Celebrities love to regale us with their designer fashions as they pose for cameras and salivating admirers along the red carpet before they enter the venue of any prestigious event. Think of the many times that stars have showed off their Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Chou or other famous designer shoe brands on television or for the Paparazzi, who photograph them on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, or wherever they may be. There is no question about it. The fame of a shoe designer and the prestige of their name have an enormous impact on the price of their shoe lines.
Many factors contribute to or justify shoe prices. When it comes to many consumer products, the saying “you get what you pay for” is undeniably true. That isn’t necessarily the case with shoes and boots.
Leather Quality and Variations
When you think of leather quality, you may believe that the best shoe manufacturers get to choose the best pieces of leather. Most shoe factories buy their leather from tanneries. The tannery delivers an assortment of animal hides. Every piece of leather receives a quality grade. The tanneries use a numbering system for which the best hides receive a number one, and the worst quality hides receive a number 3 rating. Surprisingly, the part of the animal from which the hide comes is also important. The animal’s skin is tightest along the spine, so naturally, the hides from that region are nicer than hides that come from the belly where there is much wrinkling.
The Construction Process
The construction process refers to the way by which the different parts of a shoe are put together. There are three ways by which a shoe sole can be attached to the upper portion of the shoe that covers the foot. Leather soled shoes use a technique that the industry refers to as “welting.” On handmade shoes, the welt is the strip of leather that encircles the shoe’s sole. The sole is handsewn to the upper part of the shoe. During the Industrial Revolution, shoe manufacturers developed a faster method by which to weld a sole to the leather part of the shoe. “Blake welting” attaches the sole to the shoe from the inside of the shoe, using a machine to sew the two sections together.
Some shoemakers use several pieces of hide to make a pair of shoes. When a shoemaker uses a single hide to craft a pair of shoes, they may use their best hides. If they only get a few pairs of shoes (if that,) out of their best hides, the cost of making those shoes is higher than the cost would be if used several hide pieces. When the leather supply allows the shoe manufacturer to make many pairs of shoes, they won’t need to charge as much for each pair of shoes because the return on their leather investment is higher.
If you are going to spend a lot of money on a pair of shoes, look at the quality of the leather, the sole material, and the method by which the sole is attached to the leather upper. If the shoe materials are expensive, and the construction method is time-consuming and labor intensive, then the higher price of the shoe is justifiable.
Well-made leather shoes with welted soles can be repaired. When soles are cemented to the upper part of the shoe, it is much harder, if not impossible to repair or replace the sole. The price of a shoe isn’t always a reflection of the quality of the materials or craftsmanship. Next time you buy a pair of boots or shoes, take the time to look at the quality of construction and the materials from which the shoes are made. In the end, if you wind up paying more for a sturdy pair of shoes, you may wind up paying less than you would if you bought a cheap pair that you have to keep replacing.