Shoe Glossary: Vamp

How a Vamp is Made

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The vamp is the front and center part of a shoe's upper that covers the top of the foot. The style of the vamp depends on the style of the shoe. In some shoes the vamp covers the entire surface of the foot from the toes to the ankle where straps or laces would be, while in other styles, like the stiletto, it covers the toes and exposes the entire top of the foot.

Not to be confused with the upper, the vamp helps to support the foot and keeps the foot secure in the shoe.

It's often made out of a breathable fabric, like mesh, or features perforations to allow air flow.

How a Vamp is Made:

The vamp is crafted along with the upper in the first step of shoemaking: clicking or cutting. It's made using a shoe last: a foot-shaped form used to shape shoes during manufacturing.

Shoemakers follow a pattern that matches the curvature of the shoe's upper. The curvature of the vamp depends on the style of the shoe and the heel height. Using the pattern as a template, the shoemaker cuts pieces of material using sharp metal knives. Since the upper is often made out of expensive materials like leather, the shoemaker who handles this process must be very skilled in order to minimize waste. The completed vamp needs to contain just enough of a material allowance so that the shoe can be properly assembled without wasting anything.

Certain shoes feature vamps molded a particular way to suit the height and materials of the shoe.

Shaping the vamp requires a particular type of reinforcement depending on the material: the thicker the material, the higher the degree of reinforcement.

Many vamps are made of lightweight, breathable materials like jersey and mesh that are soft and malleable. Unless it's a work shoe made with sturdy, thick leather, the vamp needs to have some elasticity.

Jersey and mesh can be easily shaped, but they preserve the shape of the shoe once they cool down.

The vamp is shaped with a heated crimping machine. Before it meets the crimping machine, however, it is sprayed with a softening alcohol solution and put inside a plastic bag over night to seal in moisture and make the vamp more pliable.

The crimping machine can make shoes of varying heights, and it has certain plates for flat shoes, medium heels, high heels and more. The machine has a heated metal main plate that molds the vamp and two cool metal plates that seal the vamp's shape. The vamp is slowly fed through the crimping machine, and the length of the process depends on the type of material.

A vamp can easily be made defectively if the pressure or temperature of the crimping machine isn't right, or if the materials or glue are faulty.

See Also:

  • Shoe Glossary: Upper
  • Shoe Glossary: Toe Box
  • Shoe Glossary: Last