Shoe Dissections

Edward Green “Troon” Dissection

When I got a PM on Reddit (Thanks /u/mcadamsandwich!) from someone offering me Edward Greens, my first reaction was “Hell yeah! This should be interesting and different.” I mean, after looking at the Bostonians, J&Ms, and Allen Edmonds, which are all, for the most part, very similar, I thought it would be great to get a look at a $1,000+ pair of shoes and really get to see some unique high-end stuff.

But, as it turns out, I was wrong to expect an enormous difference. Despite being 300%-400% more expensive than your average pair of dress shoes, these Greens shared about 90% of their construction with most every other dress shoe on the market. Showing once again that price is more a function of a shoe’s style, brand, leather quality, and finishing than it is a simple sum of its parts. Here’s a list of those common features:

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And, to be honest, that makes sense. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting really. These shoes were obviously going to be made in a factory and there are only so many different manufacturing techniques available, so of course they’re going to be made in mostly the same way as any other mass produced shoe; with a few exceptions. I suppose my real problem was that, at $1,000, I half expected them to be handmade. But of course that’s crazy. The experience of taking apart these shoes really made me realize that there’s absolutely no reason to make a shoe by hand unless it’s bespoke or you don’t have access to manufacturing equipment. Troons are a ready-to-wear line so, of course, they were manufactured. So, now that I’m properly disillusioned, let’s look at the few things that actually DID make these Edward Greens different from the rest.

1 – The Heel

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The heel wasn’t really anything special, and that’s why I thought I’d mention it. When I removed it, it just popped right off… like the pre-fab heels that the likes of Bostonian use. Of course, it was pre-fabricated out of real leather and not fiberboard (like you’d find on a Bostonian) but still, they were pre-fabricated nonetheless. This doesn’t really cause any problems other than the fact that it’s slightly more likely that a heel like this, attached with only 5 nails from the inside of the shoe, is probably slightly more likely than a hand-built heel to work its way loose over time. But, then again, it is much easier to repair a heel like this so it is definitely a more practical choice.

2 – The 3/4 Sole

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I’m going to be perfectly honest here, when I first saw this strange partition at the back of the sole, I had absolutely no idea what I was looking at. This was the first time that I’d seen a sole that didn’t cover the entire bottom of the shoe in a single piece and I couldn’t imagine why anyone would make it in two parts like this. I tried searching online but it’s really hard to come up with search terms that accurately describe this; and all I kept finding were women’s shoes and africans making toy animals out of old sandals. So, I tried writing an email to Edward Green to see if they might fill me in. To my surprise, they responded promptly with this very thorough, well thought out reply:

A ¾ sole, as the sole on your Troon is, was used extensively by most footwear manufacturers including Edward Green. It is a very old practice and the reason for using a ¾ sole was primarily for cutting efficiency. When a bend (skin) of sole leather is cut into components, it is good practice to do it in the most efficient way possible (it being a relatively high cost item). Some parts of the bend cannot be used in the visible areas of the sole because of imperfections or damage caused before the skin was tanned, such as growth (stretch) marks or cuts to the animals skin caused by barbed wire etc. These imperfections can be avoided easily when using a ¾ sole pattern, what is left of the bend will then be used for “lower grade bottom stock” where the visual appearance is less important. Lower grade items are things such as the “Piece Sole” (which is the smaller piece of leather at the back) and “Seat Lifts” which is a horseshoe shaped piece underneath the seat (back) of the shoe. The above approach to the cutting of “bottoming” leather allows much better usage of the entire bend…

‘What are the benefits of it?’ In reality there aren’t any benefits to it which is possibly why the practice has almost died away now. The small financial gains to cutting efficiency are often lost by the additional labour costs involved in using a 3/4 sole.”

3 – Wooden Shank

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It’s at least worth noting that these shoes were made with a wooden shank. There aren’t necessarily any concrete benefits to using one but it is definitely something that you only see in the higher-end. Some claim that they save weight (what, maybe a gram?) while others say that it helps avoid a false-positive at airport metal detectors. The best benefit that I can imagine is that wood bonds to leather better than metal does. That is, most of the time that a metal shank is used, it’s attached to a fiberboard insole with a rivet. You can get away with using a rivet on a fiberboard insole because it’s so thin and can be easily covered with an insole insert without making the shoes overly bulky. But rivets don’t work too well with leather insoles and other methods of attaching a metal shank are a little dodgy.

4 – Channeled Welt Stitch

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Picture from Edward Green’s website showing the machine that cuts the sole channel

This is another thing that you really only see on higher-end shoes. The welt stitch, which attaches the sole to the upper, is hidden underneath a flap of leather in a recessed channel. Once the stitch has been sewn, the flap of leather is pushed back into place so that it covers the seam, thus preventing it from wearing away from abrasion or wicking up moisture from the ground.

5 – Side Stiffeners

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I’ve only ever seen these side-of-the-toe reinforcements once before, on the pair of Lobbs that I took apart last year. Just like the channeled welt stitch, this is something that you only see on very nice shoes. They help provide support for the vamp (front portion) which is the area of the shoe that bends the most as you walk. They’re significantly thinner than the toe puff or heel counter (which are the other two structural parts of the upper) and seem to be made from material that’s roughly the same thickness as the lining. I’d honestly be interested to see if anyone could tell the difference between a shoe that was made with these and one that wasn’t. The vamp is going to crease and bend no matter what, and these thin pieces can only provide so much support. But, then again, when coupled with the leather & cloth lining these little bits probably create a combined thickness that’s appreciable.

What I find interesting about all this is the fact that, yes, there are plenty of differences between the way these Edward Greens are put together and the way that a pair of Allen Edmonds is made, but not all of those differences are necessarily benefits. I mean, the biggest difference was the 3/4 sole and even the guy from Edward Green said that it doesn’t really provide any benefit. All of this really goes to show how important qualities other than construction are when it comes to price.

On the one hand, it is interesting to know that these $1,000+ shoes are constructed in pretty much the same way as a $150 pair, but on the other hand it’s important to keep in mind that construction isn’t the be-all end-all of quality. I mean, you’re obviously not paying an extra $850 dollars for a channeled welt stitch, a wooden shank, and some side stiffeners.

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