Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 24 February 2012

The Customer Is Always Right (Sticker Soles)

Greetings again to all of you shoe people. Makers, menders, and those of you who aspire. And if you don't fit into one of those categories, greetings to you too.

Firstly a big thank you to Finch's Quarterly Review (a very excellent read) for including us in their piece on looking after your shoes. The advice was very sound and well worth adhering to. The layout was cool too.

Another week another small shoemaking story.

They say that the customer is always right. Controversial.

I must say that this has always struck me as lunacy. What I think it means is that they get what they want. Which is a wholly different thing.

Just take these rather lovely Derby shoes. Unremarkable in many ways, but appealing in their own special way.

Burgundy Horween cordovan which I like very much - thick yet supple, it lasts beautifully and has a unique finish all its own.

Solid and unremarkable, but very wearable.

5/16" sole and bevelled waist, brown finish on the edges. So far so good.

Traced and punched toe cap (it's one piece of leather, cap is false).

Unusual dog ear back seam with extended trace stitching. A small detail that gives a bespoke shoe some class.

So what could go wrong you ask?

Plenty. Take a look at this.

A sticker sole right to the heel breast. Doesn't that look nice?

No, not really.

Isn't it practical though?

No, not really

I can fully see why someone would ask for a leather sole and then put a sticker sole on the forepart. You get part of the breathability benefits of the leather sole, but none of the slipping issues.

What I don't understand is having it all the way to the heel breast. You might as well have a synthetic sole and be done.

The problem is sticking the sole on well. We use very strong contact adhesive and leave it a good while. Then revive it with heat so that the bond is very strong. But even with this, it will begin to unstick from the sole over time. It is inevitable with the flexion of the foot inside the shoe. This creates a lot of stress on the glue.

The problem is made even worse by having a bevelled waist because you have to make a paper pattern to fit the waist exactly which is not easy and then you have to bevel the sticker sole too. Again this is not easy and does not look good.

But the customer was adamant. He has had this before and the sole comes away and he is constantly having repairs to it. And as he lives in Russia, we cannot help with this.

When we do a sticker sole, we overcome the unsticking issue by putting in metal tacks. These add durability and we think they give a great retro look to the sole.

I think this actually looks pretty good. And the waist is still breathable.

But at the end of the day, you have to do what the customer wants. After all, they are paying for a service and it is our duty as honest shoemakers to give them that service - even if we don't agree with them. The customer is always right!

And don't worry about him reading this. We had this discussion at the time and I said his punishment would be a blog post all about it. He laughed and said he felt honoured to be featured. This one's for you Valeriy!

Until next week, happy shoemaking!