“Good, quality leather doesn’t crease” is probably the dumbest thing I have ever heard. On the contrary, as I am more and more involved in the shoe industry, I see that it is actually the opposite that is true. Good quality leather does crease, sometimes a lot, and if it doesn’t chances are it is either fake leather or super corrected leather, which in reality means that it is cheap leather refinished on top to give an artificial ‘good look.’ If you read online about why leather creases, every self-appointed expert (mostly just guys who own a few pairs of shoes) will have a comment about this and about that and yadda yadda yadda.
There are always justifications and attempted explanations with regard to fit, leather quality, thickness etc. But, again, the more I am involved in shoes, the more I see high-quality ones, and the more I start to see the repetition of how one’s feet react to shoes the more I realize that leather creasing really boils down to the shape of the feet if we want to talk about the major factor. It’s not the last, it’s not the leather quality, the type of leather, the pattern, or the thickness of the leather. Now don’t get me wrong, those factors all play into it, but the biggest one of all is the shape of the foot. Now, let me explain.
I started to realize that the people whose shoes crease the least are people with fleshy, girthy feet. A foot that really fills up the shoe. Anyone who used to wear two socks or fold their sock over on the toe to fill it up and thus not get creases on their Nikes knows what I am talking about (middle school/high school stuff). Now a fleshy foot is not to be confused with a wide foot. As there is a difference and a wide foot will put pressure in different places in contrast to a fleshy foot.
You see, the lasts that we traditionally use to make shoes are really not shaped like feet are. It is a good representation of a foot but it is not quite the reality of one, or should I say many. It is more catered to look than to fit. It is a block and nothing more, and its job is to attempt to accommodate the highest amount of people. Where a last is smooth, the foot has grooves, different heights in different spots, bumps, bones, insteps lumps etc. All of these little ‘abnormalities’ cause a point of tension in the leather. And where tension occurs, there will be a point between your foot and the leather, that is hollow, so to speak.
For example, imagine someone has a large bunion. That bunion sticks up all around. It might be 2-4 mm higher than the rest of the foot. So it creates a drop where the leather hits the bunion to where it hits the vamp. And in that drop, due to the tension, you will have some excess space between the leather and your foot just directly after the bunion until it levels out towards your outer foot. And no matter what kind of leather that person wears, thick, thin, good, bad, grain, or calf, that excess space will always be there due to the tension that the bunion causes. And more often than not, that excess space will cause deep creasing. And again, this is the main factor. A good last can do its job to help prevent creasing if that last helps to match the contours of the foot.
The same will go for a shallow foot, whose toes are bony and often leaves a lot of excess space in the vamp and toe region and even in the arch. And more often than not, these people will experience the same type of creasing in nearly all of their shoes, no matter the quality, fit, or leather type. Of course, there will be some exceptions, like Cordovan and suede, that will have different types of creasing, if you notice them at all. I know this because I have those bony feet. And for the wide foot with bunions, well my friend Jesper has that issue. For those of you who may not know Jesper right away, that is Shoegazing Blog. And if you know anything about him then you know it is his quest to get shoes from the top shoemakers in the world and has done so.
And guess what, on all of those bespoke shoes with the highest quality leather in the world, he is creasing those shoes up left and right. And not just ‘regular creases’ (whatever those are), but noticeable, deep, irregular creases. And it is okay because it is what it is. I am sure that it doesn’t bother him. Because after all, you cannot change your feet. Now, of course, the better the fit, the more logical it is that they are less severe, but truth be told, that is not always the case even despite being bespoke and of top-notch leather. Just look at those Yohei Fukada shoes, directly below.
Another gentleman known as @wishoeguy on IG also lives with deep creasing in the majority of his shoes. He has quite a prominent foot and the way that it is shaped seems to be at odds with the elongated lasts that he so enjoys. And this is by no means a knock on him, but to show you that it is about the foot as John owns shoes from nearly every brand the world has produced and mainly the good ones. All of those shoes, mostly high-end, produce the same type of creasing on him. All use good leather. If you look at his TLB adelaides, which so many of us own, you will know immediately that your foot probably does not crease like his in that same shoe. Some of you may have less, equal, or more creasing. But different. Some will have one clean crease, the Holy Grail crease.
Consider yourself lucky if you don’t get creases in your own personal shoes. As some of us are not so fortunate no matter how high the quality of leather and shoe. And yet, that shoe will always be using the same black calf, on the same pattern and the small change might be the lasting of the upper that will give small variation to fit and thus creasing. So again, good leather creases. And when prominent creasing happens, chances are it is your foot in that shoe and not all of the factors that you might want to blame it on. The only other pattern I see is that chisel/elongated lasts tend to crease more than round ones. And it’s just the way it goes. Good leather creases. Learn to live with it or buy suede.
All photos courtesy of:
Shoegazing Blog: https://www.instagram.com/shoegazingblog/?hl=en
Absolutely brilliant post. Great point and easy to read!
Thanks for the educational post! Makes a ton of sense. Thanks Justin!
My pleasure and thank you for saying so Nathan!
Woow I’m taken with these shoes they are all beautiful
Coming from the workwear side of shoes/boots, creases and patina is a very much welcomed and admired quality of a well worn boot! Shoes are supposed to be worn, thus they’re supposed to look like they’re being worn.
thank you for sharing Steven!
Great post again! It has made me accept my shallow feet and the creases that come with it. On a side note, you say that nothing can be done to change your feet, well hypothetically they might be, in medical school I learnt about Cinderella surgery that some people get to change their feet. In the most hypothetical of examples, how would that affect creasing?
Hey John, glad that you enjoyed it. Unless that surgery made your feet all swollen and fleshy, it still poses the same reality. There literally is no such thing as crease-free shoes. The best crease is the single crease across the vamp that does not break off into other little creases. And that is just a matter of finding the right last for your foot and most likely on a cap toe model as a wholecut will always crease in more than one place. It is inevitable.
Thank you form Atlanta …. well said. Gorgeous shoes!
My pleasure and thank you for saying so!
I have never understood the creasing complaint. Walk barefoot and look at your feet: the skin creases at the flex point. A shoe is not a form fitting representation of the foot. If it were, it would be impossible to put on. Wit the extra space, creasing is bound to happen where there is more space between the foot and shoe. With ready to wear shoes, we are sizing in approximations based on the sizing the largest number of feet. And since we aren’t using human skin to make the shoe, the leather we use will react differently. I’m befuddled by why this is even debated. It really is one of the most inane “problems” I read about. That’s not to say I totally ignore the discussions. Every now and then, I can use a laugh.
Yea, me neither. People just really love to complain and blame others is how I see it.