Choosing Leather

A group of Loake Superfans (including me!) enjoy a tour of the workshop.  here I am discussing leathers with Andrew Loake - the current MD.

A group of Loake Superfans (including me!) enjoy a tour of the workshop. here I am discussing leathers with Andrew Loake – the current MD. I am the talkative little bloke, second from the right, with the beard. Andrew is the taller chap on the far left.

Obviously – the better the leather, the better the shoe. The best leather comes from young animals, with no insect bites, scratches or other trauma to the skin. It will have been been tanned expertly and stored carefully to entice the shoemaker’s buyer to buy it. A hide may be marked by, for example:-

1) Insect bites

2) Brand marks

3) Fat wrinkles

4) Veins

5) Scratch marks

6) Healed scars

7) Stretch marks

A pile of leather, waiting to be turned into shoes!

A pile of leather, waiting to be turned into shoes!

Clearly, garbage in means garbage out, so quality control at this stage is essential to good products, satisfied customers and avoidance of waste. Different bits of the animal will be used for different parts of the shoe, so the buyer will inspect the skin for bites and marks and also for stretchiness. That’s what Andrew Loake is explaining to me on the right – looking at a skin that he uses to demonstrate unacceptable leather. Here you can see me, waving at the leather, at the start of my Superfan tour of the Loake workshops. In the picture, I think I was asking him about the stresses on different parts of the skin owing to their place on the animal (i.e. stretch marks on the leg etc.) In addition to learning all the stuff that is in this website, I met Andrew and several of the other Loakites. I have to confess that my untrained eye did not see the flaws, but Andrew’s did. He spotted minor bites, areas of weakness, stretch marks and unevenness. The Loakites are very nice people who are committed to their family-owned business of some 160 years and genuinely passionate about quality shoemaking. I was already a big Loake fan (hence the tour) – my brand loyalty was made impregnable by meeting the people and seeing the sights. I also formed the view that their “factory” (like that, I suspect, of other good handmade shoemakers) is not a factory. It’s more like a giant workshop. Machines are used (by skilled craftspersons) where they make things better and hands where they don’t