It’s hard to resist a pair of leather shoes, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman. Genuine leather is durable, classy, comfortable and usually expensive but worth the price because a well-made pair of leather shoes can last a person for years.
The leather is sold in three forms, these being full grain leather, corrected grain leather and suede. Full grain leather is natural leather made from the finest of all raw materials and this case only the hairs have been taken away while the hide is left clean and natural. There are a variety of forms of leather and these include vegetable tanned leather, alum tanned leather (alum meaning aluminum), rawhide, boiled leather and chrome tanned leather.
A lot of people have argued that only women have a personal relationship with their shoes. I still believe this is a lie. Men also feel that selecting a pair of shoes is also personal.
Selecting a pair of shoes is a personal, if not an intimate experience. We wear our favorite shoes hundreds of times before throwing them out or restoring them. And, if our shoes look good and feel good on our feet, then somehow we feel better than if our shoes are in bad shape. Even sociologists have tried to understand why shoes hold such a strong intrigue for so many people.
Some men understand even the slightest nuance about the quality and appearance of quality leather shoes. But other men really don’t know what to look for when buying a pair of shoes, other than trusting their intuition about how the shoes look on their feet and deciding whether the pair is affordable, or not. This is a list of four things to notice before buying your next pair of shoes.
1. Is the leather acceptable?
This is a particularly difficult subject to address, and only with experience can one discern excellent leather quality from good leather quality. A consumer cannot determine a specific leather quality simply by looking at a shoe, there are some visual cues that can help guide a buying decision. Here are the various types of leather:
Full Grain Leather (Grade 1) has little to no blemishes that are sanded, buffed or chemically treated to hide flaws. It is supple and clean and consistent in color, with almost full surface yield.
Top Grain Leather (Grade 2) is slightly less consistent in color but still has a high surface yield, with the leather appearing smooth and in very good condition, with only a few faults on the surface prominent enough to require some minimal corrections.
Genuine Leather (Grade 3) means the product contains “some level” of leather. It is less consistent in color with a lower surface yield often due to wearing down the surface through sanding and buffing, along with sometimes noticeable stiffness created from surface treatments used to hide imperfections.
Belly Leather (Grade 4) is literally taken from the belly of the animal. It is loose and wrinkly with many aesthetic faults.
Bonded Leather (Ungraded) is made from leftover scraps that are ground and glued together in a way similar to vinyl manufacturing.
2. Is the shoe adequately comfortable?
New shoes can feel tight and rub at the toes and the back of the heels, causing blisters and pain…until at last, the feet and the shoes find a place of conformity and comfort. Custom shoes also hug the feet closely for a more defined aesthetic look, which most of the time leaves practically no extra pockets-of-space for the feet. Ready-to-wear shoes have been known to take less time to break in, since weaker leather may be used and because the shoes are generally roomier in order to deliver a universal sizing scale for each specific shoe size
Thus, while custom shoes are much more rewarding in the long run, ready-to-wear shoes have their advantages when time, money, and more immediate comfort is important
3. Does the shoe have an outstanding appearance or design?
The toe shape, lace or buckle closure, and the waist of the shoe is a great way to analyze which designs you prefer.
When it comes to the toe shape, we would like to plead with all men to avoid shoes with toes that point skyward. Nothing says “cheap” louder than this.
If you recognize a few toe styles that you like, then selecting a pair of shoes becomes easier. Here are examples of the types of shoe toes you can get in men’s leather shoes, standard toe, rounded toe, pointed toe, chiselled toe, puff toe and eagle-claw toe.
Shoes have various types of lace or buckle closure. Note that bespoke shoes typically have a complete lace closure, with no gaps in the leather sections where the laces meet.
The deeper the waist cut, the more sophisticated the shoe—although some men prefer the look and feel of the straighter waist cut.
4. Is the shoe well-constructed?
There are different ways a shoe can be constructed.
Goodyear Welt Construction (machine-assist) — A welt is a thin strip of leather, rubber or plastic that is sewn around the perimeter of the shoe. Goodyear constructed shoes are very sturdy and long-lasting. Goodyear construction is the general method used for a great number of quality ready-to-wear shoes.
Hand-Welted — Almost all work is done through hand stitching with minimal use of glue (with the exception that the only machines used are the ones that do the job better than by hand) and no gemming.
Blake Construction — The outer sole is directly stitched to the insole, making the shoe flexible and lightweight because the shoes do not need an additional intermediate layer connecting the shoe sole to the shoe upper.
Rapid-Blake construction – Rapid-Blake is a synthesis of Goodyear and Blake methods. The stitching technique of Blake is combined with an extra mid-sole.