Top 3 Reasons to Buy and Maintain Quality Footwear March 03 2015

There are tons of experts out there to persuade you to purchase high quality, blake or goodyear constructed footwear.  Sure, it costs more than the alternative (cheap, glued construction shoes), but what does it really get you beyond durability and resole-ability?  Because while it's nice to consider having the same pair of shoes for 20 years, the math breaks down when you think about how much fun it is to buy and wear new stuff every couple of years.  

The problem is, these cheaper shoes will buy you far less comfort, style and materials from the get go.  In our opinion, these 3 items are huge considerations when buying a new pair of shoes or boots, and should be near the top of the list when making a decision.  So let's forget about wearing our shoes through 2050 for a minute and look at some of the great features a few more bucks can buy you today--all great features worth maintaining with Petri Polish products, of course!

Oh yeah, and if you don't already know, it's worth your while to learn a bit about construction methods and such before jumping into the fun stuff here.  Check out our friends at Urban Beardsman for a great piece on starting out in the world of heritage boots.  Then pop over to The Silentist for a master's course.  Finally, a quick view of the Alden Factory in action should round out your knowledge for the time being.

1)  Leather:

Quality shoes are virtually always going to feature some sort of full grain leather uppers (uppers are pretty much everything but the sole).  Full grain leather is most easily described for what it isn't.  It isn't corrected grain leather, of which the most extreme example is patent leather (leather woven with plastic fibers...yuck).  Most leather out there does not feature the flawless surface required for use in a top quality shoe.  So modern manufacturing techniques are used to artificially create this flawless surface.  Problem is, once your start adding "artificial" to leather you lose the very essence of the material: no more beautiful patina, no more lustrous shine. 

How can you be sure what you're looking at is full grain?  For starters, high quality shoemakers are proud of the material they use, and will usually state exactly what the leather is somewhere on the shoe or its packaging.  If that fails, you can get a pretty good idea by touching, feeling, smelling and trusting your instincts.  One of the greatest parts of full grain leather is the visceral experience it offers, so use your senses to pick the footwear that speaks to you.  

two gorgeous examples of full grain leather.  Notice the luster, depth of shine, and lack of imperfections.  from skoaktiebolaget.se

2)  Comfort:

High quality shoes are shaped over a piece of wood called a last.  The last holds the place of the foot and makes construction of different shoes and sizes and highly repeatable process with little in the way of variation.  This time-tested method ensures that your shoes will fit as designed and cradle your feet for years just as they did on day one.

Stitched construction also allows for breathability while blocking moisture from entering shoes.  The ramifications on comfort are obvious and profound.

3)  Design:

Shoemakers working the old fashioned way have perfected their craft and their particular style.  They know how to incorporate interesting materials while maintaining the heart of their creations, and they know how to tweak existing lasts to create striking silhouettes in keeping with the day's trends.  Below, we have a beautifully crafted Viberg boot in Natural Chromexcel Roughout.  Chromexcel is a chromium tanned pull-up leather that has interesting stretching tendencies and is not the easiest leather to work with for a bookmaker.  Everything on this particular makeup has been chosen with Viberg's expertise of this leather and their own boots, from the unstructured toe to the striking contrast stitching.  Simply put, you will never find this gorgeous leather in a cheap boot.  Similarly, the geniuses at Enzo Bonafe create an amazing shape with their Norwegian-welted wingtip derbies.  Either of these works of art will last for decades and never fall out of fashion.

High quality footwear with a solid care regimen is a recipe for sartorial success!  Stay shiny everyone.