Changing Shoemakers

Changing Shoemakers

February 20, 2016 0 Comments

Goodbye, Weinbrenner.

After we complete this order of version 3 oxfords, we will be parting ways with Weinbrenner Shoe Company as our shoemaker.

We had been working with Weinbrenner Shoe Company from the very beginning, since 2010. Before starting Chronology, I was a corporate accountant who thought it's okay to wear Vibram FiveFingers for Casual Friday. In other words, I didn't know much about dress shoes, nor style in general. I just had a few crazy ideas on how to reconcile a dress shoe look with a minimalist shoe feel. One of the reasons why I went with Weinbrenner was because I saw that they made uniform oxfords. I didn’t yet understand that there is a world of difference between uniform oxfords and the fine dress shoes that we now sell through Chronology. On their end, they agreed to work with me because they didn’t know I would one day be expecting them to make fine dress shoes. In the 6 years since I first had the idea, I've learned what makes a great dress shoe great, and my expectations continue to grow.

The reason why things keep taking so long is because I'm asking them to be something they're not. Once upon a time in their 124-year history, Weinbrenner did make fine dress shoes. But those talents, even those machines, are long gone. That’s why we had to source upper cut-and-sew for version 3 to the Dominican Republic, in order to get a higher degree of refinement. Even still, production issues keep coming up. From Weinbrenner’s President, Pat Miner: “Our customers evangelize our work in the work boot world and so we have to just face we are a very good work/occupational shoe company………not a dress shoe company.”

Our business relationship is costing them a lot. For every pair that they mess up, they eat all the costs of material and labor. They’re a stand-up company that has accepted and refunded me for every pair that I return for quality issues, and that costs them too.

And of course, our business relationship is costing me a lot. Being out of inventory for nearly 2 years has crippled our growth. Waiting over a month for each sample is a huge obstacle to product development, especially when those samples aren’t being made right. That’s why we’re still only selling black oxfords, despite working so long on our 6-inch boots, and working so long just to add brown colorways to the oxfords.

All this is not to say that Weinbrenner is incapable of making fine dress shoes. I am still in business today because I've delivered fine dress shoes that you love. But that’s because I have personally inspected every pair that we’ve ever shipped out, and I will continue doing so for this production run that we’re now receiving. I’ve been able to catch almost all the defective products before they reached you. Nevertheless, I should be able to count on my shoemaker’s QC team to share my quality standards.

I really like the nice Midwest folks I worked with at Weinbrenner, and I appreciate all they've done for me. We've had dinners at each others’ homes and we're Facebook friends. We would not be in business today if it weren't for them. But it's time we found a shoemaker that's a better fit for what our product has grown to.


Hello, Modern Vice.

I’ve found an agency and factory that I’m really excited to work with: Modern Vice. For starters, they specialize in high-end fashion footwear, rather than work boots.

Modern Vice has a fascinating business model. They have a small factory in Manhattan (that’s right, in New York City!) that does small batch orders. Too small for us, surprisingly! However, the Manhattan factory also doubles as a footwear laboratory, where they prototype and develop for their private label clients. This way, they can work directly with local designers and entrepreneurs to quickly create samples. Once the designs are finalized, they contract with larger factories that they regularly work with for production. I think we can solve or ease many of our supply issues by working with this agency / factory.

The one thing that we will lose is Built in USA. American footwear manufacturing has retained a lot of bootmaking talent and capacity, largely due to our country’s military. But making dress shoes, especially dress shoes the way we make them, is a different story. I already mentioned that we had to go to the Dominican Republic to get nicer uppers. But Weinbrenner was still having issues with other parts of production. In order to get a consistently high-quality product, we will most likely have to move the final assembly to another country as well, where they have stronger dress shoe craftsmanship. For our collection, Modern Vice is suggesting we work with their partner factory in Brasil, a country with a rich history of leatherwork.

As awesome as they sound now, I'm still pretty shaken up by all the delays I experienced with Weinbrenner. Modern Vice says they have a lead time of 60-90 days, but I'm going to be cautious about ETA's until they've successfully delivered on time. For now, I cannot confidently promise a delivery date. What I can promise is that I will deliver your shoes. I will make sure that the shoes I send you are up to my very high standards. If they're not right for you, I will honor my 365-day return policy. I will do everything within my control to make sure you are taken care of. Broken laces? Hit me up. I have a bunch of extras and I can send you a pair or two, my compliments.

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I think this job would be ideal for a Stay-at-Home Parent with a spare bedroom who wants a part-time job that they can do from home and at their own pace. Or, a shoe repair shop with extra storage space.

Sizing, Fit, & Feel

I. Sizing

  1. Let's start by asking: What shoe size (US Men's) normally fits you best? To convert from other sizing standards, see this chart.
  2. Is that a Narrow width? Go one size down for our shoes.
  3. Is that a Medium width? Depending on how roomy you like the toebox, go one size down OR order the same size.
  4. Is that a Wide width? Order the same size for our shoes.
  5. Don’t know the width of your shoes? They’re most likely Medium. 

II. Fit & Feel

This image shows roughly how/where your feet should sit inside a pair of Carets, at right. 

At left is a typical dress shoe, same size and same Wide width. You can see that it is still 1 or 2 cm longer than ours. Most sleeker dress shoes have a fair amount of unoccupied space in the front. We took advantage of that and used it to give you a wide toebox without looking like it. Dress shoes get even longer if we start looking at chisel-toe and pointy-toe styles. But even though these conventional dress shoes are longer, you still feel cramped because of the heel lift and the fact that their shoes are widest at the ball of the foot. Ours are widest at the toes, as a foot naturally is.

If the widest part of your feet (i.e. your toes) occupies the widest part of our shoes, then you are wearing the right size.

Regarding groundfeel, Carets' outsole is 4mm thick, with another 4mm of leather and cork between that and your feet. The polyurethane we use for the outsole was selected for durability, which is more important than groundfeel in a shoe like this. The 2-part (polyurethane + leather/cork) design allows for the shoes to be resoled like good dress shoes and unlike most minimalist shoes.

Expect Carets to feel less like FiveFingers and more like flat-bottomed skate shoes with the insoles removed.

In the end, what matters most is that you are happy with your shoes! We will gladly take them back (365-day free returns and exchanges, click for details) and I am honored that you gave us a shot.