The tougher the competition gets – the more doubtful the marketing gets. One of the things that brands tend to use more and more in this day and age is dropping numbers on how long it takes to make the shoes, how long time that have been spent to develop new models, and similar. Numbers that are extremely exaggerated compared to reality.
After two relatively positive reflection articles here on the blog, especially the previous one about how we live in a golden age for quality shoes, it’s time to get back to the nagging. I’ve written about false or doubtful marketing several times, like in this article about how one shouldn’t be fooled by the “no middlemen” marketing, or here on the false and unnecessary devaluation of the words “handmade” and “handcrafted”. Another thing we see more and more of is brands claiming various numbers on how many weeks their shoes take to produce, you often read things like “each pair takes around seven weeks to make” or similar. And sure, the time that goes from when the first parts of a shoe is assembled to when they are placed in the shoe box may surely be seven weeks. But it’s a totally irrelevant number, since for almost all of those seven weeks the shoes are placed on a stand or on a trolley, just waiting for the next step in the production. But the time that is actually spent on working on the specific shoes, is not weeks. Not at all.
Goodyear welted shoes, which is what we mainly talk about here, shoes made in factories where hands mainly guide the shoes through various machines, are a relatively time consuming product to make, sure. But weeks? No way. If we compare to actual handmade bespoke shoes, where we include all the work with measurements and the lastmaking, fitting shoes, another work on the lasts, and then production of the final shoes, the makers that take the most time in the world are up in around two weeks actual work. And these shoes usually cost from at least €3,000 up to €6,000. It’s quite evident that shoes that are produced in larger quantities in much cheaper materials and sold at €200 or so would not take more than three times as long to produce.
How long time does it actually take to make a pair of factory-made Goodyear welted shoes then? It’s hard to say really, depends a lot on how you count. One of the most famous brands in England making premium Goodyear welted shoes, among the most expensive RTW there is, calculated that the actual time that someone held the shoes in the hands or they were placed in a machine in their factory was in total below an hour. That is low counted though, it does not include the time spent on for example the making of the parts that they have prepped, like welts, stiffeners, heels etc. does not include the time used on prepping stations and machines, and so on, and at sometimes the shoes need to pause for glues to dry etc. (to retain the shape of the last which is sometimes mentioned, is in reality never more than say a week, so it’s also basically irrelevant in this case, since no factory push shoes through for shorter times than this). But it says a bit. And either way, I’m sure we can all agree that the time that a shoe is in the factory doesn’t have anything to do with anything, it can be one week it can be two months, but how much time a shoe spends standing waiting there’s really no point in mentioning to anyone. The only reason it is mentioned is since it can fool those who don’t know too much to think that the shoes are more special than they are.
Another thing that brands sometimes promote is how long time they have spent developing something, stating that “we have spent over 1,5 years developing this model”, or two years, or three, whatever. This is even more irrelevant, especially since it’s mostly used by brands who don’t own their own factory, and the factory they work with is someone working for loads of different brands, perhaps apart from their own brand, and so on. If one were to measure how long of those years that actually was spent on the development, it would be an even less percentage of the time stated. Here there’s wait, wait, wait, wait and wait, then some stuff is done and you give feedback on this, then wait, wait, wait, wait and wait, and repeat. It is a totally different thing to when, say, Apple have a whole department working for a couple of years with developing a new product, or when a car manufacturer creates a new model. The shoe brands want their marketing to connote to the just mentioned things, even if it has just as little to do with each other as a computer has to a shoe.
It’s ironic that the ones who believe these falsities and exaggerations, are the ones who would be more or less equally impressed if you only said exactly the truth. The making and development of Goodyear welted shoes are impressive and worth to pay for as it is.