how we make our shoes
OVER 150 years of experience
We have been making shoes continuously since 1866 and we are only in our third factory in all that time. Apart from our sneakers and our more recent sandal collection, all of our shoes are 'Goodyear Welted.'
It takes up to 8 weeks to make our shoes and involves well over 200 individual operations. The 'Goodyear Welted' process was invented in England during the 1800’s and is a time consuming way of making shoes, but it means that the product lasts longer than any other type of shoe.
This shoemaking technique involves many individual processes, but the key benefit is that the shoes are strong and last a long time. It also means that the shoe can be re-soled many times over making them a wonderful investment.
(OR CUTTING) DEPARTMENT
This is where they start to make the top part of the shoe, which we call the upper. The clicking operative is issued with a number of skins of leather, mostly from cows (although leather can be made from almost all animal skins) and with the use of metal strip knives, he/shes cut out various shaped pieces that will eventually make up the upper. This is a very skilled job because the leather is very expensive (the most expensive available in the world) so waste must be kept to a minimum. Leather will have a varying amount of flaws on the surface, such as barbed wire scratches, and these need to be avoided so that they are not used for the upper pieces. To interlock the irregular shaped pieces and avoid the surface flaws, as well as keeping the waste to a minimum, demands a high skill level.
(OR MACHINING) DEPARTMENT
In this department the component pieces are sewn together by highly skilled machinists to produce the completed upper. In the early stages the pieces are sewn together on what are called flat machines. In the latter stages, the upper becomes three-dimensional and the machine used is called a post machine. This is where the sewing surface of the machine is elevated on a post to enable the operative to sew the three dimensional upper. They also complete various edge treatments to the leather to produce a more attractive look to the finished upper. Also, at this stage the eyelets are inserted to accommodate the laces in the finished shoes.
LASTING + MAKING DEPARTMENT
The completed uppers now need to be moulded into a foot shape and for this purpose we use what is called a last. This is a plastic shape that simulates the foot shape which, when removed from the finished shoe can be used continually to produce more shoes. The first operation is to attach what is called an insole to the bottom of the last but this must be only a temporary attachment to allow the last to be removed at the end of the process. In a Goodyear welted shoe the insole will have what is known as a rib attached to its under edge. The upper is stretched and moulded over the last and attached to the insole rib. When this is complete you now have what is known a “lasted shoe.”
The shoe is then left to “sit” on the last for up to a week so that the leather upper has time to mould to the shape of the last; this means that the shoe will keep its shape for many years.
A strip of leather called the welt is sewn onto the shoe through the rib and upper and all the surplus material is trimmed off the seam. The sole is then attached to the welt and the two are stitched together. After this the heel is attached which completes the making of the shoe.
FINISHING / SHOEROOM
The sole edge and heel are then trimmed and buffed to give them a smooth finish. They are then stained, polished and waxed to give them an attractive finish and to ensure the edge is water resistant. The bottom of the sole is often lightly buffed, stained and polished and various types of patterns are marked on the surface to give it a craft finished look. We now have a “finished” shoe and we now need to shoeroom the uppers. Firstly an internal sock is fitted into shoe which can be full, half or quarter and these will usually have the manufacturer’s details or a brand name if applicable. Again, depending on the material used for the uppers they will be cleaned, polished and sprayed, plus laces and any tags that may be attached to the shoes (such as shoe care instructions).
The shoes will then go on to be boxed and packaged ready for dispatching to the customer. The Goodyear welted process is mostly used for mens high-class footwear and is almost exclusively produced in Northamptonshire as far as UK manufacture is concerned
These are the shoes that are made from skin to box in our own original factory in Northamptonshire, England. We have been making shoes here since 1866 and they are quite simply as good as it gets in shoemaking terms.
These include all shoes that aren’t made in our UK factory. They are designed, developed and materials sourced at our factory, but then we work with beautiful handmade factories overseas, so that our collection is available to people who want beautiful shoes but at a more accessible price.