Sitchdown Construction: The Chunky, Historical Option
For many who started to get into men’s fashion within the last decade, Stitchdown construction is viewed as a great alternative to the more formal, old-school Goodyear welted offerings your father wore. However, Stitchdown as a construction method is actually much older, first used in its current form more than 400 years ago.
Stitchdown boots (and it is almost exclusively found on boots) is now mostly found on boots that are marketed as a tough, outdoor ready boots with names like “Smokejumper” or “Service Boot.” The style is inherently chunky, and lends itself to the aesthetic that comes with that design.
Let’s take a look at Stitchdown construction, how it’s made, and what are the benefits and drawbacks of this style.
How it’s Made
Right off the bat, I should note that Stitchdown construction actually references two different styles of shoemaking. First, there is an incredibly basic form that is essentially a Blake stitched shoe but where the upper is rolled out instead of in. This can be seen best on the famous Clark’s Desert Boot.
To make this style, the upper is stretched over a last and sewn directly onto the mid- or outsole of the shoe. Typically in a 360-degree stitching method. It really is as simple as it sounds. It’s worth taking a look at Reddit user u/lordpoint ‘s dissection of a pair Clarks Boots.
However, when most people mention Stitchdown construction, they are referencing a much more complicated method that is a combination of a Goodyear welted shoe, a Blake-Rapid stitched shoe, and the construction of those Clarks.
This method begins much like a Blake stitched shoe, with the rear of the shoe nailed onto the last. However, at the front of the shoe the leather is pulled outward. At this point, some manufacturers add a welt similar to a Goodyear welted shoe, though others do not. Adding a welt will significantly increase the repairability of the shoe.
The toe is then attached to a midsole with a rapid stitch, or in other words a visible stitch along the top and bottom of the shoe. If the shoe is welted, the welt will go in between the upper leather and the midsole. After this, the outsole is added and an additional rapid stitch – this time going further back on the shoe – secures the outsole to the midsole. These two lines of rapid stitching on the front of the shoe gives that classic Stitchdown look.
Unlike other construction methods, a stylistic Stitchdown construction is incredibly hard to accomplish. By it’s nature, the stitching at the front of a Stitchdown style boot is highly complex. Any fake would be obvious from many feet away, and easily noticeable on any store to a potential buyer. While I’m sure they do exist, I’m not aware of any brands that attempt to fake the look of Stitchdown construction
Benefits of Stitchdown Construction
As you can probably guess by the sudden and severe increase in popularity of Stitchdown constructed footwear, there are plenty of benefits to this method. Note: both this and the drawbacks section will be focusing on the second method of construction.
More than just about any other form of stitched footwear construction, Stitchdown boots will excel at keeping out the elements. With multiple stitches keeping the toe attached to the shoe, there simply is more material between you and the water. Of course, this assumes that the leather itself doesn’t soak through, and the boot uses more than nails at the heel.
The primary draw for most people looking for a Stitchdown boot in the 21st century is the chunky design. While other methods work to be as svelte as possible, hiding stitching wherever possible, Stitchdown construction embraces visible stitching and a wide stance. For many, that is reason enough to pick this option.
Stitchdown construction pulls the leather of the upper away from the ball and toes of the foot. This allows the boot to conform more than most other styles of shoe. While the differences may be small, at the price that many of these boots demand, it’s hard to justify even a small compromise.
Drawbacks of Sitchdown Construction
Just like any form of construction, the Stitchdown method comes with drawbacks. In fact, as an older method, it comes with several notable items to be aware of.
While many will highlight the time and steps taken to make a Stitchdown boot, this means that constructing footwear comes with a cost. For example, Truman charges $100 to use Stitchdown instead of Goodyear welting on their Made-to-Order products. That’s typically around a 20% increase, even with all other materials staying the same.
By design, a Stitchdown constructed boot uses the upper as part of the construction. This means that unlike a Goodyear welted shoe – where a welt can see multiple resoles and only when that is worn out and replaced does the upper leather get touched – the upper itself can wear out through resoling. A good cobbler is absolutely critical when resoling this style – a single botched job can run the entire thing forever.
This method – particularly if a welt is included – requires more material in compared to other methods of construction. This weight can be felt if you plan on wearing the boots all day. It only makes matters worse that this is generally used on already hefty boots.
Companies that use Stitchdown construction
Unlike some of the other methods where we needed to grab a small sample of brands, companies that use Stitchdown construction are fairly limited. Almost every who uses this method is geographically located in a fairly small area in the Pacific Northwest. These brands also typically offer other styles of construction as well.
When Should You Pick a Stitchdown constructed Shoe?
Again focusing on the full method, you should pick up a Stitchdown constructed shoe when you’re looking for something that can take just about anything you can throw at it, along with a wallet that can take a similar level of punishment.
With the rarity and cost, nobody has accidentally bought a pair of Sitchdown boots. It is a style that is unmistakable for anything else. Owning a pair proclaims to the world that you didn’t want to settle. You wanted something that could take a beating and carry on.
Even if you just wear them to the office on Friday.