Why You Should Invest In Goodyear-Welted Shoes
Everything you need to know about the finest footwear techniques.
Savile Row designer and aesthete Sir Hardy Amies was renowned for his witty, opinionated quips on all matters sartorial. “It’s totally impossible to be well-dressed in cheap shoes” is a particularly memorable one-liner – we can safely assume from this, that he wouldn’t be caught dead in anything but the finest footwear. Named after Mr Charles Goodyear Jr, who patented the construction technique in 1871, the Goodyear welt is often cited as a hallmark of well-made shoes. We’re quite sure Sir Hardy would approve, but what makes these pieces worth the initial outlay?
THEY LAST LONGER
A welt is a ribbon of leather that runs around the edge of the upper and is used to hold the component parts of the shoe together. Constructing a Goodyear welt involves running a lockstitch through the upper, insole and welt, while an entirely separate stitch is used to attach the outsole. It’s labour-intensive, but this double-stitch reinforcement makes the shoe incredibly resilient and ensures the threads will never unravel. As the welt forms an intermediary layer between the outsole and insole, a cobbler can easily remove and replace worn soles, so you won’t need to write-off your favourite brogues as landfill for years to come. It also acts as a waterproof barrier – particularly useful for negotiating wintery, puddle-strewn streets. Goodyear-welted shoes do feel a tad stiff at first and require longer to break in, but they’ll comfortably mould to your feet with wear. Our tip for making the process a little bit easier? Rub a beeswax candle on the inside top edge of the shoe that rests against the back of your heel to soften the leather and eliminate the risk of blisters. Trust us, this actually works.
THEY’RE WORN BY MEN OF NOTE
From silver-screen style icons Messrs Cary Grant and Montgomery Clift, to model and clothes horse Mr David Gandy, the list of men of note who favour Goodyear-welted shoes speaks for itself. HRH Prince Charles is renowned for his exacting standards of dress and is rather partial to a pair of John Lobb Oxfords. He had his first pair made up by the illustrious label in 1971, and it’s believed he still wears them today – further proof of the welt’s enduring construction. Our conclusion? If they’re good enough for royalty and Hollywood leading men, they’re good enough for us mere mortals.
THEY’LL NEVER GO OUT OF STYLE
We all know that style can be a fickle master – one minute you’re looking all fine and dandy, but a few years down the line, the photographic evidence that immortalises your “jaunty hat phase” incites a distinct feeling of style faux-pas. The fact that the Goodyear welt is usually applied to traditional footwear shapes that were developed in the mid-19th century, ensures a truly ageless quality. The Oxford, Derby and brogue are the most typical designs with Goodyear-welted soles and will never fall out of favour. Just make sure you give them a good coat of conditioning leather cream each month and you won’t put a foot wrong.
THEY’RE PATRIOTIC (IF YOU’RE BRITISH)
Despite the fact that Goodyear-welted shoes are made all over the world, Britain – and more specifically Northampton – remains the undisputed capital of the craft. The town has its historic cattle market to thank for its 900-year-old cordwaining industry, which provided a ready supply of fine leather for the local workshops. Leading brands that still manufacture in Northamptonshire today include Grenson, Cheaney, Edward Green, Church’s, Tricker’s and Gaziano & Girling. So, buy British and you’ll be supporting the UK’s sartorial heritage, as well as your feet.