Terminology & Glossary

A

Aglet – A metal or plastic tag at the end of a shoelace. The aglet makes lacing easier and it protects the lace from unraveling. Historically, the aglet took a more ornamental form than it does today.

Algonquin Toe – A style originated in the 1700s and named after the Algonquin Indian tribe for having designed it in the eighteenth century, the ‘Algonquin Toe’ (also referred to as the Split Toe) is constructed by joining two pieces of leather together at the ‘vamp’ and ‘welt’ of the shoe.

Antic Calf Leather – Finely textured calfskin from Italian tanneries.

Antiquing – A type of leather finish that creates a contrasting, rubbed-off appearance.

Aglet – A small plastic or metal sheath used to protect the end of a shoestring, cord, or drawstring.

Apron – Some sort of visible stitching or edge that forms a sort of “lake” at the front of the shoe. You typically only see this on Derbys or Loafers.

Apron Toe – Unlike many shoe terms, an Apron toe is actually what it sounds like. It can be recognized by the visible edges or stitching that finishes off the toe and forms a sort of apron along the shoe’s front.

Appaloosa Calf Leather – A  calf leather, made to look like shell cordovan (at least when new). Hence the reference to a horse breed (C&J calls it ’Cavalry-Calf).

Arch – The high, curved part of the sole of the foot, located between the ball of the foot and the heel. This term can also refer to the raised area of the insole of the shoe, which is meant to pad and provide support for the arch of the foot.

B

Back Seam – The vertical seam at the center of the back of a shoe or boot.

Backstay – A short strip of leather that connects the quarters down the back of the shoe.

Ball – The padded area of the foot between the big toe and the arch of the foot.

Balmoral – Typically an ankle-high, front-laced shoe, wherein the bottom of the shoe’s lacing is sewn to the front of the shoe’s throat, creating a closed ‘V’ shape at the bottom of the lacing. When tied, the Balmoral’s tongue is completely concealed, except for its tip. It is said that this style received its name and popularity after Prince Albert was seen wearing such a shoe during an extended holiday at the Balmoral castle. Also Known as Oxfords.

Bellows Tongue – A wide folding tongue that is completely attached to the sides under the eyelets to the vamp to make the shoe watertight.

Bespoke – A truly bespoke shoe is made on a last that has been custom-made for an individual, rather than one of the standard lasts that used for 99.999% of the shoes in the world. Also, a bespoke shoe customer gets to choose most every detail of construction, from major choices like the leather to details like heel type.

Betis Calf Leather – Natural neutral-base calfskin with a pure aniline finish. It can be processed with creams or wire brush to create footwear with a wide range of effects. It can also be decolorized with alcohol and water, then reassembled ton-sur-ton. Trademarked product of the Ilcea tannery in Italy.

Bicycle Toe – A type of toe characterized by two stitched straight line accents, so named because of their similarity to professional bicycling shoe detailing.

Blake Stitched – In a shoe that is Blake stitched, the sole is attached directly to the upper of the shoe, rather than to an intermediary welt. This makes for a lightweight shoe with the sole thinner and more flexible, but by definition less robust.

Blucher – A shoe with two side panels or “quarters” which are laced together over the tongue. The lacing is ‘open-throat’ (not stitched together at the bottom) and allows for more adjustment or ‘give’ around the instep than ‘closed-throat’ ‘Oxford ‘V’-shaped lacing. Also sometimes known as Derby or Gibson.

Boat Shoe – A type of shoe originally meant to be worn aboard a boat, usually with a siped, non-slip outsole, often with side lacing details and two or three eyelets, A casual shoe you can wear with or without socks.

Bologna Construction – In Bologna construction, the upper is folded back upon itself and sewn into a sort of tube before it put onto the last. After lasting, a soft insole is inserted, and the upper construction is stitched to the outsole like a Blake construction (ie, the stitching will appear on the inside of the shoe). The resulting shoe, if it is done well, is slim and very flexible.

Bookbinder Finnish – A long-standing and highly regarded glossy corrected grain leather developed and used by Church’s shoes.

Boot – Any shoe that extends over the ankle. Boots can be formal or casual, and are often quite utilitarian in their design and are associated with certain trades or leisure activities — such as steel-toe construction boots, or motorcycle boots.

Blind Eyelets – Eyelets that have a small metal grommet on the underside of the leather to create the holes through which you stick your shoelaces. Generally the less visible the grommets, the more formal the shoe.

Break – The natural crease created across the vamp of the shoe from everyday wear.

Brogue – A style of low-heeled shoe or boot traditionally characterized by multiple-piece, sturdy leather uppers with decorative perforations (or “broguing”) and serration along the pieces’ visible edges. They were traditionally considered to be outdoor or country footwear not otherwise appropriate for casual or business occasions, but brogues are now considered appropriate in most contexts. Brogues are most commonly found in one of four toe cap styles (full or “wingtip”, semi-, quarter and longwing) and four closure styles (Oxford, Derby, Ghillie and Monk). Today, in addition to their typical form of sturdy leather shoes or boots, brogues may also take the form of any other shoe form that utilizes or evokes the multi-piece construction and perforated, serrated piece edges characteristic of brogues.

Brogueing – A term that refers to the perforations or small punches that can be used to decorate a shoe. Also known as Decorative perforations. It’s been said that these were historically done to help country shoes drain out water, but nowadays it’s just for decoration.

Buckle – A clasp at the end of a length of fabric or leather that joins one end of the material to the other.

Burnishing – A bit of darkening of the leather, usually at the toe or heel. Sometimes it’s called antiquing, especially if it’s done all over the shoe.

C

Calf Leather – The skin of very young cattle that offers fine grain, suppleness and exceptional durability. A versatile leather that can be used for virtually every type of shoe.

Cap Toe – A type of toe style with a full toe overlay and a straight stitching line across the top part of the toe, often seen in dress shoes. Sometimes referred to as the part of the upper covering the toe.

Castoro Suede – Castoro is a type of suede that imitates beaver skin.

Cemented Construction – A construction using specialized adhesives, in place of stitched welts, to bond the upper parts and soles, thus achieving lightness and flexibility.

Chelsea Boot – Type of boot, usually ankle height, in a pull-on style with elastic side panels, or double-gore construction. Popularized in England.

Chukka Boot – An ankle-high boot style with suede or leather uppers and leather or rubber soles. Featuring open lacing with two or three pairs of eyelets, usually with a plain toe. The name Chukka possibly comes from the game of polo, where a chukka is a period of play. Generally, “chukka boot” refers to a form of desert boots originally worn by British soldiers in the Western Desert Campaign of World War II.

Circumference – The measurement around the shaft of a boot taken at the widest part near the top of the boot shaft.

Collar – The material sewn into the opening, or the topline, of the shoe. The collar can be padded to provide increased support or comfort.

Combination Last – A footwear last in which the heel is two sizes smaller in width than the widest part of the shoe, producing a shoe with a narrow heel and a wide toebox.

Contoured Footbed – An insole that easily molds to the shape of the foot.

Commando Sole – The Commando or Lugged sole is your classic hiking/workboot rubber outsole. Known for its chunky rugged profile, thick lugs great traction and weather resistance. Born out of tragedy, Italian inventor Vitale Bramante created the sole after six of his friends died in a climbing accident in 1935. He thought their deaths might have been avoided had they been equipped with better footwear. He patented the design and soon founded the company Vibram that would sell the soles all over the world.

Cordovan Leather – A soft, fine-grained, colored leather produced mainly from the shell of a horse butt. Known for its non-porosity, density, and good wearing characteristics, The name derives from Cordoba, Spain, where the leather was first produced. Shell cordovan is distinguished by its lustrous waxy finish, superior durability, and suppleness that readily conforms to the shape of the wearer’s foot.

Corrected Grain leather – leather that has been sanded and buffed to remove imperfections such as scars from the surface of the material. Usually, the surface is spray painted and embossed with a leather-like pattern to resemble natural appearance. An artificial grain can then be embossed or spray-painted with a leather-like pattern on the leather. to resemble a natural appearance.

Covered Heel – A heel covered in the same material as the upper construction.

Crepe Rubber – A crude natural rubber with a crinkled texture, used in shoe soles.

Crepe Soles – These are made from natural rubber gum and have a distinct “squiggly” pattern on the outsole. A traditional sole that provides comfort and natural shock absorbency. Crepe soles are a natural product and somewhat porous. Therefore the color can change with age. Crepe rubber soles have a rich and long history as the soles on British troop combat boots during WWII. They do not provide the best traction and should be avoided for wet weather or winter wear. Their common yellow/sponge characteristics can provide a great look in casual boots like the popular Desert Boots and other designer boots.

Crest To Sock – A shoemakers emblem or logo printed or stamped onto the sock of the shoe.

Crust Leather –  Crust leather is tanned and dried, but not dyed. On crust leathers, the coloring is applied via polish, by hand, after the shoe is made. Thus you get subtle color variations all over the shoes.

Curing – The application of chemicals to animal hides in preparation for the tanning process.

Cushioning – Padding on the insole or outsole of a shoe for added comfort and stabilization.

D

Daino – Deerskin.

Daino Calf Leather – Calfskin leather that has been treated to give the leather the same feel and look as deerskin.

Demi Boot – A style of boot whose shaft is generally no taller than the anklebone.

Derby – A shoe with two side panels or “quarters” which are laced together over the tongue. The lacing is ‘open-throat’ (not stitched together at the bottom) and allows for more adjustment or ‘give’ around the instep than ‘closed-throat’ ‘Oxford’ ‘V’-shaped lacing.

Derby Boot – The boot version (extends over the ankle) of the Derby shoe.

Desert Boot – A chukka boot (A boot style with laces, usually with a plain toe, and is the height of the ankle) with crepe rubber soles and, typically, suede uppers. Desert boots were popularized in the 1950s by English shoe company  C. & J. Clark now known as Clarks shoes. According to Clarks, inspiration came from “the crepe-soled, rough suede boots made in Cairo for British Army officers”.

Diamond Rubber Sole – A Rubber sole with embossed diamond patterning to give extra grip.

Dainite Sole – The refined cousin of the Commando sole. Made by the English company Dianite which is a sub-brand of the Harboro Rubber Co. It has become a generic term for their most popular sole. It is a rubber sole with large studs that provide grip – whilst not so traditional, they do provide good all-round grip and durability for most surfaces. The recessed lugs allow for a low profile that is much thinner than other lugged sole options. Because of their slim design, Dainite soles are often used in dress boots.

Distressed Leather – Leather that has been rubbed, scratched or treated for a stylish effect.

Double Monk Strap – Double monk strap shoes offer an additional strap and buckle to single strap Monk strap shoes (see Monk Strap), which in theory allows for a better fit especially for smaller or narrower feet.

Double Speed Eyelets – External eyelets that are shaped like open hooks or D-ring eyelets. They typically appear within the last few rows of eyelets. Double speed eyelets can be found in casual footwear, but they most often appear in shoes like work boots, hiking boots, and ice skates. They’re also much easier to lace than other kinds of eyelets. Often times a hooked eyelet is attached to a traditional punched eyelet that gives the wearer the option of winding the laces around the hooks or threading them through.

Dressing – The application of polish or gloss to a shoe to maintain its finish and appearance.

Driving Moc – A type of casual  Slip-on shoe that is ideal for driving, with a flexible, pedal-gripping sole and a wraparound protected heel.

E

Elastic Gore – An elastic fabric panel inserted into shoes to provide stretch.

Embossed Leather – A design that is imprinted onto leather and often simulated exotic skin – i.e., croco or snake. It may also be a random pattern.

Eyelets – The holes through which you stick your shoelaces. Metal rings called grommets are usually used to support these holes. If the grommets are on the exposed side of the leather – the side that you can see – and they’re in a different color than your uppers, then they’re called Agatine Eyelets. If they match your uppers they’re called Matched Agatine, and if they’re on the underside of the leather, they’re called Blind Eyelets. Generally speaking, blind eyelets are more formal than matched agatine eyelets, which in turn are more formal than agatine. Essentially, the less visible the grommets, the more formal the shoe.

Eyelet Tabs – The tabs on a  Derby shoe that are used to hold eyelets.

Eyestay – The part around the lace opening (throat of the shoe). It can feature webbings, eyelets, etc.

F

Faux Lace – Also called Fake Lace. When a shoe has the appearance of laces, but they are for decoration only, they do not function to open or close the shoe.

Finish – The process by which the final appearance of a shoe is created. The finish can include the application of polish to create a high-gloss finish, or a contrasting polish to create a rub-off finish like “antiquing”.

Folded Top Line –  When the material around the opening of the shoe, where you stick your foot in is folded over to create a smooth soft edge.

Footbed – The insole of the shoe, where the foot rests. Another term for the insole.

Forefoot – The area of the foot between the ball and the toes.

Foxing – A piece of leather trimming fitted into or on top of the rear quarters.

Full Brogues – (also known as wingtips) are characterized by a pointed toe cap with extensions (wings) that run along both sides of the toe, terminating near the ball of the foot. Viewed from the top, this toe cap style is “W” shaped and looks similar to a bird with extended wings, explaining the style name “Wingtips” that is commonly used in the United States. The toe cap of a full brogue is both perforated and serrated along its edges and includes additional decorative perforations in the center of the toe cap. A shoe with a wingtip-style toecap but no perforations is known as an “Austerity Brogue”, while a plain-toe shoe with wingtip-style perforations is a “Blind brogue”.

Full Grain Leather – Leather that has been tanned so that the natural texture, or grain, of the animal skin is visible. Full grain leather comes from the top layer of the hide. It includes all the grain – hence the term Full Grain leather. This type of leather retains the inherent toughness, as well as the imperfections because there are no surface alterations or splitting.

Fumè finish – A Black aged finish.

G

Ghillie – Pronounced “gil-ee”, this is a style of footwear in which the laces pass through fabric or leather rings or loops attached to the front opening of the shoe, rather than eyelets.

Gibson – A shoe with two side panels or “quarters” which are laced together over the tongue. The lacing is ‘open-throat’ (not stitched together at the bottom) and allows for more adjustment or ‘give’ around the instep than ‘closed-throat’ ‘Oxford’ ‘V’-shaped lacing. Also known as Derby or Blucher.

Gimping – This term refers to the decorative edging in a saw-toothed or  Zig-zag design used on the uppers of some footwear and done for decoration. Achieved by the shoemaker using a gimping machine, in which steel tools with various patterns can be fitted to achieve the desired effect. Also known as Pinking.

Gimped Tongue – V shaped edging on the tongue. Also known as a Pinked Tongue.

Girth – The circumference of a shoe last measured around the ball of the foot.

Glacè Calf Leather – A calfskin leather which has been baked under a very high-temperature with a natural wax coating applied beforehand such that it results in a very high, textured shine.

Goatskin – Leather made from the hide of a goat.

Goodyear Welt – A shoe construction in which the upper and sole of the shoe is stitched together, The process to achieve this is known as Goodyear Welting. Named after Mr Charles Goodyear Jr, who patented the construction technique in 1871. The welt, a ribbon of leather that runs around the edge of the upper and joins the insole to the upper. Constructing a Goodyear welt involves running a lockstitch through the upper, insole and welt, whilst an entirely separate stitch is used to attach the outsole. The resulting seam is visible and runs around the outside of the shoe, where the upper and outsole meet. The cavity between the welt and insole is then filled with a layer of cork that molds to the wearer’s foot, providing insulation and comfort. This double-stitch reinforcement is incredibly robust and acts as a waterproof barrier. It also enables your shoes to be easily repaired in the future. Welting footwear makes the shoe incredibly resilient  – perfect for Country Shoes and Boots.

Gore – A piece of woven, elastic fabric stitched into either side of a shoe’s vamp in order to make it more comfortable and easier to put on and take off.

Grain – The inherent surface pattern of leather, differentiated by the animal from which it came.

Grain Leather – Leather usually heavier than buffing made from the grain side of a skin and in the case of cowhide often split from a hide already tanned and dried.

H

Half Bellow Tongue – A wide folding tongue that is attached halfway up the sides under the eyelets to the vamp to make the shoe watertight.

Half Brogue –  Half Brogues (also known as Semi brogues) are characterized by a toe cap with decorative perforations and serration along the cap’s edge and include additional decorative perforations in the center of the toe cap. The half brogue was first designed and produced by John Lobb Ltd. as an Oxford in 1937 to offer his customers a shoe more stylish than a plain oxford, yet not as bold as a full brogue.

Harness Boot – A type of boot characterized by straps across the instep and heel, usually joined by a ring detail.

Heel – “Heel” can refer to both the rear, padded area of the underside of the foot, as well as the solid part of a shoe that supports the heel cup.

Types of shoe heels include:

  • Baby Louis – The same shape as a Louis heel but a 12/8 or shorter.
  • Built Heel – Created from layers of leather or fiber with contrasting tones.
  • Continental – A higher heel with a slightly curved back and flat front.
  • Cuban – A thick, stacked heel with little or no curvature and tapered at the bottom; usually medium in height.
  • Louis Heel -Developed in the seventeenth century, it is a heel fashioned from an extension of the shoe’s sole.
  • Louis or French – Features a curved back and ranges in height from 16/8 to 24/8.
  • Stacked – Similar to the built heel but typically can be created from synthetic and leather materials. Often found on spectator shoes.
  • Wedge – A heel of any height that is as wide as the shoe itself and follows the contour of the shoe from toe to heel.

Heel Breast – The forward-facing side of the heel.

Heel Cup – A strip of leather on the outside of the heel used to cover the seam joining the quarters.

Heel Height – Heel height is measured on a vertical line at the breast of the heel and goes from the bottom surface of the sole (where it meets the heel) to the floor. Heel height is traditionally measured in increments of 1/8th inches, so, for example, an 8/8 heel is 1″ high.

Heel lifts – Two to four pieces of leather stacked to form a heel. The sides are then usually painted black or brown, depending on the color of the upper.

Heel Seat – The part of the shoe directly below where the heel of the foot rests, and where the sole and the heel are joined together.

Heel Spurs – Soft deposits of calcium that grow on the “plantar fascia”, a band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, and are typically very painful.

Hidden Gore – An elastic panel at the front of a shoe that is covered by the shoe’s tongue and provides added comfort.

Hide – The skin of a large animal that is treated, tanned or finished for use in boots, shoes, handbags, and clothing.

Highland Grain Leather – Very much looks like Pebbled Grain Leather, an embossed leather grain finish that resembles a pebbled surface. The name probably originates from Bruichladdich Grain Leather that was originally developed by thrifty Scots on the Isle of Islay as a method of utilizing the mash byproduct of the whiskey distillation process. Utilizing vintage charred oak barrels that have served their whiskey aging purpose, Highland cattle skins are layered within the barrels and interspersed with copious amounts of leftover barley mash. Over time, sometimes as long as 12 or more years, the skins develop the familiar pebbled, shrunken grain. The mash also imbues the skin with its customary Cognac color. Hides aged 30 years are the connoisseur’s choice, and only available at the most exclusive bespoke bootmakers. Most are private firms who only accept commissions via referral. Completely unknown on enthusiast forums. In less democratic times the skins were reserved for nobles. Known in the U.S. as Scotch Grain, a misnomer. Scots’ grain is correct for those unable to properly pronounce Bruichladdich. Much of what passes for genuine Scots’ grain is ersatz non-Celtic dairy cattle gunge squeezed twixt embossing rollers to simulate the effect of mash aging.

Hooked Eyelets – See Double speed eyelets.

I

Insole – The part of the shoe that the foot rests upon, usually cushioned

Instep – The area of the foot between the toes and the ankle. Much of this is covered by the shoe’s vamp and tongue. (the top front part of the shoe).

Internal lining – An internal lining of a shoe or boot to give extra comfort and sometimes support to the shoe.

J

Jodhpur Boots – A low-cut boot used primarily for equestrian activities. Maybe laced or a twin gore pull-on style

K

Kidskin – A soft, porous leather created from the hide of young goats

Kiltie – A decorative fringed tongue section of leather, often found on the vamp area of loafers.

L

Laces – A strip of material strung through the eyelets of a shoe to pull the shoe closed and adjust its girth.

Lace Stay – Most commonly known as the Eyestay. The part of an oxford shoe into which eyelets and laces are inserted and used to adjust the fit.

Lambskin – Leather created from the skin of young sheep.

Lapped Seam – Created when two pieces of material are attached by being sewn together, one on top of the other.

Last – The wooden block around which the shoe is formed. The last represents the shape and size of the intended wearer’s foot. Last’s can be standard sizes or bespoke.

Lasting – The process of pulling and shaping a shoe on a last.

Leather Soles – Shoe or boot soles made from leather. Known for their breathability and ability to mold and shape to your foot. This makes for a comfortable shoe or boot that fits like a glove over time. Leather soles are also the most formal of all the shoe sole types and are a favorite with dress shoes. There are three kinds of leather soles commonly used in men’s shoes and boots which we detail below.

  • Single leather soles – These are the most formal type of sole and what you’ll most often find in classic dress shoes. Leather soles are slim, sleek and elegant. Single leather soles break in the fastest and their pliability allows the sole to conform to your feet over time for a comfortable custom fit. The downside is that single leather soles also wear down the fastest out of any other leather sole type.
  • Double Leather soles – As the name implies, double leather soles are made of two pieces of leather resulting in a thicker sole that is stiffer and a little harder to break in. The upside to a pair of double leather sole boots is that they are more hard-wearing and last longer than their single sole counterparts.
  • Triple Leather Soles – These soles are tougher, more resilient and take the longest to wear when compared to a single or double Leather sole. Triple leather soles are the most casual of the bunch as they are usually clunkier and hold more visual weight.

Lift – One of the several layers of leather or leather-board used to make a heel.

Lining – Most leather shoes have a leather lining that helps the shoe maintain its overall shape.

Lizard – Leather made from the skin of a lizard, typically with a specked, grainy appearance.

Loafers – Also referred to as Moccasins, they are slip-on shoes noted for their comfort. The shoe’s construction tends to be simple and ‘roomy’ and is constructed completely without fasteners.

Lug Sole – A sole with a heavy three-dimensional traction pattern

M

Medallion – The decorative and ornamental details that are created by punching or perforating (brogueing) the toes of dress shoes in varied, but always symmetrical designs.

Mersey Boot – Similar to the Chelsea or Jodhpur boot, but zipped along the side (instead of elasticated) and often fitted with a slightly raised heel.

Midsole –  The part or layer of the sole between the outsole (the part that touches the ground) and the insole (the part that touches the foot).

Moc Toe – A type of shoe that has a seam and stitching detail around the forefront of the vamp.

Monk Strap – The monk shoe is one of the main categories of traditional men’s shoes. It is a traditionally designed, low-fitting shoe with an upper that’s made from three leather pieces and is characterized by the lack of lacing being replaced by a buckle closing mechanism to hold the foot in place. It is considered less formal than an Oxford but more formal than the Derby. According to some, it was aptly named, after a monk from the Alps who created a special form of sandals in the 15th century. Legend has it that a gentleman visiting from England took note of the shoes and was given a pair to take home with him. When he got back to England, locals were so enamored with the shoe that it became popular almost immediately.

Motorcycle Boot – Boots ideal for riding a motorcycle, often with thick, durable soles.

Mule – A closed-toe shoe with no back.

Muflone leather  – A leather that goes into dry drums that tumble it to achieve the softness and great texture.

N

Nailed Construction – Refers to shoes that have their pieces nailed together, instead of sewn.

Napa or Nappa Leather – A generic name for a supple version of sheepskin leather. A type of leather characterized by its stretchy, soft, smooth texture.

Nevada leather – A full grain calf leather that is very slightly embossed with the look of a very fine craquelure (a fine pattern of dense cracking) across the leather to achieve an aged look. It is premium grade leather. Nevada is the brand name given by the tannery.

Nubuck – A grain leather that has been slightly brushed on the surface to create a very fine velvet-like appearance. Nubuck has a finer texture than suede because the natural grain pattern is left intact. The leather is very soft and has good breathability. The disadvantage of this surface is a markedly increased sensitivity to stains and soiling however nubuck is still more durable than suede.

O

Olivvia Deerskin – Deerskin that is amazingly supple and soft to the touch feeling like it has had years of wear but it is also extremely strong and hard-wearing.

Orthotic – An orthopedic insole designed to cushion and stabilize the foot.

Outsole – The exposed very bottom part of the sole that touches the ground.

Overlay – Detailing on a shoe made by layering material on top of other materials.

Oxford – A low-cut, laced shoe of balmoral design. where the two flaps of leather with the piercings for the laces (“quarters”) are stitched together at the bottom underneath the vamp. The laced area opens in a closed-throat v-shape and does not allow as much adjustment or ‘give’ around the instep as the alternative open-throat Derby style. Also known as a Balmoral.

P

Pebbled Grain – An embossed-leather grain finish that resembles a pebble surface.

Penny Loafer – A slip-on style shoe with a slit over the instep where a penny traditionally was placed for good luck.

Perfing – “Perforations,” small holes punched into shoe uppers to form some kind of design for decorative effect.

Perforation – A pattern of small holes punched or bored into the trim of a shoe, for decoration or ventilation.

Pinking – This term refers to the decorative edging in a saw-toothed or  Zig-zag design used on the uppers of some footwear and done for decoration. Sometimes this is called Gimping because a shoemaker does this with a gimping machine, in which steel tools with various patterns can be fitted to achieve the desired effect.

Piping – A decorative, narrow strip of leather that typically follows the seam of a shoe.

Pitch – The angle of the back part of the heel where it meets the sole, compared to the front part of the heel where it meets the sole. On a high-heeled shoe the pitch should be at a larger angle, to stabilize the heel.

Plain Toe – A style that uses a single, continuous piece of leather for the vamp.

Pull Grain Leather – A natural process to temper the hide using river stones. The result is a leather with an irregular grain that’s soft to the touch and flexible.

Pull TabPull tabs are loops made from fabric to help pull a tight fitting boot onto your foot. It can be used with “Boot Pulls” for even more ease.

Q

Quarter – The rear portion of a shoe, covering the heel and sides and often joined at the back seam.

Quarter Rubber – A hard, non-slip piece of rubber that’s inserted into the top piece of the heel. Sometimes it’s protected by plastic “heel protectors,” which a cobbler can put in for you.

Quarter Lining – The lining of the rear part of a shoe, typically made from leather or fabric.

R

Rim – The part of the shoe where the foot enters. Another term for the collar or top line.

Rubber Soles – Rubber soles can be found in shoes and boots of all types and are the most common alternative to leather soles. Rubber soles are durable, hardwearing and water-resistant. The pros and cons of rubber soles are pretty straight forward. Their durability makes them ideal for work, hiking and winter boots. When compared to a leather sole, a rubber sole looks thicker and clunkier making them better suited for casual wear.

Ruched – More common in women’s footwear, it is a kind of finishing detail created by gathering and stitching together material in a pleated, or bunched manner.

Russian Leather – A vegetable tanned cow leather or calf leather with a thickness of about 1.6 – 3mm. Today, other vegetable tanned leather is also called “Russian leather”. For example, leather tanned with mimosa, tara or chestnut.

Russet Leather – A leather that is also known as Shaft Leather is a vegetable-tanned, greased leather, which is either natural or dyed. Russet leather is mainly used for working shoes and other shoe products subject to heavy use. Both the grain side and the flesh side (suede) can be worn outwards, which can be seen especially in mountain and hiking boots.

S

Saddle – A leather strip that starts from both sides of the sole and goes over the instep.

Saddle Shoes – Shoes with a contrast colored instep overlay or “saddle,” usually found on golf shoes or retro styles.

Sandal – A form of footwear, with an open toe and open back, that is held to the foot by strips of leather or fabric.

Scalloped, Scalloping – Like pinking, but a wavy cut instead of a jagged, saw-toothed cut, characterized by round, wavy edges.

Scotch Grain – Scotch grain leather is embossed with a pebbled pattern. Typically, it is done with skins from older animals than are typically used for plain calfskin. Leather from older animals is typically thicker and more likely to be scarred in some way, which the embossing covers up. Today, Scotchgrain is one of many typical embossing patterns on leather. Scotch grain is commonly found on shoes, wallets, handbags and many other leather goods. It is said that pebble grain embossed leather is modeled after riding boots an old Scottish shoemaker crafted for his Royal clientele

Sock – A small piece of leather used to hide the nails that keep the sole together. A sock can be full length, three-quarters, or just cover the heel section. The last is the most common.

Sole – The entire part of the shoe that’s below the wearer’s foot. These can be single or double leather, or even HAF (double tapering to a single). The upper and sole make up the whole of the shoe.

Scotch Calf Leather – A calf leather that has been embossed to create a heavy, pebbled look.

Scotch Grain – Also known as Pebble Grain, Scotch Grain leather was developed in Scotland. Old Scots pioneered the texturizing process with the barley from old whiskey barrels that would shrink up the leather to create the signature pitted rhino-like appearance. Nowadays the pattern is generally embossed over an older calfskin. This hardy finish makes Scotch Grain more weather resistant than other leathers and has made it a common choice for casual English shoes.

Shaft Height – Shaft height of boots is measured from the middle of the arch up the inside of the boot to the top of the boot shaft.

Shank – A metal strip extending from the heel to the ball of the foot to strengthen shoe and add support.

Shearling – Sheepskin or lambskin with the wool still attached. Used often as a lining for shoes and boots.

Sheepskin – Skin from sheep, either with or without the wool attached.

Shell Cordovan – A soft, very fine-grained, colored leather produced mainly from the shell of a horse butt. Known for its non-porosity, density, and good wearing characteristics, The name derives from Cordoba, Spain, where the leather was first produced. Shell cordovan is distinguished by its lustrous waxy finish, superior durability, and suppleness that readily conforms to the shape of the wearer’s foot.

Shoe Horn – A curved metal or synthetic device used to aid in slipping the foot into a shoe.

Shoe Sizes – A variation between full sizes is one-third of an inch, while the difference between half sizes is one-sixth of an inch.

Shoe Width – The width of a shoe is typically measured in letters (AAA, AA, A, B, C, D, E, EE, EEE, EEEE) and refers to the width of the shoe last as measured at the ball of the foot. Widths are defined in increments of an eighth (1/8) of an inch.

Side Leather – Leather from the sides of cattle, divided by the backbone.

Siped – A type of outsole with narrow grooves or channels, often found in boat shoes that help to disperse water and prevent slipping.

Skip lacing – threaded leather lacing around the top line of Loafer style shoes. Also referred to as top-line lace.

Slip-On – A style of footwear designed without laces which is simply slipped on to the foot with no further adjustment.

Slipper – A flat shoe that is easily slipped on, usually meant for indoor wear and lined for comfort and warmth.

Smooth Leather – Any leather that is smooth on the surface, without pebbling, or noticeable grain.

Sneaker – An athletic shoe, typically made of canvas with a rubber sole. The term “sneaker” comes from the wearer’s ability to walk in the shoe without making noise.

Snip Toe – A type of toe that is tapered, with a squared front as if “snipped.”

Sock Lining – The lining that comes in contact with the sole of the foot.

Sole – Another word for the outsole, the bottom part of the shoe

Sole Leather – Any heavy leather (usually cattle-hide), used for the soles of shoes.

Spectator – A low-heeled, oxford, semi-brogue or full brogue shoe design that is characterized by 2 materials, often of different colors or materials, with an edge of the dominant color having a gimping (pinking) edge exposed, and a perforated design on the toe.

Split Leather – A type of leather used in shoes that are made from the lower layers of a hide that have been split away from the upper or grain.

Split-Toe – A style that features two pieces of leather joined together at the vamp and welt of the shoe; see Algonquin toe.

Stacked Heel – A heel that has horizontal lines, indicating that it is made up of stacked layers of leather, or a heel with that appearance.

Stingray Skin – Stingray skin offers a very unique, modern look with a white stripe down the center of the skin. Stingray skin is a versatile exotic leather, used for everything from small handbags and small accessories to cowboy boots and furniture.

Storm Welt –   A style of welt that borrows elements from both Goodyear welts and Norwegian welts. Based mainly on a  slight modification of the Goodyear welt for rougher climates where the welt is slightly wider. This allows the welt to be bent upwards, creating a seal around the junction between the upper and the midsole. This prevents water from entering the shoe at the seam between the shoes’ upper and the welt. This area can be a problem for traditional Goodyear-welted shoes in wet conditions. Rather than curving beneath the shoes’ upper leather as a traditional welt would, the Storm Welt is completely exterior. Although very similar to a Norwegian welt what separates the Norwegian from the  Storm welt is that Norwegian construction makes use of exterior stitching only, where as storm welted shoes are typically made from a Goodyear construction, and as such, they’re built with only one exterior stitch. Storm welts are constructed with the goal of making the finished shoe even more waterproof.

Suede – A soft  Leather that has been sanded or roughed to produce a surface with a soft textured napped surface. Suede leather is made from the underside of the skin, primarily lamb, although goat, pig, calf, and deer are commonly used.

Synthetic Materials – Materials other than genuine leather, but which are designed to look or function like leather. Also known as man-made materials.

T

Tailored – Characterized by a fitted, precise design that follows the contours of the foot

Tannage – The process of converting raw hides or skins into finished leather.

Tanning – Proper tanning is the most important step in leather production. It is just one part of the entire process of manufacturing leather. Tanning is the method of preserving animal skin, with or without hair using tannins. These are acidic chemical compounds that stabilize the fibre structure of the skin and prevent it from decaying, decomposing and oxidizing. A tannery is where these skins and hides are processed and the profession is called tanner. The tanning process involves many stages where the skins have to be treated first and, once tanned, depending on the application and specific customer requests, the leather is dyed, ironed, sanded, oiled etc. There are endless variations.

Tap – The attachment of a leather or metal partial sole over the existing sole of a shoe.

Tassel – A decorative roll of bound leather that is secured on one end and loose at the other, used as an ornament and typically found on the vamp of a loafer.

Throat – The main opening of a shoe extending from the vamp to the ankle.

Throatline – The top edge of the throat.

Toe Cap – A piece of leather that covers the toe area of a shoe.

Top Grain Leather – The outer layer of the hide, known as the grain, which features finer, more densely packed fibers, resulting in strength and durability. Depending on thickness, it may also contain some of the more fibrous under layer, known as the corium. Types of top-grain leather include Full-grain leather, Russian leather, Corrected grain leather, and Nubuck. Top grain leather is smoother and more flexible than the full-grain.

Top Piece – The part of the heel lift that actually comes in contact with the ground.

Tip – An additional piece of leather covering the toe of a shoe. May be in several different shapes or patterns. Also known as a Cap.

Toe-box – A stiff piece of material placed inside the vamp to retain the dome-like shape over the toes. It can take many shapes, flat, high, wide, etc.

Toe Ridge – A horizontal molded ridge found along the top of the footbed in certain sandals, to anchor and provide support and cushioning for the toes.

Tongue – A strip of leather or other material that comes between your foot and the shoelaces. Sewn into the vamp of a laced shoe and extending to the throat of the shoe.

Topline – The opening or shape of the shoe, where you stick your foot in.

Top Lift – The part of the heel that touches the ground. Often made of rubber or a combination of leather and rubber.

Tread – May refer to the design of a shoe’s sole or the way in which a shoe’s sole is worn.

Tricolor – Usually Derby Brogues incorporating 3 different colored sections.

U

Upper – Various assembled parts of shoe top that you see above the sole including foxing, quarters, vamp, toe cap, backstay, tongue, and saddle. The upper and sole make up the whole of the shoe.

Upper Leather – Any leather used for making shoe uppers. The principal leathers used for shoe uppers are calf, kid, horsehide, goat, sheep, and leathers made from the skin of reptiles. All of these may be made in a wide variety of finishes, such as smooth, suede, patent, embossed and gloss.

V

Vachetta Leather – A type of soft cow leather

Vamp – The center front part of a shoe upper that covers the toes and part of the foot.

Vegetable Tanned – Leather that has been tanned using a vegetable process, ideal for those with allergies to chromium or other tanning chemicals.

Venetian Loafers – Loafers that lack the ornamentation often found across the middle, or as one source stated ‘loafers with nothing to put a penny in’. Also known as Venetian Construction.

Vibram Soles – These are light in weight and offer excellent comfort, enhanced mobility, and shock absorption.

Vitello Daino Leather – Calfskin that is made to look and feel like deerskin.

W

Waist – The area of the shoe that supports the mid-section of your foot, where your arch is.

Waterproof Leather – Shoes that have been specifically treated to prevent the entry of water.

Welt – A strip of material that holds the upper, insole, and sole together. Here we see the welt seam, though it’s important to note that just because you see stitching here doesn’t always mean the shoe has been welted. Sometimes stitches are glued here for decorative purposes.

Wholecut – The Wholecut is a variant of the Oxford style in which the upper is one single piece of leather.

Width – Width is measured at the ball of the foot, in 1/6-inch increments and is often expressed in letters (AA=narrow, B=medium, D=wide)

Wingtip – A type of shoe style where the vamp and toe are joined together with a decorative wing-shaped toe-cap. Also known as Brogue.

Woven Leather – A leather formed by braiding or weaving different pieces together.