In my social media recently when I wrote about Goodyear welted shoes made without gemming – the canvas rib glued onto the insole which the welt is attached to – several people were surprised that there was such a thing. Albeit standard on factory-made Goodyear welted shoes is the use of gemming, there’s still a bunch who do it the old-school way where a holdfast is carved from the leather insole.
I’ve written about this before, but probably worth highlighting again. Back when the Goodyear welting machine was introduced into shoemaking, standard was using thick leather insoles where the holdfast was carved out from. In fact, the machine carving this holdfast was normally part of the machine park when a factory bought a Goodyear machine. This holdfast was thinner than the normal holdfast when doing hand welting (although some, especially cowboy boots with pointy toes, cut holdfasts in a similar fashion by hand, to easier stitch the welt in the toe area), and could be cut with a flap carved out both from the inside and outside, or from one of the sides, normally from the inside (as seen on the top insole above).
Problem was that it was common that the machine damaged the leather holdfast or that it became fragile, especially at the toe area, since it was rather thin. One had to be careful and use good materials. To simplify, one started reinforcing it with canvas fabric. Time went by, and eventually one started using solely a glued on canvas rib (as seen on the bottom insole above). It was cheaper since one could use a thinner leather insole, and easier in manufacturing. This became standard for Goodyear welted shoes. That said, there’s still a bunch who do Goodyear welted shoes without gemming, as evident by the photo, brands like Bridlen, Viberg, JM Weston (to a small extent still, I believe, was more before) and a bunch in Italy (what’s often called flex Goodyear there is done this way).