Shoe Seams

The seams on a shoe are one of the main factors in defining the style of a shoe. So I decided to create a list of the various seams and how they define a given style.

Another aspect of seams is broguing (holes punched into the leather for decoration) which also plays a role in the definition of a style.

First lets start with the Wholecut style which is defined by the lack of seams other than the single seam running vertically up the back of the shoe. This is referred to as the Back seam (the small leather extension that comes across, from one side to the other, at the top of some back seams is called a Dog Tail).

The most common seam on shoes is the Gooseneck seam which is where the quarters overlay the vamp to create the facing of the shoe. On closed laced shoes (oxfords) this seam also goes across the top of the vamp.
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A more decorative version of the Gooseneck seam is the Swan Neck seam, which runs up the side of the facing.
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A seam not seen as often in shoes as it is in boots is the Balmoral seam, which starts at the vamp and runs horizontally along the length of the quarters then wraps around the back of the shoe.

A seam that is one of my favorites is the Adelaide seam, which makes a “U” shape around the facing, and is exclusive to Oxford type shoes.

A Heel Counter seam exists when a piece of leather is wrapped around the back of the shoe for decoration and visual balance. This piece of leather is called a heel counter. Not to be confused with the internal support built into the inside of the back of the shoe, also referred to as a heel counter.

Any time a piece of leather (or other material) is laid over a part of the upper a seam is created. A good example of this is the Saddle Shoe seam that is created by placing a piece of leather across the facing and down the sides of the quarters.

The open edges of the Facing (that the shoe laces pull together) is also considered a seam, as is the seam around the top of the shoe opening known as the Top Line seam.

Then, of course, there are the toe seams:

Aside from the typical Cap Toe and Wingtip, which I will go into with more detail shortly, there are less typical Split Toe, Apron Toe, Moc Toe, and Bicycle Toe seams.

The Split Toe seam is also known as an Algonquin or Norwegian seam. It runs vertically up the center front of the toe until it meets either an Apron Toe seam, or a Moc Toe seam.

An Apron Toe seam is a seam attaches a piece of material (leather or other) covering the top of the vamp like an apron, around the upper perimeter of the vamp, but typically not extending to the end of the toe. An Apron Toe can be simulated with just a seam, and does not require a separate piece.

A Moc Toe is similar to an Apron Toe, except that a Moc Toe is set into the vamp rather than being on top of it.

A Bicycle Toe seam is created by extending the quarters forward along the sides of the vamp toward the front of the toe.

Now back to Wingtips and Cap Toes:

There are different styles of wingtip and cap toe shoes that are distinguished mostly by broguing (or the lack thereof).

A Stitch Cap is defined by no broguing on the top cap seam, only a single or double stitch line along the seam (more than two stitch lines can be used for additional decoration).

A Quarter Brogue is defined by broguing along the toe cap seam, as well as broguing on any seams across the quarters and the facing. If a heel counter seam exists it should have broguing as well. Broguing on the top line seam are optional. A quarter brogue also has a plain cap toe (no Medallion).

A Semi-Brogue (or Half-Brogue) is the same as a quarter brogue, except that a semi-brogue has a medallion punched into the cap toe.

A Full-Brogue (better known as just a Brogue) is a wingtip with the same broguing requirements as a semi-brogue.

A Longwing is a full brogue with the tips of the wings extending to the back of the shoe.

An Austerity Brogue is similar to a stitch cap as there is no broguing, only a stitch line along the wingtip seam.

A Blind Brogue is defined by the lack of an actual seam, replaced by a line of broguing directly in the upper to imply a wingtip seam.

Understanding shoe seams will make it much easier to distinguish the various shoe styles at a glance.

2 thoughts on “Shoe Seams

  1. Thank you sir! This is quite informative. Now–how in he world do I keep the white stitching clean on my blue chromexcel boots? Thanks very much for the education.

    • I would use a neutral cream polish on the boots to protect the leather and avoid discoloring the stitching.

      As the white stitching becomes dull over time, you can strip the wax off the boots (and off the stitching), then dip a toothbrush into so liquid Oxyclean and scrub the stitching lightly. Wash down the stitching (and surrounding leather) well with a wet sponge to remove any residual Oxyclean, then put a few coats of neutral cream polish on the boots to replace the oils you removed, and to protect the leather and stitches again.

      Chromexcel leather is an oil stuffed, double tanned (chrome tanned, then vegetable tanned), pull-up leather, which basically means that it is not intended to have a high shine, so avoid paste polishes that are in a tin, because they are high in wax and low in oil. Also avoid oil sponges because they will dull the stitching. Since Chromexcel is also full aniline leather the color is dyed through the leather and should not require additional color to cover up a scuff.

      As a plug for GlenKaren polish, I will note that the Neutral cream polish is composed of coconut oil (which is the only oil in existence that is naturally white, then becomes clear when liquefied), and white beeswax (yes there is actually white beeswax, which also becomes clear when liquefied). The food grade orange oil is naturally clear, and the carnauba wax is the highest grade (clearest) palm wax available anywhere.

      Anytime a solid (like wax or fat in this case) is void of all color it will look white at a given density simply because there is no pigment to reflect a given frequency range of light. When applied to a colored surface the clear coating will allow both source light, and reflected light pass through; thus keeping your blue leather looking blue and your white stitches looking white.

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