Inside the Factory: Shoemaking in Northampton
Shoemaking and Northampton go hand-in-hand. In particular, the NPS factory – where our Percy Strides are made. Learn all about the process in this new post.
As we mentioned in our previous blog, Northampton is widely regarded as the home of quality shoemaking in the world.
Ever since the 13th century, shoemaking in Northampton has been a part of the local culture, largely due to its handy central location, close proximity to water and access to large quantities of oak bark and leather.
It’s where the Goodyear welt process was introduced and Dr Martens were originally made.
However, the magic behind shoemaking in Northampton also boils down to the quality of the process the NPS factory enforces too. Discover how shoes like ours are made in this handy guide.
Mastering the process
What makes NPS the pinnacle of shoemaking in Northampton is their method. No stone is left unturned, with up to 200 highly skilled processes involved in the construction of a pair of shoes.
These processes take place in six different departments:
Otherwise known as cutting, ‘clicking’ is the first stage of making a pair of shoes. A ‘clicker’ will cut the individual parts that’ll form the upper of the shoe. The clicking process can be performed by hand using a knife or with the help of a hydraulic press using steel cutting stencils. The key to this first stage of shoemaking in Northampton is to minimise leather waste and avoid leather flaws.
The cut leather pieces are then initially stitch marked to shoe where the pieces join together. A unique product stamp is then pressed onto the footwear lining and all pieces are skived to reduce the thickness of the leather. Finally, the upper is stitched together, eyelets are inserted, raw edges strained and any excess material is trimmed.
This is where the shoe last comes in handy. These wooden or plastic forms help shape and size the shoes. An insole or mid-sole is attached to the bottom of the last and the upper is pulled over it to form the shoe shape. Next, the upper is glued and stapled to the insole, with any excess leather trimmed away. The lasted upper is then ready to undergo the Goodyear welting process – which you can read more about here.
This process depends on the type of footwear. However, this usually involves a heat sealing machine to permanently fuse the welt to the sole by rapidly rotating the footwear along a super hot heated blade.
Now, for the finishing touches. The cobblers at NPS will trim the sole and heels using a high-tech machine and take the shoe to the slipping station, where the lasts are removed and restored for the next batch production.
All shoes are polished, tagged and put through a rigorous quality inspection before being laced and wrapped up ready for dispatch.
Come and see for yourself
If you want to learn more about shoemaking in Northampton and fancy seeing how our range of Percy Stride shoes are made, then sign up for the NPS factory tour.
The tour offers an exciting insight into all areas of shoe production, taking you through each process and discussing all of the production technologies used to make beautiful footwear.
You’ll even get a chance to visit the factory shop afterwards. Just make sure you bring enough spending money because you’ll want to walk away with multiple pairs!