With the Bespoke grade Goodyear welted collection, we have been trying to push the boundaries of factory made shoes by incorporating as many concepts of bespoke shoe making especially where the latter has a clear advantage in terms of comfort, durability and longevity over the former. I must say though there are areas where factory made also has clear benefits over bespoke shoe making but I will keep this slightly controversial topic for another post!
In bespoke shoe making, the leather bends insole is of full thickness, usually upwards of 5 mm because a channel has to be carved on the insole edge to hand stitch the welt. Thicker insoles while adding weight to the overall shoe creates better comfort and lasts much longer allowing for resoling without having to touch the insole. Also by stitching the welt directly to the insole, this construction is a lot more durable and allows for the welt to sit flatter on the shoe so there is less cavity to fill with cork between the insole and the out sole. Furthermore during preparation for lasting, a thicker insole takes better shape on the last by nailing it to the bottom sometimes also by first dipping the insole in water. This allows for better lasting, a fine feather line edge throughout the shoe making the shoe much more beautiful as it is more true to the last shape.
In factory made shoes, usually either Texon board of 2-3.5 mm (it is a kind of compressed paper of cardboard) or leather bends of 3 mm is used and a cotton rib is attached by adhesive to the insole. The welt is stitched to the cotton rib by a Goodyear welting machine or sometimes even by hand stitching the welt to the rib. This rib after welting creates a deeper cavity to fill with cork in the next stage. But the biggest weakness is the attachment of rib with a adhesive which in my humble opinion is a major deviation from the advantages and spirit of welted shoe construction. The fact that all parts of the shoe are held together by stitching allows for a “suspension bridge effect” where the stitches of the out sole to the welt and the the welt to the insole make it the most robust form of construction and allow for deconstructing the shoe with ease. Also with the cotton rib construction, if you want to make a tight heel area, you need to stop the welting breast to breast (270 degrees welting) and add a seat piece to the heel area which creates two cuts sometimes visible. Some bespoke makers also do this but a very clean job of attaching the seat piece to the ends of the welt. The heel piece in this case is nailed to insole and bends when it hits the metal plate of the last. While I don’t know of any complaints of nails hurting the wearer due to this process, the idea of having to ‘nail-up’ to the heel area sounds dangerous and can always be a hazard in the future if the insole starts to wear down. When we started off, my Japanese clients clearly wanted to do away with this potential hazard so we were happy to offer the 360° channeling welt where there are no nails going up in the heel area.
In 360° Channeling welted Goodyear, we use the same full substance leather bends as bespoke shoe making and create a channel by slitting open the edge of the insole. After lasting, the welt is Goodyear stitched 360 degrees to the channel and sits flatter on the insole therefore requiring less cork filling in the cavity. This gives the benefits of bespoke shoe making in Goodyear welted factory made shoe while being able to achieve better precision in stitching and a better count of pairs per day thereby creating value. The thicker insole in more comfortable and the break-in period of the shoe is shorter. Of course this insole lasts longer allowing for multiple resoling over the years without having to touch the insole or the welting. It is also said that since the welt stitch goes on the side of the insole( and not on top to a cotton welt), it allows for better flexibility though personally I have not seen this benefit yet, manifest in the shoes I am making.