Friday, January 4, 2008

Shoe Construction: Norwegian

For our final installment of posts about shoe construction, we'll discuss Norwegian construction (also called Norvegese). Despite the name, it's a specialty of a relatively small number of Italian shoemakers. It was originally conceived as a way to make shoes more waterproof, but the Italians who specialize it today do it mostly for aesthetics and to illustrate their shoemaking virtuosity.

The diagram above (again from La Botte Chantilly) shows the basics. With Goodyear construction, the leather for the upper runs parallel to the feather (the ridge in the insole); and it, the feather, and the welt are stitched together. With Norwegian construction, the upper is turned outward to sit on top of and parallel to the outsole. Two rows of stitching connect it to the feather of the insole and the outsole, respectively. Although the diagram above shows a welt, most Norwegian-constructed shoes don't have one. Goodyear welted shoes are water resistant because this channel doesn't lead to the inside of the shoe, but Norwegian construction takes this one step further by turning out the upper. Doing that instead of running it parallel to the feather denies a channel for water to get into the shoe at all, not just to get to the inside of the shoe. Technically, only a single row of stitching connecting the upper to the feather is required, but many shoemakers choose to have two or more braided rows of stitching to decorate the shoe.

Sutor Mantellassi is the maker of the mostly widely-distributed Norwegian-constructed shoes in the United States (they use a single row of stitching, not a braided double row), but they're hardly the only one. Santoni, A. Testoni, Lattanzi, and others all produce some Norwegian shoes, many of them simply superlative. If you can find them, Norwegian shoes made by Borgioli represent an excellent value. Beware of Blake-constructed shoes that have the same braided stitching at the base of the uppers -- if the shoe is Blake-constructed, that braiding is completely decorative. It doesn't hurt anything, but manufacturers and retailers often think that its presence justifies a much higher price. If it's not a legitimate Norwegian-constructed shoe, then it doesn't.

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