Oxford Balmoral

Leather Shoes and Shoe Quality: 5 Keys to Quality Dress Shoes

Shoe quality...it's all about leather shoes. If you have ever found a pair of mens shoes that fit perfectly, aged gracefully and reconstructed brilliantly then you will understand the value of being able to identify quality mens shoes. Leather shoes are such an essential and important part of a gentleman's wardrobe that it pays to invest wisely both in the shoe and in the knowledge of shoe quality.

It has been stated that we spend a third of our lives in bed. what are we doing when we're not in bed? Well, if you're a professional man your probably spending at another 1/3 of your life in your dress shoes. Be sure your purchasing high quality mens shoes - here's how to spot shoe quality

  1. Leather Uppers

  2. Leather uppers on quality shoes should be consistent in grain, smooth, soft and supple to the touch yet firm in structure. There should not be any notable blemishes and the coloration should not appear unnatural. Although you will not be able to perceive this characteristic until the shoe has aged some, fine leather shoes will develop character over time called patina.

    If well cared for (cleaned, polished, alternated, shoe trees, shoe horn etc) then the shoe develops natural color distinctions and creasing/wrinkling that is common with patina and leather "character". This will be evidence of a quality leather shoe but will only be noticed over time. Until then, look for the characteristics noted above combined with the ones listed below and you will surely be able to identify a quality mens dress shoe.

  3. Leather Soles

  4. Quality mens dress shoes have leather soles. Although leather soles will wear, they can be replaced if they are stitched leather soles. Higher quality leather shoes will use the time honored construction traditions known as Goodyear welted construction. This means that the welt is stitched to the insole and leather upper and the leather sole is stitched to the welt. This construction method allows for a quality shoes to be reconstructed by either an artisan or the manufacturer. Refurbishment in this manner will return the shoe close to its original condition while maintaining the contours and nuances of the wearer's foot for a perfect fit with near new shoe appearance.

    Shoe quality found in leather soles are often the result of oak bark tanning which allows for Oak tree tannins to enter the cowhide from flakes of oak bark combined with cowhides in the natural tanning process. This treatment process takes months and sometimes a year or longer and does not discolor the leather. Other tree barks chestnut or acorn have been known to perform well in shoe sole tanning. Due to the ubiquity of oak and lack thereof for chestnut trees, it is more common to see high quality leather soles that are natural in color.

  5. Leather Heel

  6. The heels of quality mens dress shoes are often stacked leather with the leather layers fastened with brass tacks. It is common that leather heals will have partial rubber or full rubber top-lift. The partial rubber top-lift is generally found at the rear of the heel. This rubber surface provides traction and wear protection but does not detract from shoe quality.

    A good heel will be well proportioned to with the shoe itself. Stay away from a shoe with over or undersized heels and welts, this disrupts shoe balance, stability and potentially creates uneven wear. It's also notable that over or under sized heels disrupt the symmetrical look of the shoe and it has been proven that symmetry is a major criteria in a human's perception of beauty.

  7. Stitching

  8. It is Important to inspect stitching. See that there are no visible ends, fraying or poorly secured seams. Combinations of double stitching and visibly higher gauge stitches should be notable throughout the shoe. Quality mens shoes will have higher gage stitches fastening the sole to the welt or where there are major seams in the upper.

    Double stitching with finer threads should be found throughout the rest of the shoe and particularly at stress points or possible separation points in the leather.

    As mentioned previously, mens dress shoes of quality construction will have stitched on leather soles so look for some evidence that the soles have been stitched on and not glued or cemented.

  9. Leather Lining

  10. Higher quality mens dress shoes will have full leather linings. A good leather shoe is constructed completely of leather components and therefore should yield a leather lining throughout the inner shoe. Leather linings are important because leather will breathe, dry and recover better than synthetic materials and resist aging, odors and bacteria. Leather linings are far more capable of surviving a gentleman's foot moisture throughout the day and will provide him years of service if properly cared for.

Summary: How to spot shoe quality in mens dress shoes

  1. Observe the leather uppers - they should be soft and supple to the touch but durable in composition
  2. Turn the shoe over - you should see leather soles stitched to the welt
  3. Heel - the heel should be stacked leather and may have brass tacks fastening the layers together
  4. Stitches - Inspect the stitchers, you should see heavier gauge stitches at the primary seams and where the sole stitches to the welt. You should also see double stitching elsewhere throughout the shoe.
  5. Lining - Look inside, you should not find any other material than leather with few visible seams and stitching. What seams and stitching you do see should be fine and nearly indiscernible.
  6. « Leave Leather Shoes & go Home


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