Let me ask you a question. Do you think it’s smarter to buy a cheap shoe that you’ll throw away in a year or two; one that won’t look so good as it takes on wear and tear from daily use? Or do you think it’s smarter to buy a shoe with good quality leather, stitching that keeps it from falling apart or losing its form, and a shoe that looks and feels better over time? It’s not a hard decision to make, but it does require you to shift your understanding of what exactly to look for when buying a well-made shoe, how they’re made, and what it will cost you.
Most good things in life require an investment, and shoes are no different. The average person might pay from $50-$150 for a pair of dress shoes. I’m sorry to say, but just because these shoes may look good out of the box, you don’t know what you’re missing by not spending a little bit more for a great pair of shoes.
There‘s a good reason to spend some more money upfront—quality of construction and material. Your average Joe will buy a shoe that looks great, but the manufacturing process cut corners and gave it the illusion of an expensive-looking shoe. The sole will be cemented, or glued, rather than stitched. This is fine for sneakers, as they need to be as light as possible for sports and casual activities. The nature of a dress shoe, however, is in its leather material and shape. It’s not going to be the most durable for formal wear, and if you wear it often, you will see the sole start to break down. Once the sole separates, you may as well throw it in the trash.
Blake Stitch Construction
A middle-of-the-road option is the Blake Stitched shoe. Anatoly’s sells its own line of Blake Stitched shoes in-store and on its website here. This is a single-stitch construction where the sole is stitched directly to the upper part of the shoe. It’s flexible, light, and sleek. While built to last, if it ever falls apart, it can be resoled. However, it can be costly, since the resoling process requires a special machine to do it. One more con concerning this is that blake stitch shoes can only be repaired a set number of times (2-3) before they must be tossed out because the machine has to punch new holes through the sole every time you bring it in.
Goodyear Welt Construction
The Goodyear Welted Shoe is going to cost you more than a Blake Stitched shoe, but that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. Both shoe construction methods have their pros and cons. A Goodyear Welt is double-stitched, while the Blake Stitch only has a single stitch that holds the upper and the sole together. You might think two-stitches makes the Goodyear Welt more durable, and you would be right. However, it will be slightly thicker than the Blake Stitch, since there is an extra layer added to it called the “welt.”
A welt is a strip of leather wrapped around the perimeter of the outsole. It has one stitch connecting the welt to the upper and the insole, and another stitch joining the welt to the outsole. Because the welt creates a space within the shoe, the shoe is filled with cork, giving the wearer a comfortable cushion that molds to his foot over time. This double-reinforcement and extra padding makes the price tag on the high-end. It will be more water-resistant, less liable to break, and easily resoled as many times as you want. Keep in mind, it is heavier and less flexible than the Blake Stitched shoe, but it will last you the longest.
Now that we covered the construction of a Blake Stitch vs. a Goodyear Welt, let’s talk about the quality of the shoe’s material. It’s obvious that real leather makes for a good dress shoe, but not all leather is cut from the same part of the animal or prepared the same way. All high quality shoes are made from either full-grain, top-grain, or suede leather, but the animal’s skin can vary. It’s of utmost importance to get a shoe made from either of these three leather grades because anything else will be prone to cracks, requiring more maintenance in the form of waxing and polishing. High quality leather looks good, feels good, and ages well.
Anatoly’s sells calfskin leather Oxfords and Derbys, which make for a softer and finer material than fully-grown cow hide. We also sell our handmade, luxury suede Chelsea Boots. All of our shoes are Blake Stitched and created with quality as our guiding principle.
What to Buy
So, you’ve made the decision to buy either a Blake Stitch or Goodyear Welt shoe. You might be tempted to buy a designer brand shoe from companies like Armani or Gucci. This is unnecessary, expensive, and won’t necessarily make you the owner of a quality pair. The same quality shoes can often be bought at lower prices from less-known brands.
Don’t be fooled by what look like stitches on cheap shoes. These manufacturers attempt to mimic the Blake Stitch or Goodyear Welt by putting decorative stitches that are merely cosmetic. This is deceptive, and if you don’t know how to check for authenticity, you could end up buying a cemented shoe. As a rule of thumb, buy from shops that specialize in mid to high-end wear, or shop online where you can find specs listed for the product. If it’s quality, the shop will want to list its materials and method of construction.
Generally, look to spend $200-$500 for a good pair of Blake Stitch or Goodyear Welt shoes. Of course, prices can always go up from there if you want luxury items, but that’s for the few who can afford them. Quality shoes will also have fine details, patterns, and colors that make them stand out.
Now that you’ve expanded your knowledge well beyond what most people will ever learn about shoes, you can confidently buy the shoes that you actually deserve, rather than those cheap, “fool’s gold” pairs that you only thought were amazing. Once you know what quality is, you can’t go back. Try a pair on, wear it, and you’ll feel the difference.
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