Shoes – Part 1: Construction
The world of shoes is a vast one. There are many different terms to describe not only the shoe’s style name, but also the manner in which it was made as well as the small details that you find on the shoe’s surface and it’s core. And while some of this knowledge might be trivial to many of you, I know that there still are many people who do not know (or confuse) the differences in construction of shoes, as well as their style names, such wing-tip vs. brogues vs. cap toes etc. So, to appease the request of others, I will go through them in a brief yet concise manner, but also leave you with detailed descriptions provided by other blogs & articles, that have explained more thoroughly the differences in shoe construction. For today’s discussions, I will go through some of the different shoe constructions and what I think about them. Next week, I will go through each of the shoe’s style names and will leave it open for commentary on what you would like to learn about in week 3.
In my opinion, a Goodyear welted shoe, in terms of construction, is what separates the men from the boys. This is not to say that men who wear other constructions are boys, but in terms of a shoe’s integrity, Goodyear welted shoes will last you longer than most and therefore are the bread & butter of the high-end shoe market. It is generally regarded as the best construction in terms of comfort and durability as well as ease in terms of reparation. It also holds the same theory as bespoke welting, yet the obvious difference being that in bespoke it is done by hand and does not have a canvas rib supporting the feather. It is highly regarded for several different reasons: 1, for being relatively waterproof, because of the welt/sole connection, not allowing for water to get into the insole; 2, for it’s relative ease in replacing the sole, thus giving you a shoe that can truly last 20-30 years depending on how you treat the upper leather; and 3, for it’s cork filling, which is known to create a nice mold of your foot, after a good amount of wear, providing an almost custom-like foot-bed. While Goodyear welted shoes, are used very much by the English shoe market, the term and machinery used to create such shoes, were actually invented by Charles Goodyear Jr., the son of American inventor, Charles Goodyear, whom invented vulcanized rubber.
– Blake & Blake Rapid:
Blake and Blake Rapid are the constructions most used by the Italian shoe industry. The Blake construction is created by directly stitching the outer sole to the insole, providing maximum flexibility and a light weight to the shoe. The Blake Rapid construction is pretty much made in the same fashion, except that there is a mid-sole (as shown in the top picture) that is connected to the outer sole as well as the insole, providing a little bit more cushion to your foot. Some will say that a well made Blake Rapid, will be just as good as a Goodyear welted shoe, yet being the snob that I am, I prefer a Goodyear welted shoe. Not because I find it better, per se, but because that is what I have learned to make and appreciate. I do very much believe that a Goodyear welted shoe, will always out-trump a Blake constructed shoe on the other hand, as a Blake shoe is much easier to wear out and let water in. There are also far fewer cobblers who can repair a Blake constructed shoe, leaving you with a shorter life span of the shoe. Don’t get me wrong though, they are not necessarily to be frowned upon, they are just different, and it depends on what you are looking for.
– Norwegian AKA Norvegese (in Italian)
Boots By: Santoni (true Norwegian stitch)
Bespoke Shoe By: Stefano Bemer (aesthetic Norwegian stitch)
Norwegian construction, despite it’s name, is a construction widely used, again, by the Italian shoe industry. While it was originally intended to create a shoe that was truly waterproofed, through and through, it is mostly used now to create an aesthetic appeal to those who appreciate it (i.e. picture of shoe by Stefano Bemer, above). That being, as you will notice in the two pictures, on a shoe that is intended for waterproof-like qualities, you will see that the welt is actually flush not only with the sole, but also with the upper, being completely on the outside, as opposed to halfway out and halfway in, as in Goodyear welt construction. But the bottom picture will show you, that there is no welt fully on the outside but rather just the stitching that represents the Norwegian look. This will give you the look of Norwegian construction, but won’t give you the complete waterproof quality. This will be a construction that you would want to consider for a shoe that you will use for outdoor activities, leaving you open to get wet. It is a durable, yet stiff construction, but can stand the test of time.
There are many other constructions out there, such as Bologna construction, but they are the far and few between and to me, are less important. But IF YOU READ HERE, you will get a much more in-depth description of each of the constructions above, including Bologna.
Goodyear Welted Shoes Below By: Alden