Edward Green Dover unlined

In today’s day and age, people do their best to remove any type of hurdles and make ones existence as smooth and comfortable as possible. This goes for footwear as well, where the “soft and flexible” take over everything from classic RTW to bespoke shoes. Thoughts on this development in today’s article.


Human beings are in general comfortable people. We surely can push ourselves, take on serious challenges, and experience serious strains, but if we can we want to go back to that comfort. That’s our base. Especially in the first world, where a vast majority can live comfortable lives. Lives where things should adapt to us, not us adapting to it. For example we want to be able to watch anything exactly when and where it suits us, we want an Uber or e-scooter to take us where we’re going when and where it suits us, and we drop our ties and constructed jackets for denim with stretch and soft overshirts.

Surely, this goes over to footwear as well. The fact that we live in the tide of sneakers have likely no one missed. Today, almost every shoe brand, be it a producer of Goodyear welted shoes, or even bespoke shoemakers, have to offer also sneakers or that type of shoes. This is one thing, that these softer, often highly cushioned types of footwear are becoming increasingly used.

Loake sneakers and loafers

The other thing is that we see more and more of this going over also to the more traditionally made footwear as well. I wrote about this recently, the fact that we see more and more cushioning in both classic footwear and even among workwear boots, and the issues that all the cushioning brings. It’s also that shoes become softer in other ways, with more and more unlined and / or soft upper materials, and with more flexible construction methods, which vary vastly in how it’s made and what they actually mean.

Now, it’s all logical, this is what people are asking for, so it is what the shoe brands offer. I’ve talked to quite a few brands about this, and off the record many say straight out that they don’t really like offering them, for example for brands with their own factories in many cases these softer types of shoes are bought from other factories than their own, meaning it’s not benefitting their own staff and they tend to have lower margins on these (albeit for brands not producing themselves it can be the other way around, with better margins). Someone even called it “a necessary evil”. Unlined and things like that is better, they can be made more like the producers regular offerings and in a way even adds an extra margin since both material and labour is less on this type of shoes.

Edward Green unlined loafers

It also affects how the regular welted footwear is made. One obvious one is the use of softer types of soles, both when it comes to insoles and leather and rubber outsoles. Another one is the choice of leather, where softer leathers becomes more favoured. And then we have the use of backings. Traditionally, especially for higher end brands and bespoke makers, one use proper backings – skived down leather pieces – between the upper and lining to further reinforce the shoes and make them retain their shape better. Nowadays, brands and bespoke makers (I’ve talked to several about it, and it especially goes for the bigger bespoke makers, and will likely move over to more smaller ones as well in time) in many cases move away from how they traditionally made shoes, and go for softer constructions and materials, to accommodate how people wish to have their shoes today.

Bridlen upper

Cause in this day and age, instant comfort is what’s sought after, to have to break in shoes is in general seen as something negative. Doesn’t really matter if they actually will become rather soft and really comfortable with time, that type of patience is becoming more and more rare. Of course, shoe interested people like likely most who read Shoegazing are fine with it, but we are a very small group of people in the grand scheme of things.

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with soft flexible shoes (cushioning is a different thing, as already mentioned above) at least not in most cases. Only using built-up, supportive footwear isn’t good for the feet either, even if it’s the best choice especially for days when you walk a lot. What people need to understand though is that what we see taking over now is less durable footwear with a shorter lifespan.

It doesn’t only go for cemented shoes, sneakers and trainers that are more difficult to resole and repair in general. It also goes for the more traditionally constructed footwear but with the softer types that are now getting more and more common. An unlined shoe will normally live for less than half the time of a properly leather lined shoe, since you have one layer of leather less (plus backings) which inevitably means that the upper will crack quicker. The softer insoles and outsoles are less durable, and even if it’s a resoleable construction it nags on the numbers of times the shoes can be resoled in a faster pace. If it’s something this world needs it’s products that lasts longer which can reduce our consumption – not the opposite.

Patrick Frei bespoke sneakers