Continuing on the theme of what distinguishes shoes in different price ranges, this time in a proper in-depth manner. Together with the shoemakers and cobblers at Skomakeri Framåt in Stockholm shoes from Loake, Carmina and Paolo Scafora have been taken apart completely to the smallest detail to look at how and what they are made of.
The shoes in question are donated by the reader Anders Nordqvist just for this purpose. These are a pair of Loake 1880 double munk shoes which costs about €310, a pair of Carmina plain cap toe oxfords located at around €390, and a pair of penny loafers from Paolo Scafora for about €850. The first two are Goodyear welted, the latter hand welted with a machine made sole stitch. All are very well used and worn. Below they are picked apart piece by piece, and I describe in the captions what we see. The idea was that I would have sawn the other shoe of each pair in the middle for cross-sectional images, but did not manage to solve that, hopefully it’s enough image material (unfortunately the picture quality is lower than normal, since I had computer problem and just had the low-resolution copies of the photos left) below to provide a good understanding of the different shoe construction anyway.
Carina Eneroth, bespoke shoemaker, cobbler and owner of Skomakeri Framåt
Åsa Rasmussen, bespoke shoemaker and cobbler, and the other owner of the place.
We begin with a look at the shoes to be disassembled (here thus the sibling to those Skomakeri Framåt took care of). From the left: Loake 1880, Carmina, Paolo Scafora. Reservations for the fact that the brands could have made changes in the choice of material and production since these shoes were made, in any direction, since they are all a few year’s old.
As apparent here, the Loake and Carmina shoes were very worn. The Scafora pair has also been used a lot, but was in a bit better condition. All shoes have uppers made in full grain calf leather.
Note that the upper on the Carmina shoe (also on the other shoe in the pair) had cracked in the creasing.
The shoes from Loake and Carmina had both replaced heels and equipped with a rubber topy. For your info, Loake use an open channel sole, Carmina as Scafora to the right have soles with a closed channel.
Here the heel of the Loake shoe has been pulled off. As you can see the sole stitch goes just back to where the heel starts, a so-called 270° sole stitch (360 ° if it goes all the way around), and then the heel is only secured with nails. Those who stand out have been hammered in from the inside, those where you only see the nail head is hammered in from underneath. Since the sole part under the heel hasn’t been sanded the glue didn’t stick too hard, so it was pretty easy to pull off.
The base of the heel on the Carmina shoe. Carmina’s shoe had less nails and more glue than the Loake shoe.
The Scafora heel on its way off.
From the left: Loake, Carmina, Paolo Scafora. Here you can see that Loake shoe in the heel area is smoother und non-sanded, while the other two shoes have sanded the soles here, which facilitated the good adhesion of the heel.
Rubber foam under the sock liner of the Loake shoe.
Carmina instead use a material called poron, a relatively expensive material which is pretty good and that will mimic a foot pad in how it falters.
Paolo Scafora has a bit smaller, thinner piece of rubber foam, which was covered with a thicker leather sock liner.
Loakes heel and lining sock with cushioning. Loake had leather upper and lower parts of the heel base, but had saved money by using leather board (leather dust pressed together with glue) in the heel lifts in the middle. Heel lifts in leather board isn’t as good as leather, and when it is built of different materials it come off easier and the pieced wear different with time.
Put in a picture of the non-dissected Loake shoe, where you see how it looks a bit so-so with two leather board lifts in the middle.
Carmina had leather throughout the whole heel, which is positive.
Here you can see how much better it looks with a heel in all leather, even if this also is very worn.
Paolo Scafora also used the only leather lifts in its heel.
Time to break further into the shoes.
Here you can see how the nail from the inside and outside meet. Also the upper is usually nailed to the insole in the heel area on RTW shoes. These are Paolo Scafora’s shoes, and here it is possible that they hit the nail by hand, otherwise machines are used for this in the larger factories .
The shank on the Loake shoe. Factory-made shoes usually use a form of complete package for the strengthening of the waist, with a shank-support in metal, plastic or wood that’s embedded in leather or like here in a cardboard materials, and the whole piece is fitted in a simple manner. The cardboard is not in perfect condition after these year’s of wear.
A thick layer of cork paste is used to fill the cavity that becomes due to the gemming, which is the canvas strip that is glued to the insole and to which the Goodyear welt stitching is sewn. It’s a mixture of cork and glue which is smeared over the surface to be covered.
Although Carmina use a similar type of shank support in the waist, with the metal embedded in the cardboard on one side and on the other side leather board. Here you can also see some of the relatively tight sole stitch that remains on the welt. All shoes here have machine made sole stitches, made with a Rapid machine as it’s also called, which makes so-called lock-stitch where every stitch is locked separately. It reduces the risk that the entire seam comes loose even if, for example, you grind down the front of the toe or something like that.
The cork filling on Carmina. Just like with Loake a thick layer of cork paste.
Paolo Scafora’s shoes are as said hand welted, and then the cavity of the shoe is significantly less since you stitch the welt seam directly into the insole in a carved out holdfast, you don’t use a build-up like the canvas rib. Scafora is using a thinner cork plate cut out to fit into the hollow space that is here. A hand welted shoe becomes more compact, and often feels more flexible and easier to break in.
Scafora’s cork was a pretty rough variant, more common is to use a tighter cork like this plate that Skomakeri Framåt has in their shoes.
An overview of the shoes when the outsole had come off. You don’t see it too good here, but Scafora also had a metall shank, but a clean one fitted alone, so to speak. One thing that Carina and Åsa noted was that Carmina sewn the sole stitch into the welt stitching at the shoe’s toe and broke the welt seam there. Carmina had drenched thread quite firmly in adhesives, however, so despite this and that there are chain stitch it still hold tight, but this was a clear deficiency.
Time to pull off the welts. When sewing a welt seam with a Goodyear machine it’s making a so called chain stitch. A major disadvantage of such is that it does not lock each stitch individually, so if it comes looset somewhere there is a risk that the entire seam fails. Carina Eneroth calls it potato bag-stitching, here she does it similar as when you open such a bag, taking hold of a part of the thread and pull so everything opens easily. Loake and also Carmina had left metal rivets from the lasting, when the upper is fastened to the insole before stitched to the insole, the disadvantage of this is that a cobbler can ruin the tools in the event of a repair.
When hand welting you lock each stitch individually, so here they have to cut off the stitches to get it to release.
Loake’s welt and seam. All manufacturers use proper welts made of leather.
Carina and Åsa felt that Loakes thread for the welt stitching was of finer quality than Carmina’s, quite finely twisted. Carminas thread was almost only fiber, a loose and pretty bad thread.
Paolo Scafora is using linen thread that was nicely twisted, however, it was quite a little wax so it was quite easily untwisted.
Loake’s uppers. Here they had made the lining in two pieces, and then sewed it together in the middle where they stitched right through the upper leather as well. This is quite unusual, probably done since it’s quicker to do so, but decreases the flexibility of the vamp during lasting.
Loake’s relatively thin insole, it’s leather, but only a few millimeters thick. You can also see how high the edge becomes when using the canvas rib for the Goodyear construction.
Carmina’s lining leather is made of more parts than Loake and Paolo Scafora’s, but here they have as recommended stitched the whole lining separately and then closed it together with the upper.
The Scafora shoe town apart.
The shoe’s lining was sewn in principle in a single large part, which is quite advanced. Here you can also see that Scafora left quite a lot of the upper left at the bottom edge.
Overview of the insoles, from left: Loake, Carmina, Paolo Scafora. Loake’s as mentioned very thin, approximately 2 mm, Carminas slightly thicker but still relatively thin, about 3 mm, while Scafora with the hand welted construction where you sew in the insole i using a thick leather insole of good quality, about 4-5 mm. Carmina and Scafora definitely had vegetable tanned soles, Loake they were a bit unsure of and didn’t to say for certain. Looks like chrome tanned, but when they burned the sole it didn’t react the way chrome-tanned leather usually do, but possibly it’s combination of vegetable and chrome tanned. Carmina had much left of the grain, the top part of the leather, so to speak, which is not to be recommended for an insole since it can crack, which is evident here.
The upper opened up, here you see the heel stiffener on Loake’s shoe is made of celastic.
Celastic is a kind of thermoplastic material which is fabric is soaked in plastic, and when heated it becomes soft and malleable, and then solidifies. Cheap and easy in production. The big downside of the material is that it is doesn’t mold to the feet more than very limited, therefore, the stiffener must fit one’s feet pretty well for it to be really comfortable. It’s quite sustainable, but if thermoplastic is cracked, you can’t do anything, then it’s destroyed.
Also the toe stiffener is made of celastic. A toe stiffener doesn’t need not conform the same way as a heel, and therefore it is not something that goes out over the function in the same way. Virtually all factory-made shoes from Loake up to Gaziano & Girling Deco or Edward Green Top Drawer uses celastic toe stiffeners.
Carmina uses leather board for the heel stiffener. It’s a little more difficult to work with than celastic since it must be pre-shaped, and also a bit less durable (therefore particularly important to use shoehorn with shoes with leather board heel stiffeners). But a big advantage is that it can conform a bit to the wearer’s feet, thus providing better conditions for a good fit in the heel. Here I’ve actually been told by a retailer of Carmina that they were using celastic for the heel stiffeners, this was not the case at least when this shoe was produced, and have a hard time thinking they changed it for the worse.
Toe stiffener of celastic on Carmina, which as mentioned above is standard.
All the shoes are firmly reinforced between the linings and uppers. This is primarily done with different reinforcements tape and textile glued on, but also with leather reinforcements in some cases, though not on Loake or Carmina. The aim is to help the shoe to retain its shape even after long use. Would a shoe just having the upper and the lining leather, it would likely be more flimsy, stretch much and lose its shape easier with time. Depending on how the leather is and how you want the shoe to stretch one can use different kinds of fabric and put it in different directions, for example, so it becomes rigid lengthwise but gives a little stretch sideways. Textile fabric also helps to reduce creasing on the uppers, since it strengthens the leather. I know that I’ve previously thought that the use of textile was slightly negative, but in recent years I’ve learned that this is not the case.
Paolo Scafora’s shoes are also in this area built a bit more like traditional bespoke shoes than factory-made shoes, with real leather stiffeners not only in the heel, but also in the toe. Really impressive one have to say. Leather stiffeners molds to the wearer, and may indeed be a little more sensitive than the plastic ones but if a leather stiffener is bent or deformed, you can just soak it all and shape it right back (preferably on the original last), leather is a living material, unlike thermoplastic and leather board. Leather stiffeners must be installed entirely by hand and requires hand lasting of the upper. Here you can also see that Scafora strengthened not only with textiles but also with leather pieces on the sides.
We end with overview pictures of the disassembled shoes and its parts. Here Loake’s shoe. The order of the sections were a bit strange, it was late in the evening and a little stressful, but the sole furthest to the left is the insole, the right one the outsole.
Loake’s shank is clear from rust.
Heel parts and outsole.
The Carmina shoe parts.
Here you see to the left of the half-hearted thread used for stitching the welt.
Worth noting is that the metal shank had rusted.
So finally an overview of the parts that been the Paolo Scafora shoe. Also here the insole is to the left of the two soles. The two pieces of leather on each side of the vamp is the reinforcement pieces who were placed on the sides of the shoe, made of the same material as the vamp, only bad pieces of it.
It’s the welt seam that remains in the so-called holdfast carved out from the leather insole.
Welt and shank.
The upper part of the outsole is what’s shown here.
The leather stiffeners on Scafora-shoes are soaked in a sort of leather reinforcing paste that goes into the leather and makes it hard and stable, and also attaches it to the upper and lining.
To make a quick summary when it comes to these three pairs, it’s quite clear that you get what you pay for. There was really nothing that seriously surprised Carina, Åsa or me, when taking into account our previous knowledge about the brands and what they cost. There were some small surprises, like the fact that Carmina had leather board heel stiffeners, mostly because I heard different though, because it’s quite reasonable in terms of the price range. That Scafora had toe stiffeners in leather surprised a bit as well, had thought they would use celastic. But otherwise they were done generally in the way you would expect. In a way Paolo Scafora, being hand welted in a very small factory, isn’t representative for RTW premium shoes for +€800 where most are Goodyear welted, and hence in some ways more similar to Loake and Carmina, but things like thicker insoles (than cheaper Goodyear welted shoes at least) and leather heel stiffeners you’ll find on most of those shoes as well.
Many thanks to Anders Nordqvist who donated his shoes for this, and Carina Eneroth and Åsa Rasmussen at Skomakeri Framåt who spent a number of hours of work to fight the shoes apart and go through what they found. We’ll see if there are more shoes from other manufacturers disassembled in the future.
“Carmina had much left of the grain, the top part of the leather, so to speak, which is not to be recommended for an insole since it can crack, which is evident here.”
Excellent article!!. What do you mean here?. The insole leather is not good quality?. Just one of my pairs of such a brand has the insole slighty cracked after several years of wear. Never seen that in any of my other shoes. It would be interesting to know Carmina´s insoles supplier. Thanks and congrats!!.
Rafael: Thanks for the kind words! On an insole you should sand off the top layer, the grain, since it’s more sensitive and prone to cracking. The insole leather can be fine, but if you don’t sand down the top layer it can crack anyway. It could be that the insole manufacturer did a poor job on just some insoles like these, and sand off more on most of what they produce. You can see that the top grain is left due to the slight shine of the top of the insole. I don’t know who they buy their insoles from.
Thanks for your reply and solution for the issue. Is it possible that the insole of Carmina comes with a front sockliner?. It seems that from the pics. I am asking you this because I think all the models I own from them (some of them more than 10 years old and with extensive wear) mount the sock liner just at the heel (1/4 or 2/4). I have just one pair with a slightly cracked insole where it bends and I will sand down a bit that area. Cheers
Rafeael: I didn’t mean that you should do it, it should be made in the manufacturing process (although I guess it might be possible to sand it down a bit yourself afterwards as well). The sock liner is removed, it’s only at the back part, you see it in the pics above.
Great article. Well done. Maybe the summary could have drawn out more conclusions regarding the durability, merits or otherwise of the two constructions compared. All three pairs seem to be heavily worn judging by the condition of the uppers and in all cases I guess that it could be said that both construction methods have provided sufficient durability given the life of the upper leather. I would really have been interested to see a Blake rapid construction included.
It will be extremely interesting to make a follow up article including John Lobb, Edward Green, Crockett & Jones, Church’s, Jeffrey West….