Fun Things I’ve Learned

Keeping your tea hot

As it turns out, a thinner cup for your tea keeps the beverage hot longer–think china cups used for teatime, the ones with saucers. Because mugs are thicker, I guess they absorb more heat from the tea, whereas a thinner china or porcelain cup doesn’t have as much mass to draw heat away from the tea. There are lots of other interesting tea facts at that link, which is part of a series of blog posts by NPR called “Tea Tuesdays,” featuring a blog post about tea–you guessed it–every Tuesday. (HT: Lifehacker)

Oxfords vs. derbys (or bluchers)

Oxford shoes are back in fashion these days. But it probably doesn’t surprise you to know that not all shoes marketed as oxfords are oxfords. It all depends on the laced section of the shoe. Here’s a picture of an oxford shoe:
AE Park Avenue - bourbon
Notice that the section of the shoe with the laces (called the “quarter”) is sort of one part with the rest of the shoe. There are no tongues hanging off the shoe. The quarters are sewn under the front of the shoe (called the “vamp”).

The next picture, on the other hand, is of a derby shoe (or a “blucher”). The quarters are sewn on top of the vamp, and you can imagine, and even see a little bit, that the tongues will hang off of the rest of the shoe a bit when the laces are undone. That’s the sign of a derby/blucher shoe.
AE Kenilworth - bourbon
Oxfords are considered more formal than derbys, presumably because of the sleeker, more streamlined look. (The pictures above are of Allen Edmonds models, the Park Avenue and Kenilworth, respectively. They are shown in a “bourbon” color.)

How (good) shoes are made

Allen Edmonds: (10m)
Crockett & Jones: (7m)
Loake: (6m)

“There’s something like 200 operations in making a pair of classic English brogues, and most of these operations will be done purely by eye, without any guides on the machinery. They’re mostly highly skilled jobs, and each person in the chain is entirely dependent on the previous people doing their job to the highest degree of accuracy” (Loake). There are still a few companies in the world who do this, and it’s fascinating to see how much work goes into a quality shoe like this, and how much they love their work and the pride they take in it.

Back in the day, before Nike and Reebok, shoes used to be made entirely of leather, with leather soles sewn (or “welted”) on. (They make them now with rubber soles for those who may want a bit more durability.) The full-leather construction allowed the shoe to slowly mold to the shape of one’s foot during the break-in period, for maximum comfort. They didn’t need all sorts of cushy padding in those days. (Granted, there probably wasn’t anyone running marathons in those shoes.) The sewn-on soles allowed the owner to keep the rest of the shoe–which by the time the sole wore out was probably several years old, and handsomely aged due to the leather construction, and fit to the shape of the owner’s shoe–and simply remove the old sole to sew a new one back on. It is common for a good welted shoe to last the owner for several decades.

“I think nice shoes are a good illustration of the fact that, in an age where we tend to throw a lot of things away, there is still a place for timeless classics and enduring quality” (Loake). This sums up why welted shoes are my new phase.


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