This dictionary is aimed at those who need an understanding of the terminology used in shoemaking industry, or in this case the Bespoke shoemaking trade.
Adhesives: Chemical compounds used for bonding two surfaces together, also known as cements. Applications include lasted margin-to-insole, lasted margin-to-sole, folded or beaded edge.
Backer: A thin material, usually leather or fabric which is laminated to a weak or soft material to make it stronger or look and feel like a thicker material. See also Face pad.
Back-seam: The vertical seam at the centreline of the back of a shoe. It joins the two quarters.
Back tail: Leather piece at the outside back heel on the Closed Derby style.
Beading: An upper edge treatment. The edge of a component is folded over onto itself (after skiving) and stuck down with adhesive; it gives a very neat attractive edge to an upper component. Also known as folding.
Bespoke: Made to fit customers measurements and additional specifications.
Brogue: A perforating decoration that usually follows the edges of the shoe-uppers various components.
Calf: Leather from young cattle. A Calf is a young cow or bull. Could also mean the widest part of the leg between the knee and the ankle.
Casual: A shoe intended for “casual wear”, not for a formal occasion. Often refers to a shoe which can be slipped on to the foot, without any fastening or having an elastic.
Clicking: Refers to the clicking sound of the knife when cutting out the various shoe-upper parts. Sometimes, the term cutting is used.
Cobbler: An old word for a shoemaker or shoe repairer.
Counter: An upper component similar in shape and position as the inside-stiffener. It may be referred to as the outside-counter.
Derby: A lace-up style of boot or shoe with facings that do not touch at the front edge (nearest the toe). They usually overlay the vamp. This style is also called Gibson.
Design: The upper style.
Dog-tail: A projection of a quarter at the top of the back-seam, which overlaps the other quarter, to provide a stronger join than a plain close seam. The projection is almost always part of the outside quarter, overlapping the inside quarter.
Facing: Is the front part of the quarter, overlapping the tongue, where the eyelets are located.
Face pad: A thin material usually leather or fabric, which is laminated to a weak or soft material to make it stronger or look and feel like a thicker material. See also Backer.
Front tail: Leather piece at the front toe on the Closed Derby style.
Gimping: An edge treatment for leather upper components. A zig-zag or saw-toothed edge.
Goodyear welted: The long established traditional shoe construction associated with high quality mens shoes. The essential features are – an insole with an up-standing rib, a welt that is sewn to the rib and upper, and a sole that is stitched to the welt.
Heel: The rear part of the foot, under the ankle. The shoe component that lifts the rear part of the shoe higher than the insole at the tread (big joint) and forepart.
Insole: The component of the shoe, essentially the shape and size of the bottom surface of the last, to which to an upper is attached (lasted) in most constructions. It is regarded as the foundation of a shoe.
Instep: The surface of the foot, which is on top curve and in between the ankle and the big joint.
Big joint: The area across the shoe, between the widest point on each side. It is also the area where the shoes flex during walking.
Last: A smooth representation of the foot, around which a shoe is made, with allowances to fit and thereby shaped to suit manufacturing processes like lasting and making. A last is normally made of wood, plastic or metal.
Lasting: The operations of moulding and stretching the upper over the last, so that it adapts to the shape of the last. For most shoe constructions attaching the upper to the insole is a part of the lasting process.
Lining: Inside leather piece of the shoe-upper, which is in direct contact with the foot.
Medallion: A decoration on the toe-cap of a brogue style, comprising punched holes.
Oak bark/oak bark tanning: Flakes of bark from the oak tree used in pits to conserve the cowhide over a period of one year. Oak bark contains tannin, which is vital in the process of tanning and conserving the hide.
Open tab: The upper construction in which a specific point on the quarters or facings are attached to the vamp in a certain distance apart. This is a key feature of a Derby style with open tab.
Quarters: The two components at the back of an upper-leather, inside and outside of the foot. The fronts of the quarters usually join the vamp, and the back of the quarters usually meet at the back-seam, unless there is an outside-counter.
Ready to wear: A shoe which is made on standard lasts according to certain, but not individual specifications.
Reinforcement: Any material or stitching in an upper added to help it withstand the stresses met during manufacture, or during wear, or to assist the shoe maintain its fitting quality during wear.
Shank: A reinforcement in the waist of a shoe. This to maintain curvature and support the curved area. It is located between the insole and the sole, usually attached to the insole, and normally made of leather, wood or steel.
Skive: To make an upper component thinner along an edge. Its most common application is in the closing room, where “skiving” is the normal preparation for an edge treatment such as fitting a beading.
Sock: A component, similar in size and shape to the insole and often cut from upper material, which is stuck to the insole after the last has been removed to enhance the internal appearance of the shoe. It is common to have the brand name marked on the sock.
Stay-stitches: A type of stitching used to reinforce an upper. Typical examples are the stitches used on a Derby quarter to reinforce its attachment to the vamp, or the stitching to connect the facings of an Oxford close to the vamp seam. Machine, or hand stitches are common.
Stiffener: A component that reinforces the upper around the heel area of the foot to support the foot and provide shape retention. It is either inserted between the lining and the outsides, or laminated to the lining during closing, or a material cut that combines the reinforcement and lining functions around the back of the shoe.
Toe-puff: A component, laminated to the toe of an upper, to reinforce and provide good shape retention to the shoe during wear.
Toe-shape: Most usually this refers to the outline of an overhead view of the shoe or last on which the shoe is made. Additionally, the elevation or side view.
Tongue: A piece of material that lies under the facings of a lace-up shoe to distribute the pressure of the lacing against the instep of the foot. It is often an extension of the vamp.
Tread: The area on the sole, across the big joint.
Upper: The part of the shoe which covers the sides and top surface of the foot.
Vamp: The component of an upper that covers the front half of the foot. If a shoe has a toe-cap, then the word vamp may refer to the component behind the toe-cap, or to this component and the toe-cap together.
Waist: The area on a shoe or last, at the sides and underside, between the joint/tread and the front of the heel. It is not precisely defined.
Welt: A strip of leather that is attached to the insole and lasted upper of a welted shoe by sewing. This provides an extension around the feather-line to which the sole can be stitched.
Whole-cut: Upper-leather made out of one single piece.
Wing cap: Part of the vamp of a shoe upper. It is usual for this part to have a peak at the centreline.