Our stated mission at Grant Stone is to build the best footwear we are capable, relying on our past experience. It's been proven leather welted footwear, made on a proven last, will provide endless utility, comfort and reliability. Historically, during trying economic times, the "disposable" theory did not exist. A shoe purchase was considered an important investment, therefore expected to last. The ability to repair footwear was essential as "Hand me downs" was a common practice.
A last is the (wood or plastic) shape that the shoe upper is built around.
Creating a last is the most tedious and critical procedure in shoe making as it represents the shoes look, fit and tread. It has been stated many times over the years, “The last comes first”.
The leather pattern which is used on the outside of the shoe. The average leather used can range from 1mm – 2.2mm thick. The particular leather shown above is a vegetable tanned article, approximately 2mm.
The leather being used inside the footwear. A substantial full grain lining near 1mm thick is not only great against the foot, it creates a backer for the upper leather which breaks and creases naturally with the upper leather.
4) Leather Heel Counters
This component is placed at the heel of the shoe between the upper and lining, critical in holding its shape and provide heel stability.
Counters can be made from many types of materials such as compressed paper, plastic and reconstituted leather. As of Spring 2016, we have chosen to cut our counters from leather sole bends. A leather heel counter will retain its shape over time providing superior heel control. If you are without heel control, comfort and support is sacrificed. The likes of premium bespoke boots and shoes have maintained this feature as heel control is imperative.
This is the component inside the shoe which your foot rests on-top of. We use a 3.5mm leather sole bend for our insole. The vegetable tanned leather insole and cork filler combination is a critical component for four reasons:
A) Weight and heat of the foot creates an impression forming to your foot over time shaping your personal orthotic.
B) Cork and leather provides insulation. Whether hot or cold, your foot will have protection.
C) The thick vegetable tanned insole is the backbone of a shoe. All components are stitched and supported indirectly by the insole. Constant torque, twisting and flex challenges the insole strength.
D) A good vegetable tanned insole has minimal amounts of chrome providing a healthier environment. Your foot will be cooler on a hot 90-degree day if encompassed solely by leather. Myth being light weight synthetic, foam lined perforated footwear is cooler on a warm day. Actually, non-leather materials will amplify heat inside the shoe, creating an odor, discomfort and possible fungus.
In a Goodyear-welt shoe, a filler or "shank cover" is needed underneath the insole. We use a cork filler as it gives the insole above a structured bed, yet can be mildly suppressed during everyday wear.
A shank offers support when weight is being transferred from the heel to the ball of the foot. The steel shank is located underneath the insole and spans from the shoe's heel through the arch area. The shank should provide support in the arch, while not hindering the flexibility in the ball area of the shoe.
This component is a strip of resilient, vegetable tanned leather. The welt is what attaches the inner components to the outer soles.
Firstly, it is stitched to the “rib” on the bottom of the insole. The welt “deck” will then be sitting around the outside of the shoe, creating a ledge. With the shoe turned upside down, you can then attach the outer soles. At last, the welt can be stitched to the outer sole, essentially locking the upper and outsole together.
This component is not a necessity. However, it can be used to offer a thicker, sturdier outsole. On average, 5mm is the thickest leather bends offered. Therefor if a thicker outsole is desired, a midsole is then added. We prefer to use leather midsoles to match the outsole.
Our outsoles are cut from vegetable tanned bends which are roughly 5mm thick. Leather soles have been sewn onto shoes for hundreds of years and are still preferred when making high-end dress footwear. While there are many alternatives for outsoles, a leather sole offers a refined look which requires hours of shaping, sanding and finishing. When cared for properly, leather soles can be worn for great lengths of time in all types of climates. Allowing your soles to fully dry naturally may be the most important details in caring for your footwear.
The heel is made up of multiple layers of leather, combined with a dovetail (rubber) insert. Each layer is cut from the leather sole bend, as we do not use leather constitute. This not only ensures a great adhesion but the heel stack appearance will be uniform with the midsole and outsole. Solid brass nails are used on the “toplift” (final, bottom layer of the heel) to further strengthen the stack.
A last is the (wood or plastic) shape that the shoe upper is built around.
Creating a last is the most tedious and critical procedure in shoe making as it represents the shoes look, fit and tread. It has been stated many times over the years, “the last comes first”.
Vegetable tanned leather is made (tanned) using raw materials from various plants, woods, barks, fruits and leaves. This process goes back over 200 years and is most environmentally friendly being Chromium free. Vegetable tanned leathers are offered by smaller specialized boutique tannery’s, being a time consuming no rush process with detail oriented procedures.
During the tanning process this leather's fibers is essentially "stuffed" with fat liquors and waxes that will help keep the article conditioned over time. The leather has a distinct pull-up effect as the oils and waxes in the article move freely when pressure is applied. This also creates unique highs and lows throughout the article. If the leather is left idle, these waxes can rise to the surface which some call "blooming". The wax can be easily restored by wiping down with a cloth or horse hair brush.
Shell Cordovan is a sheath of muscle on the hind part of a horse below the skin. If you flip the hide over exposing the flesh side, the shell is located in both the right and left rump. Shell has an inherently tight hard fiber structure and acts as a protective shield, unique to the equine family. This explains why a wild or pastured horse will turn its hind quarters towards inclement weather and aggressive herd mates.
The vegetable tannage for shell cordovan process takes approximately 6 months from start to completion.
The finished product is easily recognized by its shine and incredibly smooth surface. Taught fibers and firm grain structure vary from hide to hide giving each shell its unique character and appearance. Shades of highs and lows vary depending upon the fibers absorption rate of the natural dyes, fat and bark liquors. When shell is creased, unlike calf, the edges of the fold will be round and smooth. Calfskin leather tends to crease with light wrinkles similar to human skin.
Shell is also a very tough, resilient article impervious to water, salts and weather conditions that are unfavorable for calfskin. Certain Spanish Military boots and protective shields were made from Shell Cordovan and worn during battle.
In the early 20th century, Florsheim was the thrust behind cordovan footwear in the United States. Their Kenmore Imperial plain toe and longwing patterns were a staple in many men’s closets. Other boot companies utilized a form of shell as a mid liner in work boots. Its function was to enhance durability supporting boot shape and overall structure. Barber straps, used to sharpen straight razors, are also made from shell.
Procurement of shell is tedious, time consuming, knowledge and experienced based for both tanneries and shoe manufacturers. Shoe factories must have skilled craftsmen for cutting, lasting and finishing cordovan. Lasting cordovan is a challenge at the factory level and if done incorrectly, can lead to the article splitting. Finishing a shell is hand, eye and technique dependent as it is a very transparent leather offering great depth and character. Most shell tannages are very receptive to burnishing, using quality conditioners, shoe creams and polishes. Shell can be easily maintained at home. A moist cloth, horsehair brush and the occasional conditioner is all you need to keep a nice shine. For more information on care, see our Shoe Care page.