Are leather shoes a worthy investment?

There are things you should skimp on and there are things you shouldn’t. Turns out, a good pair of leather shoes is one of those things that justify paying a handsome amount for.

The foot, as we know it, is an organ of locomotion. For long, it is the mode of transport that we are born with, and it brings us closer to places we have never been to or were meant to be. Perhaps it is in this spirit of exploration that we celebrate the shoes we wear by forking out money for the pair with the most pleasing aesthetics.

After all, beyond its protective qualities, the shoes we wear are very much clear indicators of our personality and having a decent pair in our wardrobe is an investment that goes a long way.

“Many customers want the world, but they are not prepared or willing to pay for the world,” says Singaporean bespoke shoemaker, Joshua Leong. “Obviously, not everyone has the budget to make a bespoke pair of shoes which may go up to four figures. You need to be realistic.”

Here, he explains the reasons why some leather shoes are essentially better.

Quality of Leather – Full Grain Leather

There is a variety of leather that shoemakers can utilise to construct a pair of shoe. And obviously, they range in quality(and hence prices). A good pair of leather shoes only uses the best quality of leather – full grain leather.

Photo by leathertrade.com

Full-grain leather often refers to hides that have never been coated to hide its blemishes. For the uninitiated, they are made from the top layer of skin that protects the animal from the environment and predators. In other words, they are durable and possess water-resistance quality as well. With time, a shiny layer of patina will also be visible too.

Full grain leather. Photo by LVANG.

An exceptional property a good quality leather has is its ability to allow your feet to breathe. “A lot of other brands use leather only on the shoe’s exterior, while they use canvas or synthetic lining for other sections. This defeats the purpose because if you use the synthetic lining, your skin is going to be in contact with the shoe. And your feet will start to sweat. It’s not a very nice feeling to have.”

Leather with synthetic lining. Photo by Hangzhou Sylvia.

Construct

How your sole is attached to the upper section of the shoe has a part to play in shaping the price tag too.  Goodyear welting, cementing and blake stitching are some types of shoe construction shoe artisans utilise. A good pair of leather shoes often utilises Goodyear welting to piece the shoes together.

Goodyear Welting Construction. Photo by Heirloom.

Not only is Goodyear welting one of the oldest techniques practised by craftsmen, it is also one of the most laborious methods too. And this ultimately translates to a heftier price tag. The plus side is, shoes that have been meticulously pieced together by this method can expect stronger durability, and easier and less damaging resoling (which helps extend the shoe’s lifespan too).

Handcrafted by Artisan shoemakers in the Marche region, Italy. Photo by Heirloom.

Keep a lookout on the consistency of between the spacing of the stitching, and bear in mind that a softer and flexible pair of shoes may well but comfortable but it doesn’t really last long.

Novelty of Experience

Shoemaking (and any bespoke tailoring services) is a process that helps you find out more about yourself. Each visit to a bespoke shoemaker is often an educational and rewarding experience involving multiple fittings.

It goes beyond just picking the leather, colour of the leather, and type of shoes you envision yourself wearing. At its core, it is a journey of coming to terms with the comfort you desire while attaining a renewed sense of confidence wearing the new product. And this novelty is one well-worth its pennies.

Collection of shoes by Seamless Bespoke.

Shoemakers, like Joshua, may take up to 100 man-hours to construct, handwelt and hand-piece a pair of leather shoes together. Customers, he says, often enter the premises with little knowledge. So, begins his quest to change such stoic mentality by educating one customer at a time.

“I am very particular with how my staff interacts with customers. We never discourage customers to ask the relevant questions and we always make sure to have the correct answers to give to them,” he says. “It’s all about the experience.”

Today, the 33-year-old entrepreneur runs three separate shoemaking businesses: “Josh Leong Shoes” which offers bespoke shoemaking services, “Heirloom” which offers an eclectic selection of Italy-made leather sneakers, and “Palola” which offers exquisite leather ballet flats for the ladies. Learn more about his entrepreneur journey.

Words by Sng Ler Jun