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Managing Your Shoe Purchase Expectations
G&G, the perfect shoemaker. When buying these they should be flawless, but that is what you should get for +£700

I recently had a nice cab ride here in Central London with a lovely fellow who used to play professional football (soccer) back in the early 70′s. We got to chatting, so he asked what I was doing living in London and I told him that I was a shoe designer. He then began to tell me of how he appreciated a nice shoe and how he once bought a pair of handmade shoes from Foster & Son back in the early 60′s for £150, which presumably back then was a lot of money. These days £150 won’t get you much in terms of handmade shoes, let alone a good factory made shoe yet people think that for not too much more than that they should be getting top notch quality. Talking to this gentleman, plus thinking about the posts that I have recently done about leather quality and reading all of the comments that people make about Meermin shoes on Style Forum (the complaints are what I am referring to here), got me thinking that many people these days expect to get gold for the price of copper and something has give. Having now been in the industry looking at it from the inside out and thus spending more time with others in the industry too, has certainly gotten me to see things that I did not see before and understand the realities of it a lot better than I ever could have.

Managing Your Shoe Purchase Expectations
Meermin Mallorca, some of the best value for money shoes around. Not perfect, but well made and definitely worth the price!
Managing Your Shoe Purchase Expectations
Managing Your Shoe Purchase Expectations
Managing Your Shoe Purchase Expectations
1st grade, what you find in most +£600 shoes. 2nd grade more used on the £200-£400′s, with a bit of 1st grade too for the cap’s and vamps…

The plain and simple fact is that if you look hard enough (almost as if you are wishing it to be there, just for the sake of complaining), then there is always going to be something to pick out of a shoe that is sub £400: a small wrinkle in the leather, a 1-2mm off center facing line (where the laces are), a wonky welt stitch, a medallion not centered or in the exact same spot as it’s partner, a crooked cap, a top line not cleaned up so nicely, a slightly crooked center heel closing stitch, a bit of sloppy edge dressing etc. But none of these things take away from the actual quality of the shoe, only the perfect aesthetic side of it. Yet these are the things that people love to complain the most about. It is not enough to simply get a well made shoe, it now has to be well made, cost less than £300 and be spotless under a microscope.

Many people’s expectations have gone so far off that I can’t imagine how they buy anything anymore without complaining about it or asking for a discount and to me it is just plain silly and quite disgusting if I might add. The amount of crap that I read on the Meermin Mallorca thread on Style Forum makes me feel sorry for Pepe and the likes having to deal with people who are simply never satisfied and almost just want to complain for the sake of it even though they are getting among the best deals in footwear. Were else can you find a handwelted shoe with good grade leather and clean finishing for sub £250? Nowhere, that’s where!! Yet people love to complain about every little detail that is slightly off. It does not make sense.While I am the self proclaimed “Shoe Snob” and therefore do look at every single detail myserf, I do so with reason and common sense in mind, knowing that I cannot judge the Meermin the same as I do the G&G, as well as ask myself whether the flaw that I notice affects the quality of the shoe or simply an aesthetic part that only I will see?

Managing Your Shoe Purchase Expectations
Managing Your Shoe Purchase Expectations
Managing Your Shoe Purchase Expectations

Shoes are a funny thing. They forever in time have been the product that people will spend the least on (when it comes to their wardrobe) but also be the thing that people complain the most about. Do the same people that complain about every minute detail, do the same thing when buying a house or a car or a meal at a restaurant, wanting to spend a fraction of the price yet get the top quality? It’s weird, but I really feel that many many people’s expectations when it comes to shoes are just so far skewed that it is going to start ruining it for certain brands out there. You don’t expect to buy a £17 filet mignon and it to taste like the one at the most posh restaurant in town that cost £80. If you do, then you are a fool. Just because they are both filet mignon doesn’t mean that they are the same cut, quality of meat, or cooked in the same way. Same for shoes. Just because a shoe is made from Europe and is goodyear welted, mean that the Meermin at sub £250 should be just as flawless as the G&G at +£700. That is ludicrous…..yet so many people expect it.

So people, realize that in the world we live in, where quality of leather has gone down due to the amount of vegetarians (could not be true but it sounds good ;-), among other reasons and thus the loss of trade in the industry due to decreasing demand toppled by a growing consumer market that continually wants the best quality at the lowest cost in the shortest amount of time possible, that shoemakers are now resorting to using as much of the leather hide that they can (meaning grades 2-3) as well as cutting corners to produce more and more to please the consumers. That means that quality is inevitably going down, while leather prices continue to go up (thus as well as retail prices) all in order to supply the masses that want perfection at the bottom dollar…’s a vicious spiral, but it will only end if we start to manage our expectations and be patient for our custom made shoes…….

All pictures courtesy of Style Forum

22 thoughts on “Managing Your Shoe Purchase Expectations”

  1. I wouldn’t suspect vegetarians as being the problem. There is much more beef consumption, especially in the US, than there has ever been before. Beef used to be a once a week, perhaps once a month, purchase for most families. Now it’s several times a week. But, it’s factory farmed which may affect leather. The cows are given hormones to grow faster, and if not, they are fed corn to grow faster, rather than eating grass as they are born to do. Growing faster means skin is required to stretch before it’s ready, which may lower the quality of the leather.

    But, also there is much more leather purchased- almost every car is available with a leather interior. Two decades ago only a handful of cars had leather interiors. My wife has a Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s got leather, but I have to say it’s the worst leather I’ve seen – worse than Ecco’s shoes to be sure. And, that’s not an inexpensive vehicle. I can’t imagine the quality of leather on a lesser car. Jeep does offer saddle leather at a premium price. It’s legitimate high quality hide. Probably equal to my benchgrade C&J shoes, maybe even up to the handgrade quality. But, for the base leather in my wife’s Jeep, it’s all belly.

    1. it’s not the vegetarians in reality…there are a lot of things causing the problems….I just used it because it sounds good, and someone else actually said it once, not sure if they were being serious… thanks for sharing!

  2. Well said my friend! I believe it’s mostly due to the fact that consumers nowadays are spoilt (and not always in a good way) by the easy access to cheapo shoes that present a slick image but contain mostly hot air, even at the low prices they proffer. They have become desensitized to how much time, effort and money it takes to create a well-made product that’s as handsome as it’s durable.

    Also, it seems that many of these disgruntled cheapskates are first-time buyers of quality shoes who suddenly became well-respected shoe connoisseurs overnight after a few hours of browsing the trendiest shoe forum of the day. This is not to put down anyone, but I find that the true players I’ve met, the ones who bespoke 6 Cleverlys at a go, seldom complain about any of the stuff that they have bought. Not only about the expensive stuff, but about the stuff that break after a couple of uses too. They know exactly how much it was worth to them!

    I’m far from a multi-millionaire, but I am a businessman with a keen(ish) eye for value and an understanding on the fundamentals of business, which is why I seldom bargain through my nose with craftsmen like I do with the boys who provide me with pharmaceuticals!

    More importantly, I appreciate the efforts of young artisans like yourself who have a genuine love for their craft and just simply wish to do their best, no matter the circumstances. A rarity unfortunately, looking at the multitudes of hipstermatic sites that have popped up with nary a sound opinion nor a true passion for what they do, apparent by the fact that many do not last even a year.

    1. thanks for sharing Benjy, you always say the truth….thanks as always for being my longest and loyalest reader! The Benjy will be coming, I promise…

  3. Completely out of my price league right now, but I just have to say, those G&G shoes in the top photo are absolutely the business.

  4. Very well written, very well said! And I love the fact that we can now point a finger at the cause: the bloody vegetarians!

  5. Well said justin, you and I have briefly discussed this in email before. I don’t get the purpose of complaining about a 300$ shoe because it has flaws etc. 1: if it was flawed why did you by the damn thing in the first place and 2: when you buy your 25k ford did u call the dealer and complain that it wasn’t a Porsche ? Same goes for shoes.

    I am not one who can afford G&G shoes, nor EG nor many of the ones shown. I enjoy reading the blog and try to find ones more affordable in my price range . Septime Largeur, Meerman, carmina. And heck if I fall in love with the look of the shoe, magli and magnani. I know those aren’t the ‘ideal’ brands, but, for a guy who only spends 200$-400$ per shoe, I’d rather have the selection and variety than one 1200$ shoe.. But I also know EXACTLY what I am getting.. So why complain? I know I’m not getting high grade leather or whatnot. But if I’m happy with my purchase from the start, know what I am paying for.

    1. I absolutely agree with you This is also my point. In my case I find some extra-reward from time to time when I have the chance of getting nice Spanish International shoes at incredible prices taking advantage of a quick stop in Almansa (the Spanish Northampton). But usually I know what I can normally afford and I dream and enjoy upper classes

  6. I wear a womens size 8AAAA narrow or SS. My shoes have always had to come from the most expensive brands or be custom made due to cheap manufactures that only make medium and wide sizes. As a child, I got one pair of shoes per year while everyone else had multiple pairs of cheaply made shoes. People are stuck on quantity versus quality and some, including myself, have been guilty of forcing the foot into a medium pair of shoes that fits ill because of costs…I want to be a shoe designer who makes narrow shoes…its funny you blame vegetarians for the lack of good leather. I am a vegetarian who still would like to have a good quality pair of shoes in my size.

    1. Thanks for sharing…. I don’t really blame vegetarians, I just heard this as a honest reason and I found it funny so I thought that I would use it…not that I really feel that way…

  7. Considering the thread at StyleForum on Meermin is over a thousand pages long, would love an indicator as to where the complaints are. To get a sense of what the complaints are, as I am myself about to buy some Meermin and I just want to know what sort of issues are out there, not taking seriously the idea that 250 euro shoes should be impeccable and perfect.

    1. wish I could help you. I should have left a link during my time writing this post but I did not….mainly it was about what they felt was flawed leather

  8. hi, any elaboration why the leather quality is decreasing? I am intrigued by the reasons why leather is getting more expensive and less valuable

    1. most of it is speculation but the best explanation that I have heard is that the shoe leather industry is a bi-product of the meat eating industry and with the growing amount of vegetarian/pescatarian/vegans in the world, the leather industry takes a hit in the amount of meat being used to make leather. Also, the suppliers of the leather to the tanneries are apparently being less careful in how they treat the cows and cheapening what they feed them. I.e. cows are more stressed, less nourished and because of that, have more veins, have more mosquito bites etc.

  9. I think it’s fair to say that not all the criticism about Meermin is unwarrented. I’ve read reviews about people recieving shoes with holes in the welt, “staples” sticking out of the sole etc. Issues that go beyond the superficial. I’ve always suspected they suffer a bit from quality control, having been in the manufacturing game myself, I know it’s bloody hard, especially if they are doing this in China.

  10. The majority of the Northamptonshire shoe makers are currently struggling for quality leather as the European suppliers have been bought out by the large handbag brands (Hermes, Gucci etc.) who keep the best hides for their bags. What they then don’t want goes down to GG, EG and C&J etc.

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