The “Upper” Echelon

Overall quality starts with the raw materials. It’s not just how they are processed to make the finish product. It begins at the source. Historically, the highest quality leather has been made in Italy. The tradition still stands, with many facilities still employing the detail-oriented and handcrafted nature of leather work today. They have strict quality control standards during every stage, thoroughly inspecting the raw hide and using the best dyes and chemicals to ensure consistent and long-lasting leather products. Italian leathers are the standard in luxury and are used exclusively by high fashion houses. From shoes and bags to car interiors and home furnishings, the “Made in Italy” seal is second to none. Also look for the "vero cuoio" label, which means real leather. 

When it comes selecting leather there are two options: full grain and top grain. Full grain leather is the creme de la creme and the only leather we use on our shoes. Selected from the top layer of the hide which has all the grain, full grain leather denotes a hide that has not been sanded, polished, or had any other ‘corrective’ technique employed to remove the natural marks on the surface of the material. The full grain remains intact as it keeps the denser fibers, allowing it to retain the full tensile strength and durability. It also has greater breathability, resulting in less moisture build up. And over time, the leather will develop a beautiful natural sheen, known as a “patina.” Full grain leather is primarily characterized by a smooth “hand” (how it feels to the touch).

Top grain leather is second in quality because although it is sourced from the same layer of the hide as full grain, it is then thinned, buffed, and varnished to remove natural imperfections in the hide. This process gives it a more uniform finish but its longevity suffers, having lost the “split” layer in the shaving process. Why make the investment if the leather isn't going to age nicely? Top grain is more pliable, and the added coat gives it a plastic feel. 

When you make a shoe investment, ensure you’ll get the greatest return possible: sustained aesthetic appeal, longevity in quality, and comfort where it counts. You want to know you’ve made the best choice, from sole to upper. This includes how it is stitched, filled, and folded. You also want to make sure the company to which you subscribed is giving their very best. High quality materials usually match the price tag but ensure you will get the most out of the finished product. Weigh construction technique, last shape, design features, color, and burnish. Choose the full grain Italian leather shoe with an inspiring silhouette and enticing accents. The shoe needs to be undeniably noticeable yet subtly applied. It needs to fit your taste. It needs to reflect your character. What do your shoes say about you?