Many of us look at a pair of leather shoes in a shop and are happy if we can decipher whether the shoes are natural leather or made from some man-made alternative. But leather quality varies hugely and the specialist leather buyers at Trickers, Sanders and Loakes spend a lifetime specializing in this single area of expertise. A specialism which is absolutely fundamental to the integrity of the finished shoe. And the cost of the leather used can make a colossal difference to the high street price of the finished shoe.
There are several elements which will determine the cost and quality of the leather used in shoe leather:
1 Labour rates. These can vary hugely between geographic areas of manufacture. In recent years Loake established a factory in India to make some of their shoes at the cheaper end of the Loake catalogue. However the best craftsmen in the area will always be able to command a premium.
2 The best craftsmen in the world will be unable to make a first class pair of shoes from third class leather.
3 The quality of the animal. An animal bred to go to the abattoir as soon as possible will be inferior to an older animal. The older an animal gets then the denser will its hide become. Also an overweight animal will produce a fatty hide which when processed will become spongy and porous and so negatively affect its strength and may prove stretchy and prone to tearing.
4 The way in which the hide is processed. We shall look at this in detail in next week’s blog.
5 The parts of the hide used. The thickest hide leather is along the back of the beast and is called butt leather and is both uniform and strong. The leather then gets thinner towards the belly. Poorer belly leather is liable to stretching and wrinkling. Shoulder leather can be as strong as butt leather but can be wrinkly and unattractive.
One thing that the quality English shoe makers of Trickers, Sanders and Loake have in common is a wish that you will recommend their shoes to your friends and that you will return in the future to buy more of their shoes. This will only happen if you have been pleased with your purchase and have found that the shoes retain their original looks and have lasted whilst remaining a delight to wear. Men often refer to their favourite shoes as old friends and a better compliment cannot be made to the shoemaker.