Sid: Thanks, Tom. This is a great question since we like to casually reference “Goodyear welted” a lot.
On the surface, the answer is super simple – it means they are resoleable. Which, to us, is important because we want our shoes to last a really long time. Resoling your shoes is essentially the same as replacing the tires on your car. When you wear your tires down, you don't get a new car... you install new tires, get them balanced & re-aligned, and you're good to go for a few more years. Then you repeat the process.
A Goodyear welted shoe gives you that exact same option. Don't throw the shoe away, just get new tires (soles) for them. And it is sort of a nice coincidence that the machine used for Goodyear welting was invented by Charles Goodyear Jr., the son of the Goodyear Tire namesake.
JB: What does Goodyear Welted actually mean, construction-wise?
Sid: The "welt" is an additional strip of leather that goes around the perimeter and connects the leather upper with the lower sole. It was invented for a cobbler to add ease to replace a worn-out sole. And an added value is that the leather welt provides more support, plus a layer of water repellency and adds some insulation (helpful for the winter months) and helps the breathability.
The other thing I love about the construction is that it is handmade (it takes 6 days to make one shoe), and the materials are all natural – leather, cork, thread, wood, canvas. So there is no cement or glue used in this type of construction. The benefit is that the shoe that will mold to your foot over time – which is more comfortable and is better for your feet through the years. It’s basically the shoe equivalent of fully-canvassed tailored clothing.
JB: How many shoes do we carry are Goodyear welted?
Sid: Most of our dress shoes are Goodyear welted... cap toes, double monks, two-eyelet Gibsons, penny loafers and our Italian tassel loafers. We do the same thing with most of our boots – Chelseas, derbies and chukkas.
JB: What about other types of construction?
Sid: Shoes that aren't Goodyear welted have either a cement or Blake stitch construction. The GYW is the gold standard, but these methods have their place, too. Those are faster and less involved, and you'll typically see them on shoes that are lighter and more casual, like sneakers, moccasins or unlined loafers.
JB: When you opened the shop, did you know you wanted to have Goodyear welted shoes?
Sid: Yes – I was drawn to them because traditionally that was the hallmark of better-made shoes. The first pair of shoes that I technically bought for myself (while not under my parents’ roof) was a pair of English, bench-made Goodyear Welted shoes. And I paid a half-week's salary.
JB: How long did you keep them?
Sid: I still have them! So that was almost 40 years ago. Cost per wear on those are verygood... and I wore the dog out of 'em. (Including on my second date with Ann.) There's basically only one disadvantage of a Goodyear Welt. It's not inexpensive upfront. But, the mileage you get out of it far exceeds the cost.
JB: How long will soles typically last?
Sid: For most of my shoes in "regular rotation," the soles last 5 years or so. But each guy is going to be different. And you have to factor in a lot of things: the city you live in, how often you wear them, how much you're walking, is it cement or asphalt, what's the weather like? If you're in New York and you only have one pair of shoes and you wear them 365 days a year – those are going to need be resoled way before the guy who only brings his dress shoes out for weddings and board meetings. And how you take care of them helps, too. Keep the uppers well moisturized, polished, and use cedar shoe trees. All very important.
JB: So if someone wants to resole their shoes, what's the process?
Sid: You can bring them to us, and we'll take care of getting them fixed for you. If you don't live close to one of our shops, the place we use in New York is Eddie's at 230 Park Ave, and the place where we live in Atlanta is Ansley Shoe Repair at 1579 Monroe Dr. Give either one a call, they're the best in the biz.
JB: Great… I think that does it. Anything else?
Sid: Hopefully that answers your question, Tom… if nothing else, just start thinking about shoes the way you think about your tires. You want to be vigilant about our upkeep. Because when they’re kept up, you get better mileage, better performance, and a more comfortable ride. And when the time comes, if you get them resoled (by either the original maker or a capable cobbler,) it's as close as they can get to being brand new again.