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.