In the world of men's shoes, there are shoes, and then there are Goodyear welted shoes. The Goodyear welt construction method requires a well-trained shoemaker who values patience and accuracy. Hundreds of years of experience and ingenuity in shoemaking have gone into creating the Goodyear welted shoe. And despite advances in production, hundreds of steps are still required to produce just one pair. The result, however, is a leather shoe that is more durable, more comfortable, and more desired than any other shoe you will likely come across.
In Australia, 99% of shoes you will find on High Street, and even in department stores, are made using cement construction. With this method, the leather upper is glued directly on to the outsole. It is a cheap, quick, and effective process that is used to mass-produce footwear. The major disadvantage with cement is that once the sole gets worn down it is difficult to resole. As with all mass-produced products, longevity does not feature strongly with cemented shoes.
Welted footwear, on the other hand, is known to last for decades and can be resoled without compromising the integrity of the shoe. The welt refers to a narrow strip of leather that is sewn separately to the upper and the sole. The presence of the welt improves resistance to the elements and helps protect the shoe from being damaged by water seeping into the insole. Furthermore, the welt creates a cavity between the insole and midsole, which is filled with a cork layer that moulds to the wearer's feet, providing unparalleled comfort once the shoes are broken in.
Prior to the 1860s, shoemaking was done entirely by hand. Costly, time-consuming, and inefficient, this all changed when Charles Goodyear Jr developed a modified sewing machine that used a curved needle and awl to sew the welt onto shoes without needing to penetrate the insole. The Goodyear Welt Construction method became the standard in shoemaking and enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity through to the mid-20th century.
Advances in shoe manufacturing, however, made shoes more accessible, affordable, and sadly, disposable. Glue replaced stitches. Rubber replaced cork. By the turn of the 21st century, Goodyear Welted footwear was all but forgotten.
Thankfully, within the last decade Goodyear Welt Construction has experienced a renaissance of sorts. There are several possible reasons for this: The digitilisation of almost everything; rejection of fast fashion; sustainability through quality; a longing for the old crafts; simple economics, i.e. cost-per-wear. The why’s are up for debate. The logic behind them is universal.
Men's boots and shoes constructed via the Goodyear welt method are considered superior and are known to last for decades. This is because almost any component can be replaced, and the process can be repeated many times over. The realisation of just how expensive "cheaper" shoes are over time, and how many of them end up in landfill every year, is startling and completely avoidable.
Comfort is another understated benefit. The granulated cork filler cushions one's stride and moulds to one's feet over time. A variety of different midsoles and outsoles can be attached or replaced to suit your preference, such as a closed-channel leather outsole, or Dainite studded rubber outsole.
For those looking to add a pair of Goodyear Welted shoes (or boots) to your collection, The Thomas George Collection meets you with a triumphant ‘yes’. Goodyear Welted footwear can do so much. Durable. Comfortable. Virtually waterproof. With only 1% of the population wearing them, they aren’t going to turn heads at first blush, but that understatement is also its greatest strength. Invest in Goodyear Welted footwear – the initiated will know.