Most quality English shoes are still made using 19th century processes that were designed for a time when most people only had one good pair of shoes – or at least a valet to break them in for you! While that look and nostalgia appeals to some my mission has always been to create cool, classic footwear for the future utilising materials and modern constructions that come from the advances in the athletic footwear industry to make comfort-focused footwear that is more akin to your favourite trainer than your dad’s old brogues.
Like the car industry, the footwear industry has been going through a hybrid metamorphosis. The idea of what a dress shoe should be needed to change along with our changing work habits and rapidly evolving dress codes. Gone are the days when you only wore heavy, stiff leather soles for work and your trainers on the weekends. The rules have changed – and in most case – there are no more rules.
At Martel+Ram, we partnered with Vibram – Italy’s most innovative rubber outsole maker, to source an expanded EVA rubber Morflex sole to make our shoe construction as light as possible. This unique component has the sharp, tailored profile of a traditional leather outsole but actually only weights a few grams. The Vibram Morflex compound provides exceptional support, shock absorption and grip, which is not something you will ever get from a stacked leather sole.
Construction of the leather upper is also key as an overly constructed upper made from rigid leather and stiff internal reinforcements would defeat the purpose of a lightweight Morflex sole.
My former boss Giorgio Armani became famous for deconstructing traditional men’s suiting in the 1970’s and 80’s. He removed all the unnecessary reinforcements and linings to create a suit that draped to the body in a more natural way. Armani's choice of more innovative, softer fabrics also allowed for a more natural, tactile fit. It was revolutionary.
It is this philosophy that I have always wanted to bring to footwear, and again, this is something that has always been standard in the athletic footwear industry. A Converse Chuck Taylor is nothing more than a single layer of cotton drill fabric and basic reinforcements vulcanised to a simple rubber sole. Lightness and ease of movement has always been key to athletic footwear – so it is natural to me to adapt this formula to dress and dress casual shoe design.
There is a whole new generation now that will have never known the pain of breaking in a pair of heavy leather brogues – and why should they?