Updated: Jul 14
Companies are always quick to point out the fact their products are ‘Made in Britain’ – but just how important is this?
Maybe you ask yourself "Why Buy British shoes?" "Are handmade shoes worth it?" With all the uncertainty in the world right now, how to do you think British-made products and companies will fair?
When it comes to fashion, the British fashion population are renowned for their unique sense of style, we tend to lean on the side of adventure while still maintaining a sense of traditional classic style. However, shoes are a completely different ball game. Instead of investing in quality homemade shoes, many of us are often guilty of searching for the biggest foreign shoemakers for the brand and price. Yet, while these large shoe companies are arguably making more money by manufacturing abroad, are you, as a customer, getting the quality you deserve? It's often worth looking at the figures... Over the years I've heard "I don't buy expensive shoes because I'll wear them out too quickly" or "I wouldn't want to ruin them" well the point of proper handmade shoes are being ignored here! Cheap shoes tend not to have a Goodyear welted construction and therefore can not be re-soled when they are "worn out". They don't often have protection in place for hard striking and therefore they mostly end up in the bin after months. If one pair of Percy Stride shoes cost you £250 but last 25 years that's just over 2p per day. It would take you 2 months of wear before you've spent the same as a daily Costa Coffee! Whereas if you replace your shoes every 6 months and they cost you £40 a time you could be spending £2,000 in the same 25 year period!
Why are companies taking manufacturing abroad?
One fascinating company to look at is Dr. Martens. As a British based company and renowned for their range of practical and stylish footwear, they’ve moved a lot of their production abroad. In fact, their factory in Wollaston, Northamptonshire, make 100,000 pairs of British made shoes and boots every year, which only accounts for 1% of what the brand makes as a whole. Their iconic 1460 boot is the only one they really make in England and has been recognised as one of their flagship products with the quality stitching, punched eyelets and robust toe puffs. Due to a £20 million loss at the start of the Millennium, it was an obvious move to stabilise the future of the company. Ultimately, it’s worked well. The brand is still performing well and creating a great range of shoes. But seeing as their 1460 boot is still one of their top sellers and hasn’t made the jump abroad, this may indicate that their foreign factories simply can’t recreate the magic. After all, mass production is fantastic for satisfying the masses and the company’s back pocket, but there really isn’t a substitute for some products. The truth is, it requires a skilled shoemaker to carefully craft the stitching or emboss.
The benefits of British made products
As the third-generation English shoemaker, John Wildsmith once said: "You are either in your bed or in your shoes, so it pays to invest in both." A very relevant point from one who knows best about their craft. We are quickly learning that products made within the UK are essential and desired! Over your lifetime, you should expect to walk up to 115,000 miles. Therefore, having to replace a pair of shoes every 1,000 is going to cost you an absolute mint. British shoemaking dates back to 1272, meaning we’ve had some serious practice at getting it right! The key to finding a quality pair of shoes is in leather. By looking closely at the material, you should be able to see little dots which derive from the animal’s skin. Poor quality shoes often have a shiny look and a plastic cover to compensate. In Britain, top shoe factories and companies get their leather from tanneries – which have been going for generations. Another key element in the production process is the fact British made shoes and boots are made using a wooden foot-shaped mould to enable them to get a true fit. However, the true signature to any quality British made shoe is its solid construction using a Goodyear welting technique. This process involves stitching a durable strip of leather to the upper and insole and using a different stitch to attach the outsole. This duel Goodyear welting technique makes the shoe robust during wetter weather and means it’s easier to repair by a cobbler.
The latter gives you the option to replace a sole for a low-cost instead of constantly buying a new pair altogether. This will save you money in the long-run and usually allow you to enjoy more miles out of that particular pair of shoes.
Unfortunately, those companies who make their shoes in different countries may not be able to guarantee the same kind of quality. Here at Percy Stride, our men’s Oxford shoes are handcrafted in Northampton by some of the finest shoemakers in the country. We believe in making to order, so you’re guaranteed a quality pair of Oxfords every time. The way we see it, a fine dining restaurant wouldn’t mass produce a dish earlier in the day, reheat it and serve it to one of their customers. The same principle applies to shoes. To see our latest range, shop here. Try learning a bit more about our Goodyear Welted construction and re-soling tips to benefit you in the long run!
Or for more details on our shoes or for top fashion tips, check out our blog today.