EXPLORE A WORLD OF LUXURY MATERIALS
Leather is the most important building block of each shoe, and its production is a process that requires masterful skill. The following rule of thumb holds true for all quality shoes: the more the leather has been processed, the higher it is in quality — and this comes, naturally, at a price. Approximately 47 percent of the production costs involved in making a shoe are due to the costly raw material.
Our calf tanneries come from northwest Spain, Germany, and Italy. The types of leather below represent a full array of leather skins. They are all used in luxury shoe production, and they differ from the “look” and “texture” point of view.
- Cordovan Leather
- Cordovan leather is an equine leather made from the fibrous flat connective tissue (or shell) beneath the hide on the rump of the horse. The leather derives its name from the city of Cordoba, Spain, where it was first produced by the Visigoths in the seventh century. It is a difficult leather to make, and more recently has been increasingly used for shoes, wallets, and watch straps due to its aesthetic qualities and exceptional durability. Shell cordovan has a unique non-creasing characteristic with a smooth effect.
- Painted Calf Leather
- Crust calf leather (painted calf) enables artisans to hand paint the pieces with special creams and brushes to achieve an artisanal look. Outside of the “plain” painted calf leather, the material can also be engraved with different textures, like full grain or pebble grain.
- Box Calf Leather
- The majority of quality shoes are made from the hides of calves. Box calf leather is primarily distinguished by its fineness, pliability, and grain. Box calf leathers are hand painted by our artisans.
- Calf Suede
- Also called “suede” or “lux suede,” this leather is created from the underside of the animal hide. Therefore, calf side is softer and more supple.
- Kid Suede
- Kid suede is the most soft, velvety suede leather type that comes from small goat skins. The skins are small, which increases the prices of leather (consumption per pair). This material has a more refined finish with a smaller grain on the surface.
- Polished Calf
- Polished calf refers to rectified grain calf, which eliminates any skin imperfections. The look is not as natural as a regular, plain full grain, but it produces a luxurious look. This type of leather is quite expensive because of the post-production processes it requires.
- Patent Leather
- Patent is a type of leather finish whereby the surface is treated to create a high gloss, shiny appearance.
- Nubuck Leather
- Nubuck leather is lightweight and supple, made of the most outer layer of a hide. The surface is buffed to give the grain a light velvety finish called a “nap."
The Art of Handmade Patina
Patina is an art crafted and designed for shoes by Olga Berluti. She thought nothing was more beautiful than a shoe burnished by time itself, a shoe whose color was partly worn away. “Only those possess a soul,” she said. Our patina technique, provided by Mario Rodriguez (one of the best patina artists in Spain), starts with a specific type of crust leather. Colors are added by hand, natural pigments are applied, and varied textures are created using different types of handmade techniques.
The artist applies the dyes manually to the uncut hide and the fully assembled shoe, with the usage of white cloths, brushes, and sometimes sponges, to create a unique look on each pair of shoes. With attentive care and superior savoir-faire, a dedicated craftsman perfects the personality of each pair of shoes, helping forge their special “soul."
The Patina art craft is still considered to be very young. There are many patina techniques still to be discovered. Very few artists lead this new art, and we are proud to work with the best patina artist in the country.
We offer a full array of sartorial fabrics, flannels, and velvets. Sartorial patterns include tweed, plaid, tartan, herringbone, leopard, and more. The result of mixing these sartorial materials with classic hand painted leather in a shoe can be truly astonishing.
We offer genuine exotic skins, including alligator, python, and ostrich skins, matching our painted calf base colors.
- Alligator Genuine Skin
- “Alligator Mississippiensis” skin renders an attractive and fashionable leather. Alligator leather is strong, supple, durable, and valuable. A bony layer within the skin adds a protective shield, while a dimple on each scale creates an exotic look.
- Hailing from the southwest United States and frequently harvested from farm-bred gators as well as from wild animals, American alligator skin is a classic, durable, and versatile leather. The softness of the American alligator’s skin makes it easier to work with than the skin of other reptiles.
- Ostrich Genuine Skin
- Ostrich leather is one of the finest and most durable leathers, known for its softness, flexibility, and durability. In spite of its softness, ostrich leather is unsurpassed for its tactile strength. It is, in fact, one of the strongest leathers available. Naturally occurring oils in the leather contribute to its durability, preventing cracking, even under extreme temperatures and sun exposure.
- The main distinguishing feature of ostrich leather is the quill or feather socket markings. The “full quill” area of the leather is the most sought after and, therefore, the most luxurious type of ostrich leather.
- Python Genuine Skin
- Snakeskins are desirable because of the unique grain, scales, and color patterns. Snakes are skinned in two ways: (1) cut down the belly scales, leaving the small scales in the center, called “belly” or “front” cut python, and (2) cut down the back, leaving the wide belly scale in the center, called “back” cut python. We use the “front” cut python.
- The size of the scale will vary depending upon the area of the skin cut. The scales have a “lip” open toward the tail will grab and aid the snake in crawling. This lip is your assurance that the snake is genuine.
LEARN ABOUT THE SHOE CONSTRUCTION PROCESS
There are three basic methods of shoe construction: Goodyear welting, Blake welting, and cementing. Both Goodyear and Blake welting are used in our dress shoes collection and defines how the sole is attached to the upper. When talking about high-end footwear, the Goodyear welt is often contrasted with the Blake stitch.
- Goodyear Welting
- For more than 300 years, Goodyear welting has been associated with excellence and superior workmanship, involving more than 60 craftsmen and a process with more than 120 handcrafted phases. Goodyear welting is the oldest, most labor intensive, and most durable of the three methods of construction.
- In 1872, Charles Goodyear invented a machine capable of stitching the welt to the insole, thus revolutionizing the quality of footwear worldwide. Due to its longstanding heritage, little needed maintenance, waterproof durability, and clean aesthetic, the Goodyear method is highly valued in the high-end shoe market.
- The welt refers to a strip of leather that is sewn around the perimeter of the upper of the shoe, onto the insole. The outer sole is then sewn to the welt, as opposed to begin attached directly to the upper like the Blake stitch method.
- The cavity created by the welt between the insole and the outer sole is filled with cork, which is another natural product that offers insulation, protection, and comfort. As you wear the shoe, the cork filler takes the impression of your foot, like memory foam. This provides unparalleled comfort and support.
- Experts recognize Blake-Stitched shoes by their soles: the insole is sewn directly to the outsole and it generally creates a more flexible type of shoe. Blake-Stitched shoes like loafers do not have cork bottom fillers or any additional layers of insulation. Overall, Blake-Stitched shoes take much fewer steps than Goodyear shoes.
- A special sewing machine is used for this shoe production method — this machine directly stitches through the outsole, insole, and bottom edge of the shoe shaft, connecting them without using welts.
- Cementing is the fastest and most common method of attaching the sole of a shoe. Once the upper is shaped and completed around the last, the sole is attached with an adhesive and no welting is used.
- Slippers fall under this category, as well as some other men’s dress rubber soles.
SELECT EVERY ELEMENT, FROM START TO FINISH
Within our unique online design platform, you will step through the construction and customization of your shoe or accessory. You choose every element, from start to finish. From luxury dress, casual, sport, or specialty shoe styles to luxury travel bags, handbags, belts, and small leather goods, you are the artist.
PROUDLY WEAR AND EXPRESS YOUR UNIQUE PERSONALITY
In five to seven weeks, you will receive your custom shoe or accessory. Palmer James intentionally provides a wide range of styles (for both men and women) to suit all lifestyles and needs. Even in a casual setting, we believe it is important to exclusively express yourself. Uncover your distinctive look.
Caring for your Custom Shoes
Proper care and maintenance of your shoes will help to ensure their longevity in wear. Follow the guidelines below to enjoy your shoes for years to come.
- Brush clean, follow with a wax polish:
- Leather uppers require regular treating with a good-quality wax polish to protect the leather and maintain a high shine finish. Make sure the shoes are dry before application. Avoid using unsuitable liquid polish applicators as these can potentially damage the surface of high quality leathers and often create a lacquer that is difficult to remove.
- Suede and Nubuck uppers can be treated using a suede protector spray. A rubber suede brush can lift any dirt and debris; however, stubborn stains may necessitate treatment with a suede shampoo. Suede can often be revived using steam and gentle cleaning with a rubber suede brush.
- Use shoe trees and a shoe horn: Wooden shoe trees will help to absorb moisture and maintain the shape of the shoes as they dry out. Shoe horns prevent damage to the heels, counter, and top line.
- First use and wet conditions: Leather soles can expand when wet so it is best to avoid wet conditions when wearing your new shoes for the first two or three outings. In the event that your leather soles do become sodden, ensure that you dry them out slowly and naturally, away from direct heat. Leather shoes often take a day to dry out fully from natural perspiration, so whenever possible, alternate daily with other shoes.