How To Choose The Right Leather Sole | Shoe Restoration With Cobbler Jim McFarland


Hi I’m Kirby Allison and we love to help
the well-dressed take care of their wardrobes today I’m here with Jim
McFarland you know our cobbler that’s in charge of our Kirby Allison shoe
restoration and refurbishment program and we’re going to talk a little bit
about the JR oak-bark tanned leather outsoles that we exclusively use in our
program, so Jim and I just got back from touring GRN debauch in Germany and it
was a beautiful tour we filmed a lot of video and actually seeing how these oak
bark tanned leather outsoles are tanned was really incredible for us I mean to
actually see the passion that they bring to this using the same family and
tanning process that JR Rendenbach is used for almost 150 years is
absolutely incredible and so we’re proud to exclusively use these leather out
soles and so Jim I just wanted you to talk a little bit about some of the
technical characteristics of JR Rendenbach these oak bark tanned
leather outsoles that really do make them better than what is commonly
available through most resoling programs. Sure one important thing is the
company’s phenomenal, the owner of the company Hanns Rendenbach is a fourth
generation tanner, and they’ve had this family recipe for more than a hundred
years. When you talk about passion as we have in some of the other videos. Hanns is one of the most passionate guys i would ever meet in my life when it comes to
leather I have never seen anybody so caring about leather, and what he does
he’s just an amazing man. When he buys hides and he only keeps the very best
part. Most tanneries when they tanned the whole hide and you get cutters cutting
souls from bends they cut from every area and they’ll have different grades
first grade all the way down to fourth or fifth grade and they only keep the
very best area everything else is sold off for other goods belts, wallets,
whatever, and so not only are you getting the very best cut of leather but the
process itself when it’s in the ground for eight to ten months and it’s only
water and oak bark that’s tanning this leather you have no man-made tanning
agents, so when this gets wet it actually gets stronger it doesn’t have
problem with the agents washing out because it’s cured in oak bark to where
you get some of these other leathers that they’re tanned in 30 days or less
and they’re putting man-made agents in them and when they get wet the agents
wash out so the soles become kind of mushy a lot of times and soft, and they
wear out much faster so you really need to avoid getting those shoes wet. Yeah, I
mean the two most important characteristics of a leather outsole is
that resistance to abrasion and then that water resistance and those two
things really work hand-in-hand because if you have a leather outsole that is
you know a filled with these tanning agents to you know to accelerate that
tanning process those tanning agents are those fillers washout which then
compromises the resistance to abrasion that’s right so it’s really hand-in-hand
and you know what’s incredible about the JR Rendenbach oak bark tanned
leather outsole is just the beauty in this natural process I mean you know as
we saw when we were there they’re really literally just using four different
types of tree barks that they tan these leather out soles in there’s nothing
else being used there’s no chemical agents it is natural as it comes
and it really creates a leather outsole that you know has a lot of these
beautiful properties of nature I mean whenever it gets wet you know these the
fiber structure tightens, and actually locks water out. You know one thing
that’s amazing when I have a customer come in that’s very passionate, and
they’ve heard of the JR leather and they come in my store and they want to
see it I don’t just bring them a soul I go into
my storage room and I bring out a fresh pack that’s in plastic and I bust open
the package and when the oak bark hits them in the face they’re just like wow
they can smell that oak bark. You really can smell the quality the other
characteristic of our Kirby Allison certified refurbishment and restoration
program is that we also exclusively use full soles, so although we have some half
soles here and JR certainly does make a hassle that many cobblers use. Yes, in our
program we’re only using the highest quality full sole. Yes that is it,
there’s nothing wrong with hassles in certain situations, but when you have a
beautiful dress shoe that you love you really want to go with the full soul.
Yeah, well so show us what we have here so this is a Italian tainted you
know just just some ways we test leather sometimes just to see how the fiber
structure is you can take a soul just kind of bend it and then look at the
results and it stays kind of bent or you can bend it this way and you can see it
you know the fiber structure isn’t so tight when you take one of
the JR Souls so you take it and you bend it’s putting some
effort to bend but you take it and it goes back because the fiber structure is
so strong and so solid it’s not going to have memory to just stay bent and
that tight fiber structure again is what helps create that really unique
resistance to abrasion yeah that you know results in a an outsole you know
that wears harder and longer really you’re able to get two to three times as
much wear out of a JR outsole then you would an ordinary one and the reason
that’s important is one not only do you have to resew your shoes or less
frequently so you’re taking it to the cobbler less often but it also
reduces the number of times that you’re really straining the welt whenever you
restitch that so every Goodyear welted pair of shoe really has a maximum
lifetime to that well how many times it can be resold until that welt just rips
off or falls off because it’s been periphery too much with the welting
machine so if you have a pair of shoes for twenty thirty years it may be you
know resold three or four times verses six to eight yeah with an ordinary outsole
that’s gonna wear much faster with all the tests I’ve done if you take a really
good sole and put it up against the JR .The JR usually going to go
twice as long now when you get into lower grades of leather it could be
three to five times longer depending on the shoe, so you know if you’ve resold a
shoe with JR let’s say twice if you were to use the regular leather a
different type of leather it could have been anywhere from four to six times
you’ve resold it so if you spend a little bit more money getting getting a
JR sole put on your and you’re thinking well I’m spent a
little bit more here I hope it’s worth it we got to think in the long run
you’ve resold it two or three times less so you’ve actually saved a whole lot of
money yeah absolutely well why don’t you cut a pair and kind of show us
okay well you know this is a soul that I can take and I can just pretty much cut
it pretty easily with my knife the fiber structure is it’s not bad, but you know
it’s soft enough to cut through pretty easy. Now I know the owner of the
company is probably watching this video and oh this is like blasphemy I’m sure
so I want to cut across here so if I come across here you can hear it you can
hear how tight that fiber is when I’m cutting with this sharp knife which is a
like a razor so when I go to cut this one again what’s the difference it’s so
soft I can’t hardly even get it but listen to the difference yeah how much
easier I went right through that it’s almost like paper you know you can just
feel it as a craftsman when you’re working with the leather that’s one
thing that we love to do as a cobbler is work with leather that’s our favorite
thing when somebody comes in with a bad piece of leather it was put on their
shoes and they have a nice pair of shoes and they say the leather just wears out
too fast yeah I went through this in six months put rubber on oh that’s just
awful because the rubber soles are just heavier and say just on what they
lasted finesse and that’s one of the other things that really struck me
whenever we were touring JR was that you know most people you know they want
to put a rubber sole on their shoe because you know the leather sole wears
out too quickly and it doesn’t have the water resistance. Well it’s really not a
characteristic a proper leather outsole is because maybe their shoes are made
with a really cheap leather outsole and absolutely and so if you if you resell
your shoes using JR or four it’s made with JR which some of the best
shoe makers in the world actually exclusively use JR in the buck of mark
tan leather out soles like Edward Green, but if you resell your shoes with a pair
of JR outsoles then you’re gonna get that longevity
you’re gonna get that a lot of resistance but you also have the finesse
and beauty of having your dress shoes with the proper pair of leather outsole
and there’s just something about you know the elegance of the leather outsole
that I just feel that you’ll never get even from the highest quality of rubber
outsole. Now I would take a leather any day the JR out soles were really a
precondition of our Kirby Allison restoration refurbishment program I
always said that if we were gonna do this it was going to have to be not just
with the best craftsmanship which we have here but really the best materials
at every single step of the way the high quality and the high standards that the
Kirby Allison project bring to this program are the highest I’ve ever seen
and I’ve been doing this my whole life full-time since I was 16 years old and
this is the first time I have ever seen anything like this and I’m very excited
to start. Yeah so anyone that’s considering having their shoes resoled I
really encourage you to take a look at our Kirby Allison refurbishment and
restoration program because there’s just nobody that I know that’s really put
everything into their program like what we have and you’ll absolutely be blown
away by the quality that we’re doing here click the link at the bottom of
this video to learn more about our Kirby Allison shoe restoration refurbishment
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12 Comments

  • These are amazing outsoles. I'd like to put these on my Fifth Street Dress Boots by Allen Edmonds.

    When refurbishing shoes, do the uppers get refinished?

  • Nice video, Kirby!
    How does the JR oak bark sole compare to Baker oak bark leather sole in terms of quality and durability? TBH I'm not a big fan of the JR stamp.

  • Is there any chance that the existing welt quality can be assessed, and if necessary the welt be replaced as part of the service/for an extra fee? Same regarding the ability to adjust the heel pitch?

    A manufacturer-based recrafting service (I'm not being very sneaky here) mangled the welt on a few of my shoes, and though I've resigned myself to wearing them until they come due again for a resole, I wonder if the welt may need replacement at that time. The heel is also attached such that the sole does not touch the ground when the heel is flat; instead only the front edge of the toplift touches the ground when I stand with my forefoot touching the ground, and the rear of my heel is in the air. I rock back and forth like a table with a short leg.

    Too much info:
    The resoling job placed outsole stitches at a much higher density than the original, poking many times more extra holes in the welt, the edges were sanded down excessively to the point that some of the stitch holes are now on the edge, it is very close to the upper and I imagine a tight space to work on in the future, etc.

  • So does JrRendenbach only make soles? If so, what brands currently use them in newly manufactured shoes?

  • So so envious of your trip and guide around the JR tannery… ๐Ÿ˜ฎ
    Must have been so interesting and inspiring to actually get to see how these amazing leather soles are produced….
    Iโ€™m so looking forward to your videos of your visit…!! ๐Ÿ˜

    Thanks for another great video and explanation of something so fundamental to enjoying a good pair of shoes and so often ignore or minimised by a lot of people who are involved in the shoe manufacture and maintenance of shoes…

    I always JRโ€™d my loakes!!

    Thanks guys ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ‘

  • Hi Kirby, your program is the best thing the shoe industry has seen in a while in my view. I live in Belgium. It rains a lot just like in London and my fear is that when spending a lot of money on a nice pair of dress shoes with leather outsoles, my grip will get compromised and I might slip (hurting myself or damaging my clothing/shoes in the action). What's your view on it? I've worn a pair of Chelsea boots with leather outsoles in a department store (typical concrete slippery foor) and I was sliding all over the place. I know a new smooth leather outsole will feel different after a few wears but my question about the grip in rainy situations remains. I've done some research but I'd like to hear your opinion now you've studied the matter of outsoles even more. Cheers!

  • The higher collar in front is better on you.

  • Hi Kirby. Do you guys do double leather outsoles for boots?

  • Cool video. Merry Christmas to both of you.

  • Mcfarland is a salesman for JR. and JR is just marketing. They're only better for carving a welted insole.

  • Another Great Video! Quick question, could you elaborate on why leather is many times better than rubber?

  • I would like to send in a fifth Avenue cap toe oxford, factory second pair just bought for the JR upgrade and some upper work from blemishes.

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