Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A shoe Q & A

1. What is a last?
A. A last refers to the wooden form over which the flat stitched pieces of a shoe's upper are stretched to give it three dimensions. As it forms the shape of the shoe, makers will refer to the different silhouettes of their shoe lines as lasts.

2. What is a Goodyear Welt, and what are it's benefits?
A. A Goodyear Welt is a method of shoe construction where the upper and the sole are attached through a strip of leather called the welt. The benefits are that it is durable - the stitched on sole is less likely to come away from the upper than a cemented construction - comfortable in that the cork used to fill the cavity between innersole and outer sole molds to the shape of your foot, and economical as the sole can be removed after extended wear and be replaced, giving the shoe an indefinite life span if well cared for in the uppers.

3. What are the benefits of Crockett & Jones over another shoe?
A. Crockett & Jones bring over 130 years of experience to shoe making, also known as cordwainery, allowing them to offer shoes that are more cleanly made and elegantly formed. The leather qualities are exceptional, with colours often hand applied. The means of construction is often immaculately finished, and the last shaped are well proportioned across a range of sizes.
Crockett & Jones shoes are a product at the pinnacle of their art - the quality to price ratio, in my opinion, is the best available in the current market. It is certainly not a shoe for those that consider shoes an afterthought, just as a luxury car or a mechanical watch is best suited to someone who truly appreciates the quality and workmanship inherent in goods of a certain calibre.

4. What are the care instructions?
A. The most important care instruction for any Goodyear welted shoe, after having it correctly fitted to the foot, is that they be rested between wears. Generally 24 hours is enough for a shoe under normal conditions, if it becomes particularly wet then 48 hours would be advisable. The reason for this is that the hard oak bark tanned leather sole, which when dry is hard enough to suffer walking on city streets, becomes softer and more vulnerable as it is impregnated with moisture, be that from external sources or the wearers foot.
Using shoe trees is recommended, as it allows the shoe to return to it's correct shape. For customers that are particularly hard on their shoes, toe taps or dainite soles may be an option. Many clients, particularly those that favour shoe lasts that are extended in the toe box, may find that they wear away the sole at the toe - a consequence of walking fast and pushing off from the toe. Metal or hard rubber toe taps can remedy this.
To maintain the lustre of the shoe, regular buffing should suffice. A common error by many men is to over polish their shoes with liquid waxes - this only serves to fill the pores of the leather, which will then dry out and crack at critical points of stress, such as across the toe. Colour polish or wax should be applied sparingly and buffed back with a soft horsehair brush or cotton cloth until no residual remains. For this very reason, shoes that are treated to glacage, or high shine spit polish, are generally only done on toe caps and heel counters, where the shoe doesn't flex.

5. What is the difference between a Bench Grade and a Hand Grade shoe?
A. The Hand Grades are C&J's premium product, aimed at the shoe aficionado. The last shapes (337 & 358) tend to be a more elegant interpretation of Bench Grade lasts, the leathers tend to be more hand finished and antiqued, and the actual means of production is of a higher quality.
Finished with Channel cut soles - a means of good year welting where the sole is scored, stitched, the refinished to hide the stitching, makes for a more beautifully finished sole more impervious to moisture.
The inside heel edge is bevelled - an archaic practice that has surprisingly good effect - the lack of a pointed edge prevents trouser cuffs being caught and shoe heel counters being marked by a careless step.
The lining sock in the inner sole is extended to the end of the toe, and the shoe is lasted for longer, giving the shape - particularly in the arch and mouth - a more 3 dimensional feel.

6. Styles and their uses -
A. Classic styles of shoes tend to have a hierarchy dependant on their detail and fabrication, with the more formal styles having more formal applications, the less formal following suit.
Generally the simpler and cleaner a design, the more formal it is. Oxfords - a style of shoe with lacing closed at the bottom - is more formal that it's open laced cousin the Blucher. Calf is generally more formal than suede, and stampato leathers such as scotch grain are less formal again. Black is more formal than brown, laced more formal than buckles, which are more formal than loafers. There are always exceptions to the rule, such as the non laced Opera Pump, the most formal of all men's shoes, but in general these rules apply.
The current styles in store would descend from most to least formal as follows;

Belgrave - A perfect formal shoe.
Hallam - A slightly more fashion forward version of a classic.
Edgeware - Fashion take on a plain medallion toe.
Lowndes - A double monk in calf, applicable for most day suits.
Savile - A single monk, which would be more formal, but in suede, which relaxes it.
Clifford - A wing tip brogue, a very traditional day shoe.
Westfield - A cap toe brogue, as above.
Sydney - A penny loafer, but beautifully finished, for sports coats or soft suits.
Tetbury - A suede chukka boot, for casual application, or odd jackets and trousers.
Onslow - Scotch grain Blucher - originally a country shoe, great for tweed or denim.
Chelsea - A side gore boot, it is perfect for chinos or jeans.
Poole - The most casual penny loafer , it is perfect sock less with Bermudas.

7. What are these shoes made of, and what is the benefits of these raw materials?
A. C&J Shoes are made of the best natural materials to ensure a long life to the shoe. Leathers on the upper tend to be calf or calf suede. Calf leathers are preferred for their suppleness and close grain, which takes colour beautifully and maintains a lustre over time.
Soles are either Oak Bark tanned leather, or Dainite rubber. Oak Bark tanning is a means of curing the leather to make it very dense and hard, along the lines of bridal leather, for durability. Dainite soles, like Vibram, is a brand of composite rubber that is light, but very strong.
Inner soles are filled with cork, which allows the shoe to both breathe, and form to the shape of the foot for superior comfort. Shoes are lined in calf or glove leather, which is soft against the foot for comfort.

8. What is a shank?
A. A shank is the support that runs under the arch from the heel to just before the ball of the foot, without which the shoe would have no stability under the arch. It prevents the shoe from collapsing, or bending where the foot does not flex. Generally they are made from steel or wood, and in C&J they are steel.


  1. Good information !!!

  2. Many thanks for providing these insights into the art that caters for our feets!
    By the way, the Belgrave dazzle me too!