The 5 Most Popular Types Of Shoe Construction
Shoes are the most neglected items in a man’s wardrobe despite being a reflection of ones personality.
A Hand-welted or Goodyear-welted shoe goes through more than 200 different manufacturing steps. Shoe making is indeed a complicated process! A custom suit on the other hand is made in far fewer steps. And yet, we know so much about it-- fabric, fit, stitching, tailoring etc. When you compare shoe making to suit making, there is considerable knowledge gap in a customer’s understanding of the craftsmanship that goes into making a custom pair of shoes.
Most men spend $700 - $1,000 on a custom suit because they understand the quality of the fabric they are buying-- they know that the fit and comfort of their customized suit outweighs that of off-the-rack priced ones. In other words, knowledge of the suit-making process makes them better connoisseurs. Similarly, understanding the shoemaking process could encourage men to buy better quality shoes. Ones that not only last them decades, but also provide them comfort and style.
I believe shoemaking is an artistic endeavor. And in order to appreciate this work of art, one must understand the nuances of shoe making.
1) Hand-Welt or Goodyear-Welt
Invented by Charles Goodyear, this is the most expensive and time-consuming process. It is used by several prestigious shoe brands across the globe. There are four pieces involved here:
a) Upper – top portion of the shoe that highlights the design elements,
b) Insole – inside of the shoe where the foot rests,
c) Outsole –bottom part of the shoe that comes in contact with the ground, and
d) Welt – a piece of leather that is sewn around the edge of an upper, to which the sole is attached.
Image credit - http://www.tesmc.com/flexofil/
There are a number of advantages of a Hand welted/Goodyear welted shoe. Because it has two rows of stitching (one connecting welt to the sole and the other connecting welt to the outsole), they are water resistant. Also, these shoes have replaceable soles, making them extremely durable. Lastly, the cork filling between the insole and the outsole creates a mold of your foot based on your walking patterns, rendering them comfortable. Alden, Allen Edmonds, Awl & Sundry, Cobbler Union, Crockett & Jones, Edward Green, Gaziano & Girling, John Lobb and Justin Fitzpatrick are some brands that make their shoes using this process.
Mainly used by Italian shoemakers, Blake construction uses a single row of stitching that attaches the insole to the upper and outsole of the shoe—this makes these shoes flexible and less sturdier relative to Goodyear welted shoes. However, because their soles are thinner, these shoes tend to be less water resistant. This process is also limited by the Blake soling machine-- less common and much more expensive than a Goodyear welting machine. Paul Evans and Jack Erwin’s Foster collection uses this process.
3) Blake Rapid
Similar to Blake construction in some ways, it uses a double row of stitching. The first row attaches the insole to a midsole and a second row of stitching attaches the midsole to the outsole. And although these shoes are waterproof and more durable than the Blake method, because of the two sole system, they are also less flexible.
Mainly used by Italian shoemakers— it involves wrapping and sewing the upper around the shoe. The sole is sewn directly to the upper. The upper is lined with normal leather, while the bottom (where the foot rests) uses softer leather. This method is ideal for shoes with flexible soles such as slippers or moccasins. The main disadvantage of this process is that the shoes are not waterproof or very durable.
5) Cement of Adhesive
The fastest and the cheapest shoe making process where the upper of the shoe is glued to the sole. This is the least efficient way to make a shoe. They fall apart after a short use and re-soling these is not an option. Aldo, Kenneth Cole and many other large fashion houses use this construction process.
A man’s shoe is truly an exquisite art form and to appreciate this piece of art, he needs to understand the craftsmanship that goes into bringing this beautiful and artistic product to life. He understands that his shoes are the creation of a master craftsman, expressing social standing of the wearer, while simultaneously providing the delicate structure of his feet with optimum protection from stress and strain of every-day life. It’s a quintessential item for a man’s wardrobe-- one that defines his personality. As John Wildsmith famously said, “You are either in your bed or in your shoes, so it pays to invest in both.”