There’s branches of people within “the classic shoe world” who are skeptical against factory-made Goodyear welted shoes in general and all types of shortcuts from making “the best shoes possible”, which ideally would be fully handmade bespoke of absolute best quality. Thing is, this industry, all of it, needs to have those who take these shortcuts – here’s why.
I myself can bash on various shortcuts done by brands, but bear in mind, I then usually focus on where specs have been changed to lesser quality from before without this being communicated to customers, or when brands have shortcuts that in clearly doesn’t belong within “their price range”, etc. My view is that we will always need brands who take lots of shortcuts from making “the best possible shoes”. One have to be realistic and look to what day and age we are currently living in. We can talk with sparkling eyes about the good old days, when “everyone” wore actual handmade shoes of excellent material made by fine craftsmen at larger workshops or at one of the many, many local shoemakers/cobblers around, but those times will never come again, whether we like it or not.
In a world where at least 95% (or something like that) wears shitty shoes produced of subpar materials with the cheapest constructions, every person who go spend a bit more dollars on a pair of Goodyear welted shoes – even if it has celastic heel and toe stiffeners, fibre board heel stacks, thin insoles and neoprene glue all over the place – is a win in my eyes. Cause those shoes at least have had some effort behind them, the material and making has to at least some extent been made in a sustainable way by decently paid workers, maybe the customer will even resole them once. Everyone can’t afford to buy the best Goodyear welted shoes there is, much less go full handmade full bespoke shoes from the best makers in the world, those who for real don’t take any shortcuts. Lower-priced Goodyear welted shoes have it’s place.
And very importantly, it’s those shoes that will drag people in to the better and better stuff, also to the real deal bespoke shoes etc. A big part of all bespoke customers comes from some factory made Goodyear welted stuff as introductions into this world, and when they start to do their research and look passed the marketing gimmicks (wrote about one of many problems with that part in a recent reflection article) they will learn more and get more interest, realise it’s worth to spend more, they start climbing the quality and price ladder, and so on. Not everyone of course, but if we hadn’t Goodyear welted factory-made easily accessible stuff, where shortcuts of all kinds have been taken, the market for bespoke shoes would be almost non-existing, the latter wouldn’t make it without the first. I mean, how many people would go from using cheap cemented crap shoes to buy bespoke for 2,500+ euros? The old tradition wouldn’t survive without the new, “modern” shortcut stuff – there is a place for both.
It’s also worth noting how some of the actors who put most money on their bespoke businesses, and who are important ambassadors for the bespoke craft around the world, have this part more or less financed by their ranges of “shortcut shoes”. Hermès owned John Lobb Paris and LVMH owned Berluti. It’s their factories producing Goodyear welted (and in Berluti’s case even Blake stitched to a large extent) shoes to “the masses” (well, the wealthy masses…) that the companies make money on, the bespoke shoes are halo products which has the important job to build brand recognition and credibility to the products that creates the profit. Cause let’s face it, profit is what matters for them. Yet, the hunt for profit is what makes the bespoke craft live and prosper under their wings. Again, old tradition wouldn’t survive without the new, “modern” shortcut stuff.
It’s interesting. Just the other day I watched a Russian YouTuber (I think his channel is called ‘English Shoes’, or something like that) review and discuss his newly acquired Loake 1880 brogues (Aldwych, I think) and guy was he thrilled! He waxed lyrical about the construction, how they were ‘hand made’ in England, the classic design. There was even a representative from Loake talking about the brand. Now, real shoe-philes might well cast a wry smile as Loake makes nice RTW Goodyear welted shoes….but nothing mind-blowing. I was rather taken with the chap’s enthusiasm and I can relate to his joy at getting a decent – actually superior – pair of shoes. I agree with the article: the shortcuts allow a range of quality, a scale of shoes starting with £150 – right through to bespoke…you gotta start somewhere – well, actually that somewhere is RTW Goodyear/Blake stitched shoe, usually around £170 -£200.
Anthony Jones: Yeah, I mean I remember how thrilled I was when I received my Loake pair, the first Goodyear welted shoes I bought. One shouldn’t undermine that.
great article for those who think some shoes (and generally all other kinds of stuff) are morally better than others. We live in a real world, everything exists for a reason. If everyone in the world wears bespoke shoes, we would at least need as many shoemakers as the population of the whole of UK, which is just impossible. These people who like to take the “moral high ground” and condemn others for not being so ( some of the vegans who hate meat-eaters, some electric car owners who think petrol cars are crap, etc.), also exist for a reason. Not everyone is blessed with the ability of reasoning, being logical, or to appreciate things in their own lives. Some can only find “joy” in a pathetic type of way which is to tell others in their face that they are better than you. These people are important to our society, so that we can teach our children to not be like them.
ZS: In general we need to have a better understanding of other’s situation, and have respect for that what makes them happy and pleased might not be the same as for ourself. And that this is fine.