The Shoe Snob Blog

October 9, 2013

Written by , Posted in News

Mythbuster Part 1 – Leather Creasing Means Something is Wrong

More creasing than I would like!

More creasing than I would like!

Leather creases. Plain and simple. There is no such thing as crease free leather. Frankly the thought of people thinking that leather should not crease is just absurd. So many times have I heard people complaining about wrinkled leather and thus blaming either the leather or the maker for this reason. Well allow me to tell you that there are so many more factors that play into a shoe’s leather becoming prominently wrinkled, factors that you have probably never thought about nor even knew existed. The main point however of this post, will not be about me trying to tell you that all cases of leather wrinkling are warranted but rather that a good deal of it is and it has nothing to do with the quality of the leather. I say this because I have seen the best leather wrinkle like there is no tomorrow (on a bespoke shoe no less) and the worst leather maintain perfect shape. Therefore allow me to shed some light on what makes leather wrinkle more so on some shoes and less so on others.

Two cordovan boots, above and below, with two very different creasing patterns...both good leather, one C&J, one VASS

Two cordovan boots, above and below, with two very different creasing patterns…both good leather, one C&J, one VASS

Vass boot

Let me start by saying that bad fit will certainly lead to bad creasing, but that does not mean that good fit won’t either. For example, let’s take myself. I have very shallow feet which leads to most shoes not being a stellar fit. This means that more likely than not, there will be a good amount of space between the top of my foot (not the tip, the top) and the lining of the shoe. That means there is excess space. That excess space means that the leather has more room to bend when I flex my shoe. Contrarily, that means that a person with a foot that has girth will have less space between the top of his shoe and the lining and therefore allow for less room for the leather to crease inwards. For me this can lead to prominent creasing, but that does not mean that I could have taken another size and it would have been fixed, i.e. the shoe is not a bad fit, but it is not bespoke either. This also does not necessarily mean that the person with the bigger foot will not crease. It means that I am more likely to have prominent creasing and he is less likely but then this is simply one factor that comes to play.

same shoe, completely different creasing, way different!

same shoe, completely different creasing, way different! And the black ones were not brand new….

Cleverley side gusset

Bespoke Bestetti

Bespoke Bestetti

Bespoke Dimitri Gomez

Bespoke Dimitri Gomez

John Lobb bespoke (England)

John Lobb bespoke (England)

 

Leather will now be the next thing that comes about. Good or bad leather do not make a difference most of the time. Of course, real bad belly leather is already creased and will do so even further, but most good makers are not using a ton of this so lets rule this out for the sake of argument. And I have seen the highest grade leather crease like crazy and low grade leather keep it’s shape. As an observation that I have noticed in my time shining shoes, the highest grade of French calfskin seems to crease quite easily and prominently. I have noticed it not only on my bespoke shoes that I made while with Bemer, but on Corthay shoes, John Lobb and Berluti shoes. But the slightly lower grade French calfskin, like on my own J.FitzPatrick shoes among the many other makers at my price-point,  do not seem to crease nearly as much. But that does not make our leather superior. On the contrary, the higher grade leather feels so much nicer and more comfortable on my foot. But it does crease more for some strange reason….

Carmina Simpson

Carmina Simpson with hardly any creasing…

Berluti darby

Berluti darby

Berluti Andy Warhol loafer

Berluti Andy Warhol loafer

Corthay Arca

Corthay Arca

J.Fitzpatrick loafers

J.Fitzpatrick loafers

Crockett & Jones Whole Cuts Oxfords

Crockett & Jones Whole Cuts Oxfords

The next and one of the most critical reasoning for leather creasing is the model of shoe. Plain toe shoes will always crease more and whole cuts in general will most likely crease the most. This has everything to do with not only the lasting machines that are used for shoemaking but also the tension in the upper and where the pieces of the upper lay on the shoe. You will most likely notice the least amount of wrinkling on a full or semi cap toe brogue as there are many pieces that are thus not as affected by the tension that your foot puts onto the leather. I have seen wholecuts that have around 5 lines of creasing all the way from the end of the facing, down to the toe cap. You would never really see that on a full brogue and the pattern has every reason to do with that. But that does not mean that the wholecut is an inferior pattern, on the contrary it’s one of the hardest to make, but it just so happens to leave that blank canvas that creates a shoe susceptible to creasing….

Berluti

Berluti

bb13a816534011e2ba2d22000a1f97cd_7

not as much creasing on this Berluti whole cuts...strange, but just goes to show that creasing in reality cannot really be pinpointed to any one reason

not as much creasing on this Berluti whole cuts…strange, but just goes to show that creasing in reality cannot really be pinpointed to any one reason

Corthay Arca

Corthay Arca

John Lobb tassel loafers

John Lobb tassel loafers

The last reason that you find some shoes creasing more than others has to do with how long they allow the upper to sit on the last thus creating a form-fitting shape. The longer the upper is allowed to form to the last, the better the shoe should hug your foot, and thus provide a better fit that theoretically should decrease the chances of prominent creases as there will not be a lot of excess space inside the shoe. The less time that the upper sits on the last and does not form as well, the more loose space you will find in your shoe while wearing it and the more chance that you will obtain prominent wrinkles. Now, to top it all off, one must realize that every single shoe will be different depending on the foot that is inside of it, what part of the hide that shoe’s leather came from, how it was lasted, how long the upper stayed on the last and then how the person wears his shoes (tight or loose). There are more obscure reasons as well, but then this post would be about a book long!

You take in all these factors for every single pair of shoes and feet inside them and the outcome determines the amount of creasing. You can take the exact same shoe and two different people who take the same size, and creasing between them will be different. Guaranteed. One could have regular non prominent creasing while the other has tons of it. I would also be willing to wager that you could take the same person and the two pairs of the same shoe and the creasing would be different between the two pairs, because no two shoes used the same exact leather (place on the hide) or were lasted exactly the same.  That being, there really is no one explicable reason why a shoe’s leather is creasing. IT JUST HAPPENS!!

That being, look at all of these high quality shoes with tons of creases and some of them even being bespoke, which just goes to show you that leather quality and fit are not necessarily the reason for prominent creasing…..

My bespoke shoes with way too much creasing for my liking...but what can I do??

My bespoke shoes with way too much creasing for my liking…but what can I do??

Vass with a lot of creasing...

Vass with a lot of creasing…

A normal amount of creasing in my opinion, particularly for a whole cut....G&G Sinatra

A normal amount of creasing in my opinion, particularly for a whole cut….G&G Sinatra

Crockett & Jones

Crockett & Jones

George Cleverley

George Cleverley

J.FitzPatrick Magnolia Before

J.FitzPatrick Magnolia Before

J.FitzPatrick Magnolia after....for me, a normal amount of creasing, some of my shoes have less, some have more....just really depends on the last, the pattern and what leather was used on that particular pair....

J.FitzPatrick Magnolia after….for me, a normal amount of creasing, some of my shoes have less, some have more….just really depends on the last, the pattern and what leather was used on that particular pair….

 

  • Chichester

    Justin,
    At long last someone has said this! Shoes are made for wearing, leather is a natural material with an almost infinite capacity for variation in creasing. The only way to prevent creasing is never to wear your shoes.
    Chi

    • TheShoeSnob

      precisely! thanks for sharing

      • belz

        If it’s a burnished shoe, the crease is more prominent. Also, I’m a 10 but fit into a 10 1/2.The 10 1/2 shows more crease

        • Travis Santelmann

          I don’t mind creasing at all. I think it looks great on a high quality shoe.

          Although what about loose grain creasing? This can happen with the use of poor leather. The upper grain , and lower grain separate and create thick vein like wrinkles.

          I purchased a pair of Wolverine 1000 mile boots, they were nearly $400 shipped. The size was perfect! My right boot was perfect, but after just a couple steps, the left boot instantly showed loose grain creasing. Thick creases on the toe box. After just a quick walk around the house indoors. And again, the right shoe shows no wrinkles at all.

          Does loose grain creasing wear out quickly? Will Leather split open?

          I’m exchanging them. But, I wish I didn’t have to. They are beautiful horween CXL veg tanned leather Wolverine 1000 mile boots!

          But, it’s like the left boot uses bad clicking, with belly leather or something lol.

  • Mostly_Boots

    Great post. This makes me feel better about some of my boots. That said out here on the edge of the known world (Edmonton) we do a lot of driving and I hate how my right boot has more creasing than the left.

    • TheShoeSnob

      glad that you enjoyed it!

  • Adam Jones

    It can’t be just me but I quite like creasing on some shoes. As long as it is not the embedded creasing from no shoe tree being used, or exaggerated creases from poor care

    A quality well looked after shoe I think looks great with some creasing. Especially coupled with a nice natural aged patina. I have also noticed that over time the bigger creases on some shoes slightly mellow due to the leather age.

    FYI as you have pointed out in the last picture (your shoes) I did think to myself a week or so ago how little they show their creases

    • TheShoeSnob

      it’s definitely not just you Adam!! Many people do (that know about shoes and how they age)….glad to know that mine have not creased so much for you!

  • Kevin Seah

    Just like why people ask for non wrinkle shirts! Good one! :)

    • TheShoeSnob

      ha! non-wrinkle shirts or trousers or anything…nothing is really wrinkle free….

  • Mike

    Great article !
    A friend of mine told me once : “if you don’t want your shoes creasing, buy sabot ! ”

    I hope i could see you in Paris..

    • TheShoeSnob

      haha! Glad that you enjoyed the article! See you on the 31st then hopefully!

  • Mel

    fantastic fantastic post! I learned so much! Seeing the wear and the creasing is really interesting. I wonder why the Carmina has barely any creasing. I am tempted to try a Carmina shoe for the first time to see if this is common with their shoes. Looking forward to more Mythbusters!

    • TheShoeSnob

      not sure why they did not either?? Could have just been the person’s foot in it…like i said, creasing in reality probably has more to do with the foot inside than the shoe itself….a combination of things in reality…glad that you enjoyed the post!

    • Ayush Kumar

      As pointed out in the post it really depends from person to person and shoe to shoe. I have a pair of carmina monks with a cap toe. Where cap toe should technically prevent too many creases, they still have a few of them.

  • Sameer Agarwal

    how can I get my hands on the first shoe in this post

    • TheShoeSnob

      sorry Sameer, it is a bespoke shoe…but the pattern belongs to Stefano Bemer, who you could contact to have made up…

  • FYGblog

    Well put my friend! Keep up with content like this!

    • TheShoeSnob

      Thanks Justin!

  • Keikari

    One thing I’ve noticed: grain calf seems to crease less than plain calf, and if they do, the creases are less noticeable on grain surface. Shell cordovan ripples, but these can be kept at bay with shoe trees that have a higher-than-usual instep.

    • TheShoeSnob

      I am not sure if it creases less or that it is just masked by the grain and not as noticeable??

  • Patrick Patro Lind Lino

    This post was absolutely an eye opener for me. Looking at all my shoes from American, Italian, and Spain I was trying to figure out why some had more/less creases than others. Now I understand. Thank you sir! Cheers.

    • TheShoeSnob

      glad that you enjoyed it Patrick!

  • ShivaYash

    Great article, very informative. What are your thoughts on driving with ‘posh’ shoes? I try to avoid this at all costs as whilst creasing adds character, uneven creasing really annoys me. OCD perhaps?

    • TheShoeSnob

      haha, a little bit of OCD :-) But yea I get your point…depends on how much driving you are doing….short trips are fine…long hauls, no go!

  • Travers Alvirez

    To avoid parts of the creasing, install shoe trees regularly in conjunction to conditioning. They certainly cannot go away, but to look better and neater.

  • Travers Alvirez

    Oh, and, different creasing also depends largely on the care regimen provided to the leather. The amount of lubricant (conditioner), recolorant (dyes and pigmented creams), and sealant (waxes) can also provide different crease patterns and creasing degree. What I know is that if a calfskin shoe is lightly greased using something like the Saphir Medaille L’Dor Dubbin Graisse it’ll soften the leather, which, depends on the quality of calf-skin, can improve or worsen creasing. Too much waxes and the grain will be hardened at some points. Too much conditioner can make the leather quite flimsy, thus increase the chances of creasing.

    Shell cordovan is, arguably, the least creased of all the leather, if care regimen was provided accurately. The nature of the leather only allows rolls, not creases. The tighter structure also allow less fiber expansion.

  • Jimmy Bush

    I have a question about creasing. I was under the impression that a cap toe shouldn’t have any creases above the cap (that is, no creases from the cap to the tip of the shoe). Is that right? I usually never have creases on the cap, but just got some shoes recently that do and was wondering if that is still just the shoe or a defect.

    • TheShoeSnob

      never does not exist as all people’s feet are different. It really depends on the foot and not the shoe. In theory there should not be creating on the actual cap, but there can be and that does not really mean that something is wrong, just that some people’s feet don’t mesh perfectly with the model…

  • Aimee

    The creasing doesn’t bother me as much as the uneven creasing. My right always creases badly and the left barely creases. It is because of driving or is something with my gait?

  • karen k

    This is something that has always filled the spaces of my mind, especially now that I have a husband who creases his shoes terribly and I’m looking to get him new shoes for Christmas. I grew up with a little sister who was just 18 months behind and my mom would always buy us matching shoes. We both had very narrow feet, both fairly shallow as you would say at the bottom half of the foot toward the toes. Her shoes would look creased and terrible in a few weeks and mine would look almost like new at the end of the year. So, I have been noticing since my very young childhood how people walk in shoes. If you are wearing sneakers or shoes that you don’t care how they wear out, kneel down bending the one foot back in exaggeration giving the shoe a full flex as often as you like. But, I was unconsciously conscious growing up about not doing stuff like that in “nice” shoes, anything I wanted to last or that needed to last. Basically, if you don’t want creases, don’t crease them crazy as that sounds. There’s always another way to bend down without creasing your shoe and kneeling, unless you are selling shoes or changing tires all day long is not necessary. Fast forward 40 years to my husband. He is a natural born kneeler. Maybe because he’s tall he feels the need to kneel constantly but he’s constantly flexing the toe of a shoe beyond what the maker intended. So, while I love that he’s caring for me and bowing to my every desire, I’m having to be strategic in buying him shoes that show less wear. And as for Aimee who commented before me, my guess on the uneven creasing is you are kneeling more often on one foot. One stays flat when you kneel and one gets distressed. Mystery solved.

  • Nick

    Great article as ever Justin,

    After wet weather exposure, would you ever advise shoes to be warmed by a radiator to aid the drying process (back on custom shoe trees) or would you imagine this would increase the chance of further creasing and damage to the shoe?

  • LadyLexa

    Is there anything that a cobbler can do to minimize or eliminate creases,
    such as with a professional type of shoe iron?

  • Duncan McHarg

    Great article Justin,
    :) One other factor involved with creasing relates to the amount of toe spring the shoe has; a very flat to the ground toe has to bend more when you walk, verses a toe with a fair amount of lift has to bend significantly less as you walk. Fine veg Kangaroo hide creases, but feels beautiful, and the ceases even out over time eg. when I’d first made them they developed quite distinct creases visible at rest, but 90 full day wears later the upper has softened into more, finer creases when at rest. Got to put in more toe spring next time :)
    Thanks again.