A good compromise between price and quality
Shoes were hand-stitched in the United States until 1858. Then a young inventor came along and revolutionised the footwear industry: Lyman Reed Blake.
A Massachusetts native, Blake started working while still a child, for his brother, who sold leather and had his workers make shoes for resale.
At the age of 19, Blake was hired by Singer to work on a new machine designed to stitch uppers for shoes. At that time — seeing the mounds of uppers ready to be hand-stitched onto the soles — the young man began to wonder whether there might not be a way to mechanise this final step in shoemaking as well.
Blake worked on his idea for a couple of years and then patented it in 1858, at the age of 23, revolutionising the American footwear industry first, and then the industry all over the world, cutting costs and increasing productivity exponentially.
The following year, the inventor sold the rights to entrepreneur Gordon McKay, which is why this method is often referred to as McKay construction in the United States.
The Blake method was particularly successful in Italy, where it is still one of the most commonly used techniques.
Photo courtesy Franceschetti
Blake construction is characterised by a single seam — with single or double thread — combining the sole, lining, upper and insole.
To prevent the seam from touching the ground, there may be a groove all around the perimeter of the sole: this is called Blake construction with open channel.
As an alternative to the open channel, the sole may be cut to create a flap which is raised and, after stitching, closed and glued in place: this is Blake construction with closed channel.
Shoes made using the Blake method are more flexible and lighter than shoes made with Goodyear construction, but normally less durable and waterproof.
A good compromise between Blake and Goodyear construction is the Blake-Rapid method, in which double Blake stitching joins the upper, insole, lining and midsole, while Rapid stitching holds together the midsole and the sole, increasing the shoe’s strength and water resistance.