, or Messrs Clark's Museum in Street (Somerset), or in the showrooms of London makers such as John Lobb or Henry Maxwell, immediately reveals an elegance of design and quality comparable to the products of the best tradesmen in other fields--and this in spite of the humble position of shoemakers at the time and the harsh conditions under which most of them worked.

One of the driving forces behind their high attainment may have been the fierce competition for patronage that existed between the makers; but these products also exemplify the high standards of excellence in both design and execution that comes about almost spontaneously when traditional skills are applied to familiar objects over a long period." (emphasis mine)
Now let me introduce D.A. Saguto, a prodigy of June Swann, current head of the shoemaking department at Colonial Williamsburg, and one of the foremost shoe historians in the US. Also the editor of the new English language translation of M. Garsault's 1767 Art du Cordonnier.
[FONT=Verdana,Arial,Helvetica]"Queen Elizabeth I had the new "upright" (straights), and Shakespeare mentions both "uprights" (straights) and rights/lefts, but "uprights" were remarkable, IOW something new and weird. Most of the surviving English shoes from Jamestown, VA (c.1607-15) were made on straight lasts, bent into left and right configuration through wear, but there are a few insoles that were cut/made left and right. English uppers all through the 1600s (and beyond) offer styles cut decidedly left/right, though made on straight lasts for cheapness."

[/FONT]​
In passing it might be noted that Garsault's book quite clearly illustrates shoes made very similar to what we today would call "blake" although this was done entirely by hand.

Now I will agree with the idea that some fantastic work was done in reaction to the advent of the factory. Sewing done at 64 stitches to the inch...on uppers as well as on welt... is a legendary example. But such work was never intended for use, only for show and never became part of the technical lexicon of the hand shoemaker.

That said 12 stitches to the inch on welt was often cited as "middling" work--meaning "so-so.' Today there are many examples of highly touted shoes sporting welt stitching that is pushing an almost unbelievable 6 to the inch.:devil:

How the mighty have fallen...but there...right there is the true influence that the factories have had on the Trade.
 
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DWFII

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
First of all...DW is offering information from the relatively narrow perspective of a bespoke shoemaker--a point I have made and emphasized many times. I don't consider it arguing but some may. More to the point, it is one viewpoint...one based on a unique perspective, perhaps...but not written in stone. It's not the Ten Commandments, folks--it is free information...and an opinion...take it for what it is worth.

As to why these firms have implemented GY welting...you would have to ask them but I suspect it is simple expediency. It is fast, it is cheap, and as someone on another forum pointed out, it creates lots of return business if only in the form of re-gemming and re-welting shoes. Beyond that, Fairstitched techniques require that extra piece of leather--another cost to rob the company of its rightful booty. It may also be inertia--they are still running on (relatively) old or not fully depreciated technology.

I don't agree that having a cork filled forepart cavity augments the formation of a footbed. The footbed, to actually be a footbed needs to be created by the compression of some fibers in a leather insole and the shifting of other fibers and substance to fill vacancies.

It is so counter-intuitive that it borders on cognitive dissonance to suggest that a material touted as a "cushion" on one hand, can be heralded as a subtrate for aiding in the creation of a footbed, on the other. The best analogy I can think of is trying to flatten out a 60 penny nail on a spring mounted anvil.

Beyond that, cork is in short supply all over the world...not nearing extinction but even wine makers are switching to some sort of synthetic because they cannot get cork.

So what's next? What's next is what shoe manufacturers are already going to--foam rubber of some sort. The trouble with that...and surely another unpalatable opinion...is that not only will foam rubber absorb and hold moisture against an insole but again it is hardly going to allow a true footbed to develop, even if paperboard insoles could develop a footbed.
 
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