Questions For Your Cobbler

Questions for your cobbler

Not too long ago I posted  about the hole that I had worn in the bottom of my Weejuns (Penny Loafers for Penny Pinchers). I thought that my loafers were done for as the damage had made its way through the cork, but due to the encouragement of my readers I took them to my local cobbler for an assessment. It turned out to be the best choice as he was able to repair my loafers, but I was not as prepared as I prefer to be in such situations. I thought that I could use this experience to help those of you who like me are inexperienced with shoe repair to have a few questions prepared for your cobbler.

My Local CobblerMy Local Cobbler

My loafers were returned to me repaired using a different method than I had expected. Expecting, but not requesting, or at least inquiring was my first mistake. I only asked if they could be repaired and that was it. I should have asked how he was going repair them. There are two types of shoe repair, full soles and half-soles. Both methods are exactly what they sound like. Full sole repair involves replacing the full sole and half soles; you guessed it, half soles.

Weejuns Before RepairWeejuns before repair. Notice the finished stitching.

Most people tend to recommend half soles for cheaper shoes and full soles for a quality shoe. Full sole repair involves replacing everything from the toe to the heel.  Half sole repair is when the toe and instep area are replaced. You can think of full sole repair as replacing a tire while half sole repair is more comparable to mending the tire. However, many have indicated that a half sole repair can hold up if well done.

Weejuns with New Half SolesWeejuns after repair. Here you can notice the absence of stitching.

I expected a full sole repair, but I received a half sole repair. I also expected the soles to be stitched, but they were only glued. Now all soles are glued, but I expected stitching as well, because that is the way they were originally finished. Was my cobbler wrong for using this method, I don’t think so, but I would have appreciated being consulted or at least informed as to how he intended to repair the shoes.

My Repaired Weejuns

The new half soles are thicker than the originals

Despite being surprised by the finished product this was a good learning experience. I now know that if I want a full sole shoe repair I should ask for it. I also know to inquire about the possibilities of resoling my shoes. Will they finish the shoe with stitching?  If not, why? What other options are there? I hope that my experience can help those of you who are thinking about visiting a cobbler for your first time. Remember there are no stupid questions.  I am looking forward to wearing out the soles of my Weejuns for a second time.

oxford cloth button down
is a simple man interested in simple, classic, and traditional style.

6 Comments on "Questions For Your Cobbler"

  1. Erik says:

    At the very least, it looks like a quality repair, despite the questionable service.

    I’ve mostly enjoyed getting my factory store purchases repaired as they often leave with a far nicer sole than they had brand new.

  2. Old Trad says:

    I really don’t think that shoe repair places have the equipment necessary to stitch soles the way the factories do. The sewing machine they use can do stitching on belts, straps, etc., but soles are to thick and too hard.

  3. oxford cloth button down says:

    I appreciate all of the feedback gentlemen. This whole experience has opened my eyes to only the types of repairs available, but also the construction. For example, I felt like it was a fact that goodyear welts were the best, but after reading up on Rancourt’s site where they explaining why they use a Blake welt (http://www.rancourtandcompany.com/authentic-craftsmanship). I had a new understandings of the benefits of this technique. There is always so much to learn!

  4. oxford cloth button down says:

    Hardline – Very wise words that I will heed to in the future. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Dominik says:

    There are many opinions on how shoes should be welted… Some say Goodyear welt, some say welt by hand (for sure one of the best methods, many bespoke shoe makers do that), some say (especially here in Austria and also in Germany, as in Middle Europe this is the most traditional method) wood pegged (the soles are not stitched but peeged with little wooden nails, very durable and rugged…). Weejuns are moccassin stitched I guess, this would be the most “inferior” and cheapest of all methods. I am sure your cobbler did a job that “upgraded” your Weejuns – with moccassin stitched soles you have the disadvantage that the stitching wears out. The thin part of the sole underneath your “new” sole still is stiched, so I think it is an advantage that the stitching is hidden now…

    Rancourt for sure uses Blake (Rapid) welting due to costs. It is cheaper 😉 – the biggest advantage of Blake Rapid is that the soles are more flexible and you can make them thinner – something that is very good for summer shoes. But IMO the best welt for Penny Loafers still is the Goodyear welt. That said I have nothing against Blake, as quite a few of my shoes are Blake Rapid welted :)

  6. Steve says:

    To me, the upshot of this discussion is that I need to learn more about shoes. There are a number of more or less good books avilable to read about textiles; is there a good book–readily available–to read about shoe construction?

    BTW, I finally found work. It’s in DC and with the IRS, but it’s a job.

    Best regards to OCBD,

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