For those who are into shoes, there is no questioning which construction method is the best in terms of durability and size scalability. But each method was developed for a specific reason and depending on the purpose of the shoe, each purpose has a specific method which is best suited for that purpose.
I would first like to state that we are not favoring or discrediting a specific construction method. We at Black Wing utilize the Blake and Blake Rapid method depending on the style and build that is required for the shoe. I will explain later why we opted for this instead of the highly appreciated Goodyear method.
- Cemented construction – this method is pretty straightforward, the uppers are lasted then glued onto the outsole. There will be no stitching or additional reinforcements involved after the upper and the outsole have been glued together. This is typically used for mass production shoes using synthetic materials like rubber shoes and sneakers.This is the cheapest method since it requires no additional machinery but is also the least durable. Once moisture and water reach the adhesive layer the shoe will soon fall apart after. Usually implemented when using PU or EVA based outsoles.
- Blake construction -this method is popular among quality production and craft shoes. This method was born from the industrial revolution and requires a machine to implement this construction method. After lasting and the attachment of the outsole, the upper and insole is directly machine stitched onto the outsole creating a sturdy but flexible bond. This kind of construction allows the outsole to be on the same width as the upper, creating a very sleek silhouette which can only be effectively implemented with this method. Resoling is not as hard as other people say. It might require a little more work due to the relasting but as with any reconditioning process, great care and effort have to be given to restore the pair properly.
- Blake Rapid construction – a method which other people liken to the Goodyear but more straigthforward and with less “finesse” in the construction. Instead of being directly stitch onto the outsole, the upper is stitched onto a leather midsole from the inside creating the first layer. The midsole , which is slightly wider than the upper/insole, will then act as the welt and will be stitched onto the outsole. This creates a more water resistant construction whilst keeping it mechanized, making it ideal for faster production lines. The easiest to resole in my opinion, especially if instead of machine stitching the midsole and the outsole, a manual stitch is applied.
- Goodyear Welt construction – the method highly praised by shoe lovers. This construction requires the most skill and time to create. A more refined method than the Blake Rapid, the Goodyear Welt was designed to create a resoleable construction while keeping a highly water resistant shoe. In this method, the upper is sewn onto a leather welt after it is lasted. A cork midsole is placed within the cavity created by attaching the welt to act as a midsole which will conform to the owners instep over time. The outsole is then attached then stitched onto the welt, creating a watertight seal. Upon resoling, the outsole, midsole and the welt are replaced by simply taking apart the stitches and replacing the old components with new ones. This method makes the shoes really sturdy and stiff and would require more breaking in before the shoes become more comfortable to the wearer.
Each construction method was developed with a purpose. The method which suits the makers and wearers purpose would then be the most appropriate. The cemented construction was primarily developed to cater to mass production and great flexibility. Without any stitches, components are easily grafted together and without a stitch bracing the upper and the outsole, creates for a very flexible pair. The cemented construction is best used on sports shoes. Blake was developed to enhance the durability and bond between the upper and the outsole. It is primarily used by the Italian shoe makers since the purpose is to have a sleek pair with enough strength to fulfill its purpose, merging function with aesthetics. It also allows for more avant gard designs since pointed tips will no longer be a problem. Goodyear Welt is more of a product of British design. The weather in Britain influenced the specifications of the build greatly since it called for a more water resistant shoe while being able to recraft them easily especially since leather shoes are pretty much used all the time. They they needed to make the shoes sturdier and more resistant to breaking and gave more emphasis on function rather than aesthetics. But don’t get me wrong, Goodyear welted shoes are beautiful shoes as long as crafted properly.
We at Black Wing chose to go with Blake and Blake Rapid for 3 reasons. First is time; we wanted to utilize a more time efficient method of construction since we are also developing new patterns almost every week. Once lasted and soled, the shoes are quickly sent to the “alamodahan” which is a shop which provides the stitching service using a Blake sewing machine. Second is flexibility and comfort for the wearer; Blake stitched shoes are generally more flexible and would require less of a break in period than a standard Goodyear welted pair. We do cover the stitches inside so unlike the traditional Blake constructed shoes wherein the insoles are sewn with the whole shoe, it is more comfortable for the wearer thus giving them an extra value in the form of comfort. Third is accessibility; one of the original goals of Black Wing is to prove that with the available materials and resources in our hometown, we can make quality shoes which can be compared to the imported brands. This would require that the processes that we will use should be a readily available to the common shoemaker in Marikina at the least cost. While we can also do Goodyear Welt, it does not fit into the goals of Black Wing. Even now, as we plan for our Prestige line, I am more inclined to use a customized Blake Rapid method rather than the Goodyear Welted method. In terms of scalability, I think the Blake and Blake Rapid are more suited for our purposes here in the Philippines.
As I keep on saying, the true beauty of an object can only be appreciated once it fulfills its purpose. Now in terms of function of the Goodyear Welted shoes, for the price point that most brands are asking for it, would a regular person really put it to the test by wearing the shoe out in the rain and mud as a daily beater? I know I wouldn’t.
We at Black Wing want to be more efficient with our shoes and we want our shoes to fulfill their role which is to provide our clients with utility and aesthetics while maintaining a level of quality which pays respect to our craft. Maybe in time we will make Goodyear Welted shoes especially in our Prestige line. I have been studying the various pros and cons to the different methods and right now, aside from the snobbery afforded by the Goodyear construction, I am leaning towards Blake Rapid as a more effective and efficient method for the purposes of our clients for their shoes.