Sunday, 18 May 2008

Carmina Oxford Boots

Received this pair of boots last week...after a few months of waiting since ordering them.

This is a special order in limited edition made possible by The London Lounge. Available only to Lounge members and only in cordovan, this boot is lasted on the Robert last.

The boot is unusual in a few counts. Oxford (closed laced) boots are quite rare...the only RTW example I know of is made by Edward Green. Secondly, a pair made out of cordovan, is even more rare. Cordovan is a membrane from the hind of a horse, makes an especially tough, and beautiful leather for shoes.

At first glance, the elegance and formality afforded by the Oxford design would seem to clash not go well with usually thicker, heavier cordovan. But this boot pulls it off very well...thanks to the combined design genius of Michael Alden (supremo at The London Lounge) and Carmina.

The boot turned out to be very elegant, and beautiful. As is typical of shoes and boots coming from the Spanish workshops of Carmina, the finish was very fine. The cordovan was heavily impregnated with fat, as can be seen as the whitish residue on the surface, and wax-like look. Rubbing it vigrously with a clean polish cloth would heat the cordovan and bring the fat to a high gloss shine.

Cordovan shine is different from that of calf...the analogy I used to explain to a friend who is an accomplished architect made him instantly understand was the parallel between the shine of granite and marble. Cordovan is like granite. The shine comes from within...there seems to be a thin membrane wax covering the surface. Whilst calf leather's shine seems superficial, skin deep.

The boot is also hand welted. The usual welts in a normal high quality bench made shoes and boot are Goodyear welted. The Goodyear machine, invented by son of Charles Goodyear (who invented the process to vulcanise rubber and created the tyre giant of the same name). This was a great invention in the industralisation of cordwaining. The Goodyear machine looks like a huge sewing machine, and does a similar job...attaching by even, sturdy stitches the welt to the upper. This reduced the skill level required in welting, and introduced mass produced, high quality shoes.

Even very high quality shoes and boots made RTW by John Lobb Paris or Edward Green in Northampton are Goodyear welted. Usually hand welting is reserved for bespoke shoes and boots. Hand welting results in a finer welt, and this translates to a more comfortable fit.

I typically wear the Philadelphia last on Carmina 9.5E, and Miguel Font, the Director of the Paris store, recommended 9.5E on the Robert. At first wearing the boot seemed a bit tight at the instep, but quite comfortable. I think it was a good call by Miguel on the size. In comparison, Robert is slightly longer than the Philadelphia, and typically wearers would order half a size smaller. For reference I wear 9.5E on the Edward Green 202 last.


Loafer said...

Mr Chong, we read your column in Luxury Insider with relish and your car boot was certainly a site to behold after the visit to Northampton!

We would love to see you on your next visit to London - step away from the more traditional purveyors of gentlemen's footwear around Jermyn Street and visit us in Bloomsbury at carreducker, where you will find a new breed of bespoke shoemakers. We are the young guardians of the trade if you like, who are combining the traditional craftsmanship of fully handsewn, bespoke making with very subtle contemporary detailing.

We teach an intensive handsewn shoemaking course twice a year and will be bringing the course to New York next spring. What greater luxury can there be than spending three weeks under the guidance of skilled shoemakers crafting ones own handsewn shoes!

P. Chong said...

Hi Loafer, thanks for your comments. Will take you up on your offer. Your course seems very interesting. The only other place I know of who offer this type of course is in Tokyo by the folks at Hallmarks Guild of Crafts - another bunch of young cordswainers.

Mark said...

These are beautiful. Any chance you could post more recent pictures of them, show they look after developing a few years of character?