The Finishing Stages
What follows is a series of finishing operations, indispensable for endowing the shoe with its defining characteristics. Finishing the Sole. Begin by colouring the entire sole, already prepared, with aniline dye mixtures and leave to dry for approximately an hour.
Removing the Last.
After approximately ten days the shoe can be removed from the wooden last.
This stage is final and conclusive. It consists of the manual cleaning and polishing of the upper and the sole.
Men’s shoes, showing a preference for tradition and practicality, are almost exclusively made from animal skins, usually bovine: calf, cow, bull, ox, buffalo and zebu are used for both soles and uppers. Particularly sought-after is calfskin; the younger the animal the more-sought after the skin. Kidskin produces excellent uppers, horsehide, more widely known as cordovan, produces extremely sought-after uppers, and exotic skins are particularly appreciated and are much in vogue in emerging markets.
The top-grain is the best part of a hide. It consists of the outer part of the coat and is reserved for footwear of the highest value and is used for the most visible parts of quality shoes. Sheep’s skin is usually used for the linings. The most sophisticated shoemakers use soft goatskin for the front and the more costly calfskin for the back part of the shoe: it is more beautiful and has the advantage of adding light support to the shoe.
The transformation of skins into imputrescible products is a long and delicate process which is called tanning.
Vegetable tanning is the oldest form and is based on the use of tannins extracted from wood and bark. A good, heavy leather suitable for a sole requires a minimum of 15-20 days tanning.
Chrome tanning results in a more elastic leather than that produced by vegetable tanning and produces an equally flexible thickness which is resistant to splits.
Oil tanning, which requires the use of animal fats, is used for suede, deerskin, reindeer and antelope hide, and as their substitutes, lamb and sheepskin and calfskin.