All Grenson shoes are “Goodyear Welted”, a process invented in the 1800’s in England that is a time consuming way of making shoes, but means that the product lasts longer than any other type of shoes. It also means that the shoe can be re-soled many times over making them a wonderful investment.
There are 4 main departments connected with manufacturing within a footwear company and the components follow a progressive route through each of these departments to produce the finished shoes. The departments are, Clicking, Closing, Lasting/ Making, Finishing/ Shoe Room. From start to finish will take around 3 weeks to make a top quality Goodyear welted shoe whereas in cheaper shoe production the rule of thumb is often that if it cannot be made in 5 minutes it won't be profitable!
Clicking (or cutting) dept
This is where they start to make the top part of the shoe, which we call the upper. The clicking operative is issued with a number of skins of leather, mostly from cows, although leather can be made from almost all animal skins and with the use of metal strip knives he/she cut out various shaped pieces that will eventually make up the upper.
This is a very skilled job because the leather is very expensive (the most expensive available in the World) so waste must be kept to a minimum. Leather will have varying amounts of flaws on the surface such as barbed wire scratches and these need to be avoided, so that they are not used for the upper pieces.
To interlock the irregular shaped pieces and avoid the surface flaws, keeping the waste to a minimum demands high skill levels.
Closing (or machining) dept
In this department the component pieces are sewn together by highly skilled machinists to produce the completed upper. In the early stages the pieces are sewn together on what are called flat machines. In the latter stages the upper becomes three-dimensional and the machine used is called a post machine.
This is where the sewing surface of the machine is elevated on a post to enable the operative to sew the three dimensional upper. They also complete various edge treatments to the leather to produce a more attractive look to the finished upper. Also, at this stage the eyelets are inserted to accommodate the laces in the finished shoes.
Lasting and Making dept
The completed uppers now need to be moulded into a foot shape and for this purpose we use what is called a last. This is a plastic shape that simulates the foot shape which, when removed from the finished shoe can be used continually to produce more shoes.The first operation is to attach what is called an insole to the bottom of the last but this must be only a temporary attachment to allow the last to be removed at the end of the process.
In a Goodyear welted shoe the insole will have what is known as a rib attached to its under edge. The upper is stretched and moulded over the last and attached to the insole rib. When this is complete you now have what is known a “ lasted shoe “. The shoe then left to “sit” on the last for up to a week so that the leather upper has time to mould to the shape of the last, this then means that the shoe will keep its shape for many years.
A strip of leather called the welt is sewn onto the shoe through the rib and upper and all the surplus material is trimmed off the seam. The sole is then attached to the welt and the two are stitched together. After this the heel is attached which completes the “ making “ of the shoe
The sole edge and heel are then trimmed and buffed to give them a smooth finish. They are then stained, polished and waxed to give them an attractive finish and to ensure the edge is water resistant. The bottom of the sole is often lightly buffed, stained and polished and various types of patterns are marked on the surface to give it a craft finished look. We now have a “ finished shoe and we now need to shoeroom the uppers.
Firstly an internal sock is fitted into shoe which can be full, half or quarter and these will usually have the manufacturers details or a brand name if applicable.
Again, depending on the materials used for the uppers they will be cleaned, polished and sprayed, plus laces and any tags that may be attached to the shoes (such as shoe care instructions). The shoes will then go on to be boxed and packaged ready for dispatching to the customer.
The Goodyear Welted process is mostly used for men’s high-class footwear and is almost exclusively produced in Northamptonshire as far as U.K. manufacture is concerned.