Nothing bites like unfulfilled desire…
Few things occupy as much debating time as the topic of Welted shoes vs Blake constructed. As an Englishman it is perhaps natural that I should find comfort in the former and look down my patrician proboscis at the latter.
To Italian readers this may seem entirely irrational, being quick to point out there are some very well made Blake constructed shoes, and some indifferent Goodyear Welted footwear out there.
Each method has its properties and it’s probably worth explaining these in detail.
The name Welted comes from the long strip of leather – called the welt – that is stitched to the upper and the insole of the shoe. The outsole (sole) is attached separately to the welt.
Because the components are stitched rather than glued together, all the natural properties of the leather are retained, giving improved thermal insulation, durability, flexibility and shape retention, as well as the best possible breathing conditions for feet. It is also possible to re-sole a pair of worn Goodyear Welted shoes or boots by stitching new soles to the existing welts, thereby increasing their life expectancy.
Often used by Italian shoemakers, this method produces a very light, thin-soled shoe. Blake-stitched shoes have an upper, an insole, and a sole but they do not have a welt. The insole and upper are attached to the last. Then the sole is glued on and a single row of machine-stitching is used to stitch through and attach the sole, the insole, and the upper.
Because it requires no stitching on the sole edges outside the shoe, it is possible to get extremely close-cut soles, far more so than with welted shoes. Second, because the shoes have fewer layers in the sole, they tend to be more flexible. However, Blake-stitched shoes are not as durable, water resistant, or as easily repaired as a welted shoe.
I mention all this because a shoe I’d been waiting to buy and long coveted finally came to market this week, forcing the rehearsal of these very arguments in my head.
Some time ago I introduced London’s up and coming shoe designer Mr. Hare, with mixed results. Regardless, few shoes have been as eagerly awaited amongst London’s sartorialists as the Genet tasselled loafer. A mix of calf leather, suede and velvet with a modern last and thoroughly contemporary feel it struck a chord with me from the moment I spied it over 12 months ago.
At £410 they’re not cheap, and bit more than I was expecting. But it isn’t the money alone that has deterred me. I just can’t justify that kind of investment on a Blake shoe, no matter how much I want them.
Each to their own of course; but in my on case without the burden of vulgar wealth, durability is the first demand. That’s not to say I have no place for Blake constructed shoes as demonstrated recently when discussing summer footwear options. But £415 is more than I can reasonably justify – despite heated argument.