Dress shoes can be expensive. That’s why it’s important that you know how to identify quality dress shoes from shoes that are mediocre. Today, you’ll be learning about what makes dress shoes worth the money as well as how to tell if you’re shoes are high-grade. First, we’ll look at materials. Second, we’ll look at construction.
Quality Dress Shoes are made of many components. The most important are the upper, stitching, inner lining, welt, and out sole. Let’s start with the upper. You want to know 1) what animal does it come from and 2) what section of the hide is it from.
- Cowhide is the standard; it does everything well, is easy to maintain, and is cheaper than other materials. Another common material is calfskin; it is more expensive than cowhide, it is shinier, smoother, and softer. Other exotic materials have similar properties but are harder to maintain. For more on exotic materials, check https://bagntell.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/leather-buying-guide/
- When you take the hide of an animal, the hide is thick. The skin is on the topside and the fibers that would be touching the meat are on the underside. When you shave the underside off you get the best cut: Full Grain Leather. The shavings from the underside are called suede or genuine leather: the worst cut. Sometimes the skin has flaws in which case the topside is shaved off producing the second best quality: Top Grain Leather.
Leather uppers are superior to artificial materials because they conform to your feet over time making them more comfortable. They also breathe your sweat out making them last longer. It is a strong and soft material. They look and smell better, too!
Onto the inner lining, it is best for it to be made of leather. If not, there is no point to the upper being made of leather. An artificial material in the lining will not allow the upper to mold, breathe, and flex like supple leather is supposed to.
The outer sole is a different case. While leather is the classic choice, rubber soles have their purpose when the weather conditions are rainy or snowy. Rubber soles also last longer. Leather soles are more comfortable, organic, classy and are usually thinner so they look better. Quality dress shoes are mainly made by 100% leather.
Let’s start with the mold of the shoe. Quality shoes are constructed on lasts. Lasts are foot-shaped objects that the upper is placed on. The upper is then stretched onto it and held together with nails until it takes the shape of the last. Call or email the maker of your shoes to see if they use lasts.
Next, the lining should be stitched onto the upper and not merely glued on. Look for stitching on the inside. Keep in mind, sometimes a hidden stitch is used.
Most importantly, check to see if the shoe has a welt. You’ll see two pieces stitched together. Goodyear welted construction offers superior durability, because it can be repaired. It also offers more water resistance. It is usually the most costly build.
Blake stitching is another great method. It offers flexibility and sleekness at the cost of water resistance and cheaper repairs. They are usually a little more expensive to repair than Goodyear welted shoes. On the other hand, Blake stitched shoes are cheaper than Goodyear welted shoes.
Finally, the only thing glued shoes have going for them is that they’re cheap!
Oh, one more thing. It helps if they are handcrafted. There will be more on handcrafted vs. machine-made shoes on the next blog. Stay Tuned!