Ever wonder why Wholecut oxfords cost more than other models of the oxford family? You might think to yourself that it is odd, assuming that because it is one piece, which when using logical deduction would/should involve less work. But the contrary is actually true. It involves more work and I will explain why below.
You see, the first stage of quality is when you go to cut the hide and how you cut that hide. That is the basis for upper leather quality and really what separates the novices from the experts. The higher in shoe price you go, the better that leather is cut (in theory). You are paying for that attention to detail, that fine eye and hand for cutting around the flaws while at the same time maximizing the use of the hide. This very idea, in my mind, is a form of art, to be quite honest. It really is what separates the greats from the so-so’s.
When making a wholecut shoe, you are cutting one large piece of the hide. Even when cutting into 1st grade it is not as simply as just slapping down the pattern and cutting around it. You have to mark that leather, find the flaws and then make sure that when you cut the whoelcut piece, that you are cutting the prime parts of the hide where there are little to no flaws. It is not easy as one might think, especially when cutting larger sizes. Therefore, you are also cutting only prime parts of the leather, which cost more. The lower sub-grades of a hide are less desirable and are usually saved for heel counters, piping, excess leather used for the underside when lasting etc. Skilled cutters can utilize the poorer areas to cut full brogues and thus save money. And that is why it is an art form and why wholecuts cost more. There is no hiding a flaw on a wholecut. But on any brogued shoe, flaws can be hidden through intelligent cutting. So you pay the premium for that supposed flawless leather. And you should pay less for models that are able to utilize lower grades of leather.
The second reason that whole cut oxfords are more expensive is that they are also harder to make due to the lack of tension that they possess in contrast again to another 5 piece model. This will be easier to understand if you are really good at physics or have lasted a shoe by hand but the reality is that when lasting a whole cut oxford, when you pull one end, the other side follows and that creates the challenge. That might seem trivial but it is not as trivial as one might think without truly understanding the difference in tension between a single piece and a piece with seams. You see, the seams allow you to pull one side while the other side stays more put as the seams give it more leeway whereas when it is just one piece, there is no leeway.
So lasting that whole cut upper is more challenging because if not done properly you will be left with a lot of excess space in the vamp which then leads to excess creasing. So the key to lasting a whole cut oxford in the lasting machine is actually little by little, pulling one side, then the other, then again on the first side, then again on the 2nd side, until you have it even and firmly placed on the vamp. If you just pull both sides at the same time with one large pull, you leave room for excess space being leftover. Those extra steps take time and time costs money. And lastly, a whoelcut should probably stay on the last longer as well to ensure it forms to the shape. All delays and extra steps add to the price of a shoe.
So when you are looking to get a whole cut oxford and cannot understand why it cost more, think of this post. And for the makers that charge the same as their other shoes, well you can look at that two ways. They are either overpricing their other shoes and/or underpricing their whole cut models and absorbing that cost for you. But without a doubt, they are not the same cost price.
Another article that helps explore this idea in more depth in terms of price can be read HERE