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In defence of Blake construction

15 April 2009

blake-constr1
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with Blake-construction shoes (the method used on all traditional Italian models). They are just more delicate and will not last as long as Goodyear-welted shoes.

The same could be said about suits made from super-180s wool or even super-150s. They are lighter, more delicate and possibly more elegant. But they will not last as long as an English tweed suit.

I have explained in depth previously what Blake construction is (see posting here). But in brief, the shoe’s upper is folded over at the edge and sewn directly onto the sole. With Goodyear-welted shoes the upper is sewn onto a new ridge of leather, before attaching that to the sole. Most English shoes and their American heirs use Goodyear welts. They make the shoe harder wearing and tougher. They also make it easier and quicker to resole.

The advantage of Blake construction is that the sole can be cut a lot closer to the upper, leaving less of a lip and making the shoe sleeker. The width of a sole around the upper varies among Goodyear-welted shoes, but none are quite as thin as Blake models.

Blake shoes get a lot of stick on style forums. The biggest reason is that they are not as long-lasting as Goodyear – but this is the case for lots of different types of clothing, from silk socks to summer suits. As Nathan Brown at London shoemaker Lodger comments:

“If you go and buy a lightweight suit from Kiton it’s not going to last as long as a Huntsman shooting jacket – those things last for centuries. But that doesn’t mean the Italian suit isn’t beautiful and it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the money.”

In my opinion, the problem is that style forums can really only discuss practical matters. They are great for recommendations on tailors, news about discounts and explorations of sartorial history. But you can’t discuss taste. It is subjective. A full English brogue on the Tricker’s model is very ugly to some; to others, a pointy Italian slip-on is the height of crass. Neither is right or wrong.

So forum discussions of shoes tend to focus on the quality of construction. They swap experiences on longevity and value for money. On those grounds, Goodyear-welted shoes will usually win. In fact, what you want is a cordovan boot with a triple sole – it’ll last a lifetime.