Goodyear welt? Blake Stitch? Cemented? What's the difference? And, is one truly better than another?
There's a lot of lingo thrown about these days when it comes to shoe construction. In this article, we'll briefly review the three major methods of shoe construction and then offer three reasons we believe the Goodyear welt is the superior method of shoemaking.
Shoe Making Methods
Shoe glue, or "cement", is the most common form of construction in both dress and casual shoes. Like band-aids, they're cheap, easily procured, and effective in the short term.
However, glue is vastly inferior to constructed methods for three reasons:
- They're rarely waterproof: Adhesives may clam water resistance, but very few live up to that. Water not only seeps in to your shoes (making it quite unpleasant to walk!), but also eats away at the cement. This leads to faster deterioration and quicker replacement.
- The glue wears off: With wear, tear, and water damage, the adhesion loses it tack and wears off entirely in a relatively short period of time.
- They're not re-soleable: While, conceivably, one could just re-glue the sole, commercially available cements are not nearly as powerful as the industrial ones, and will also wear off in a short period of time. Without the option to resole, the shoes become pretty much worthless and end up in landfills.
With that out of the way, let's move on to constructed methods.
A Blake stitch (or rapid-stitch) is another common method of construction. Developed during the Industrial Revolution, it uses a specialized machine to stitch a sole directly to the inside of the shoe's upper.
This makes for streamlined, light, and flexible footwear with a quick break-in period. The Italian makers often favor this way of building shoes as it complements their streamlined suits!
However, a Blake stitch still has its drawbacks:
- Machine construction: While you can resole a Blake-stitched shoe, it require a specific machine to do so. This requires time, effort, and the know-how to find a cobbler with such a machine. That can also make it more costly that resoling a Goodyear shoe.
- Limited resoleability: Even if you get a Blake-stitched sole replaced, because the sole is attached directly to the upper, the stitching has to be sew into those holes in the leather upon repair.
This can only be done a few times before the holes begin to expand. The stitching isn't as tight, which means the sole can allow water to seep in more easily or cause the sole to detach entirely.
The Goodyear welt is the most intensive method of shoe construction. While it can be done by either machine or by hand, it requires a skill craftsman to make it happen.
Invented by Charles Goodyear, Jr. (son of the rubber tycoon), the process begins with outlining the insole and footbed of the shoe. A leather or canvas "rib" is then cut and attached to the insole.
In the second step, the shoe is lasted. The craftsmen make to a shoe to roughly the shape of a foot. Then, the leather upper is stitched to the insole.
In the third step, the shoe is finally welted. Here, woven thread is used to attach the outsole (leather, rubber, or composite) to the insole. Additionally, a second stitch secures the welt to the outsole.
This is certainly more time-consuming and, thus, more expensive. However, we believe it's the superior method of construction for the following reasons.
- Resoleability: As we discussed above, the Blake stitch can be resoled. Only a few times, however. But, with the Goodyear Welt, you can resole as many times as you like, as the outsole is just attached the welt itself.
- Waterproof: While the Blake stitch offers some water resistance, the additional layers in the Goodyear welting process make a shoe virtually waterproof. Now, we wouldn't suggest wearing a fine dress shoe puddle-jumping in monsoon season, but you get the idea!
- Build over Aeshetics: Blake-stitched soles are often prized for being streamlined and nice to look at. But, there's more a to shoe than aesthetics- construction is paramount. We believe a Goodyear welt offers much more durability, security, and longevity than Blake stitch- and certainly more than cheap cemented construction
To conclude then, we hope this gives you not only an overview of popular footwear construction methods, but also has given you reason to choose Goodyear welted shoes.
Here at Idrese, all of our dress shoes, boots, and custom footwear are made with Goodyear welting, Italian leather uppers, and durable soles.
We do thank you for reading, and hope you'll consider a pair.