A pair of Goodyear Welted Il Gergo shoes can take up to eight weeks to make. Some skilled craftsmen, up to 75 shoe parts and over 216 different operations are involved. The Goodyear Welt has is a particular type of shoe construction, in which Il Gergo has specialised for over years. The “welt” is a strip of leather which is sewn around the bottom edge of a shoe. The stitching (the welt seam) attaches the welt to both the insole and the upper of the shoe. The welt is folded out to form a point of attachment for the outer sole.
The outer sole (two layers can be used in heavier shoes) is sewn to the welt, with a heavy-duty lock-stitch seam. Crucially, this stitching runs around the outside of the sole (rather than piercing the part under the foot) to maximise the sole’s water-resistance. The advantages of the welted construction is that they can be repaired more easily and they are more weather-resistant.
This is the name given to the process of cutting the leather sections of the shoe uppers. The name 'clicking' is derived from the noise that is made when the blade of the knife is removed from the leather when this is done by hand.
“Closing” is where the various sections of the shoe upper are stitched together. There are many operations carried out at this stage. For example, the thickness of the leather is “skived” (reduced) to avoid bulkiness and the edges of the leather are stained, seared or folded to improve appearance.
The shoe upper is pulled over the “last” and attached to the insole at the toe, sides and seat. Before lasting, the uppers are “mulled” (conditioned) in a special room in order to impart sufficient moisture to allow the leather to mould to the shape of the last.
The “welt” is a strip of leather that is stitched to the upper and the insole, and to which the sole will also be stitched. Because welted shoes are sewn together, rather than glued, skilled craftsmen can dismantle and repair them.
This operation stitches the soles to the welts. The soles are lock stitched, using two separate threads, for maximum strength.
The edges of the soles are trimmed to shape before they can be stained. This is a highly skilled operation which is performed “freehand”. Later they will be waxed, ironed and polished.
The sole bottoms are also stained and polished. These will be stamped and wheeled to add extra detail at a later stage.
The final burnishing, dressing and polishing operations are very time consuming and have to be done entirely by hand.