One of the major determinants of the price of a shoe is how long they will last and how well they are made. Are you aware of the shoes you’re spending money on?
Have you ever asked yourself what the difference is between a $100 shoe and a $1000 shoe? Obviously, brand, leather and production country all play a part. But the most significant factor is the quality of construction.
Construction in this sense chiefly refers to how the sole is affixed to the upper part of the shoe. For the sake of clarity and reference, below is a quick overview of the anatomy of a shoe.
The upper – This is the visible upper part of the shoe – canvas or leather. There are several aspects to the upper part of a shoe such as the heel, the eyelets, the vamp, etc., but in general, the upper is the visible covering that covers the foot.
The outsole – This is the exterior bottom part of the shoe that touches the ground while in motion.
The welt – On better-constructed shoes, the welt refers to the strip of leather that runs along the outside of the outsole. The welt links the upper and outsole.
The last – The last is a three-dimensional foot model that is used to shape the shoe. They are widely used both in construction and design.
Now that you’ve gotten acquainted with some basic shoe terminology, we can now delve into the three most fundamental types of shoe construction. They include cementing, Goodyear welting and blake welting. All three methods of construction come with their merits and demerits and no one method is better than the other.
Cementing is the fastest, cheapest and widely used way of attaching a sole to a shoe. Here, once the upper part of the shoe has been shaped and sewn round, the sole is directly attached to the upper with the aid of an adhesive, welting is not used.
The Advantages – Cementing is cheap and quick, so shoes that employ this method are often not as expensive as welted shoes. Also, this method is preferred for rubbery or gummy soles that are common with casual shoes. Some of the popular kinds of shoes that use cementing include bucks, sneakers, chukkas and shoes made of rubber soles.
The Disadvantages – Since it’s a cheap and fast method, the attachment between the upper and the sole of the shoe isn’t always great. This method also has one major con; the upper and the sole cannot be resoled. Thus, once they start to pull away, the only option you have is to replace the whole shoe entirely.
Of all the three major types of shoe construction, Goodyear welting is the most expensive, sophisticated and labor-intensive. It can be done either manually or with the aid of a machine and often involves numerous steps.
To begin with, the insole has to be prepared for stitching. Stitching is commonly done by making a perpendicular “rib” that runs through the insole. In some cases, this rib can be made by cutting and sculpting the insole. In other instances, it may be done with the support of another material such as linen tape.
The next step is to last the shoe. A shoe is lasted by expanding the outside over the last and affixing it with the insole to the last.
Welting is introduced in the third stage. Here, the precise shoe thread is sewn through the welt, the insole rib and the upper. Next, the welt is attached to the outsole with a different stitch. Preferably, a lock-stitch is used for both stitches – this ensures that the stitch isn’t undone even if it pulls off at any stage of the sewn area.
The Advantages – Since it features two-level stitching, it’s very easy to resole a shoe constructed with Goodyear welting. This is primarily because the welt serves as a buffer between the outsole and insole, thus making it easier to swap the sole for another whether by hand or with the aid of a machine. Also, that additional layer increases the durability and water-resistant nature of the shoe.
The Disadvantages – Goodyear welted shoes are typically more expensive owing to the additional labor and material that goes into its construction. Also, the extra layers tend to reduce the flexibility of the shoe.
A product of the industrial revolution, Blake welting is the easiest and most ubiquitous type of shoe construction. Here, it is not possible to manually stitch the shoe as the stitching is done on the inner part of the sole.
A blake welted shoe will have its upper wrapped and attached between it and the outsole. In essence, the entire shoe is held together by a single stitch.
Advantages – Blake welted shoes are cheaper than Goodyear welted shoes thanks to its simplicity. Also, shoes made this way can be resoled if the outsole is damaged or worn. If you are looking for a close-cut sole, then Blake welting is your best bet. Furthermore, since all stitches are done on the inside of the sole, the outsole can be cut very close to the upper. Finally, since it has fewer layers, a bake welted shoe is more flexible than a Goodyear welted shoe.
Disadvantages – While it can be resoled, a blake shoe requires a special kind of blake machine – this can sometimes make resoling it even more expensive than a Goodyear welted shoe. Also, the fewer the layer, the less the shoe is resistant to water and more prone to pooling. The internal stitching can also be a problem for some men who often complain of feet irritation.
There are no winners or losers here with regards to the three types of shoe construction. For some men, having a pair of classic Goodyear welted shoes is a must. Besides, adding an extra two pairs of a more boldly styled bake-welted shoe such as a tassel loafer, or double monk is a viable option for a trendy shoe. Finally, throwing a few more casual options featuring a cement sole can be the icing on the cake; the added flexibility, rubber-like sole, casual feel and affordable price makes it a great choice to have.
The above list is only a recommendation and by no means an exhaustive one. So, every man should take their style of dressing and shoe needs into consideration when building their shoe collection.