Cvaria

New Member
i want to buy some shoes but i need some questions answered.

(a) I'm looking at alden and AE for 3 pair of shoes. i need a basic set consisting black pair, a brown pair and a burgundy pair. i have about $1500 to spend. but want to stay WELL under that amount. the cordovan shells are expensive but i know they last a lifetime in the hands of caring folks. what about the calf versions? will they hold up, or start cracking? they are cheaper and i'm a poor grad student.

(b) are there any other makers or brands that i should considering? i want some shoes that will last, with great care and reheeling, 10+ years until i get to the point that i can easily go and buy a 6 or 7 hundred dollar pair of shoes on a whim.

(c) I bought my first round of decent shoes on ebay last year, a pair of bostonian deep brown "crown windsor" cap toe shoes and a pair of johnson & murphy burgundy oxfords. they were both worn but i had them reheeled.

the bostonians are incredible but the forefoot sole of the shoes have run its course and are very thin. i dont think i can use them much longer. the leather of shoe is still in showroom condition. can the sole be saved?

the johnson & murphys have wrinkled and begun to have discolored feathering. the soles and heels are like new. not good... is this just how J&M shoes are?


any info helps
 

Trip English

Honors Member
You will likely get many excellent responses to this question. Here's my input:

(a) There's nothing wrong with calf shoes per se, but there are varying levels of "build quality" and many types of leather. I have a few pairs of AE, a few pairs of RL (various makes, I assume), and a pair of Ferragamo. All are calf and range in price from just below $300 to just above $750. Most are over 4 years old, with a few being nearly 10 years old. All of them look about the same way they did 6 months after I bought them. Creases are not an issue if the leather is good quality, conditioned when needed, and shoe trees are used. I resole about once every year (I walk a lot on pavement so this is probably high) and see no reason not to continue to do so. So short answer: calf is just fine for your purposes.

(b) There are lots of brands, but AE & Alden are such sure bets and cover such a wide range of styles that it's hardly worth while to look elsewhere.

(c) I would not trust current J&M offerings. I have an older pair from their Aristocraft line that have held up well, but when I occasionally stop in I've manhandled the newer merchandise and it doesn't pass the sniff test. I wouldn't be surprised at any defects emerging from a J&M shoe.

(d) You didn't mention styles, but a pair of black Park Avenues ($276), a pair of brown MacNeils ($276), and a pair of Alden LHS in #8 ($575) only totals up to $1,127 and would be a pretty formidable footwear arsenal.
 

dwebber18

Super Member
Calf shoes are just fine and will give you multiple decades with proper care. I'd go with Alden and AE to start with, and at that point it really all depends on what style you like and what fits best. If you can go try them on and see what you like best and what fits best. I have 2 pairs of AEs and 1 of Alden, and while I am leaning more towards Alden recently I think its because their suede is gorgeous I really want some shoes in suede and I like Aldens better. You can't go wrong with either brand, and if you want to save some cash about 12 AEs are currently 30% off and everything else is like 15% off on their website. You can also contact the AE shoe bank and get a discontinued style/color or a factory second and save some cash.
 

Orgetorix

Honors Member
AE and Alden is a good place to start. You shouldn't go any lower in price or quality than that, IMO. Calfskin will last perfectly well if you take proper care of it--keep it conditioned and polished, use shoetrees, and rotate them so they rest between wearings. I have shoes that are several decades old that are still going strong. AEs and Aldens will easily last you 10 years.

Bostonians and J&Ms used to be good shoes, but in recent decades the quality has gone way down. J&M is still better than Bostonian, but neither is really worth your money as far as I'm concerned.

Depending on what your wardrobe and dress code are like (suits or casual?), I'd recommend a black calf oxford like the Alden 901, maybe a brown calf blucher (maybe a Norwegian-front like the 925), and a burgundy shell plain-toe like the Alden 990. If you wear suits almost exclusively, you should get two oxfords and only one blucher; on the other hand, if you never wear suits at all, you might be able to get away with no oxfords at all and get a pair of loafers.

edit: I like Trip's recommendations above better than mine.
 
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DocVenture

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
I'm in a similar position, having just started a collection of serious shoes for my first serious job. So far I have three AE bluchers and one balmoral. EBay has been a great resource, and I've managed to get the shoes at a discount of 50 to 70 percent.

It's only been a few months, but they've held up well with regular application of leather balm and shoe cream after every other wearing. From what I've gathered on these fora, an adequate rotation, use of trees and proper polishing are critical to extending shoes' lifespan.

As Orgetorix mentioned, AE is having a sale right now. I'm about to pull the trigger on a pair of black Fifth Avenues, walnut Westchesters and brown Malverns but, being new to this, I am not sure if this is a "good" sale, or if AE offers deeper discounts at other times. In any case, I am pleased with the shoes and find them to be well worth the money.
 

TheWGP

Senior Member
I really like Trip's suggestions as well - he even managed to work in some shell and beat your budget by a nice margin. Do keep an eye out for sales, as they can be a large help, and call the AE Shoe Bank for seconds. AE seconds tend to be very wearable - many times you can't even find the flaw - and even if there were a problem they'll happily exchange them. AE has *great* customer service.

Alden does tend to be harder to find on sale. I heartily recommend Ebay and The Shoe Mart for Alden, if you call and get on the Alden seconds list that can be a great source of discounted top-quality shoes too - they're the only place that sells Alden seconds in the USA. Ebay and the sales forums here/other forums are a great resource, though - I've purchased barely worn shells that way for less than $150 that are now staples in my rotation.

One other recommendation - yes, you should look at AE and Alden exclusively for new shoes, I think, but you might also want to look at vintage Florsheim burgundy shell longwings, in particular. They're a classic, awesome, workhorse shoe, and if you find a pair in good condition from a reputable seller they can be had for $100 or slightly less. The one thing to watch out for is to make sure you apply conditioner to them just because they'll be older shoes - but on a par with current Alden.
 

ds23pallas

Senior Member
I don't think I have ever offered any advice on this forum but I feel obliged to add my two cents. When I was close to graduating from university, my father took me on a trip to NYC and there we visited Brooks Brothers on Madison Ave. In the shoe department, four pairs were placed in front of me in two sets: Plain Toe Blucher and the Longwing in the first set; the Tassel Loafer and the unlined LHS in the second camp. All from Alden, all in #8. My father then proceeded to outline the advantages of each shoe and their intended purpose.

I can't recall his dialogue verbatim (this was in the 80's), but the versatility of the PTB stands out, as did my tittering over tassel loafers. I was allowed to pick one pair from each set, as those would satisfy most of my footwear requirements in adult life according to dad. I ended up with the PTB and the LHS.

Later in life I eventually acquired the Longwing and even the Tassel Loafer (both as well in # 8). I also experimented with other styles (my interest in Bit loafers has come and gone) and other brands (Church's, Alfred Sargent) however I still prefer Alden. Had I heeded dad's advise I could have saved myself a lot of experimentation, not to mention money (but the experimentation was fun). Looking back, I can see how appropriate a lesson it was, so I feel obliged to pass it along.
 

phyrpowr

Honors Member
Have no fear buying AE seconds (Park Avenues come to mind for your black), firsts or Aldens. The important thing is FIT FIT FIT!! The lasts are not exactly all over the place, but they do vary quite a bit, so make sure you have a comfortable shoe, firm fit from heel through ball, and enough room to wiggle toes. If they hurt, you'll toss 'em More AEs fit me than Aldens, YMMV

I had two pair of J&M Crown Aristocrafts from the mid-1980s that were still better than okay twenty years later, and I didn't take as good care as I should have. Good calf shoes are at least a ten year investment, with care and rotation
 

ds23pallas

Senior Member
Let's see, DS, a red Speedster, a blue knit tie, two pair of Aldens, and sound advice. Quite a guy, your Da'.
This is true. When he retired (still in his 50's), I was in grad school. He did open his closets with a "take what you want!" Now, my father was last my size in about 1980, so what I took off his hands was from the 60's and 70's (even a cardigan from when he was in university, so mid-50's I'd say). My wardrobe trebled overnight. I have hung on to the vast majority of it, some only for sentimental reasons. I take dad out for lunch or dinner weekly, and when I do I try to wear something that once belonged to him, or drive his old car.
 

P Hudson

Super Member
Just my 2 cents, but I wouldn't buy new all at once. You might find that a particular brand of high quality shoes doesn't really work for you. Or you might discover something odd, such as for some reason you can't wear leather-soled shoes (about half of my good shoes are Titan soles, Vibram, etc). If I were in your situation, I'd buy one new pair at a shop that will make sure you're happy with the fit, and then look for one used pair on Ebay. My first AE shoes were, iirc, $9.99 on Ebay: they remain my favorite. It may be mere coincidence, but of my 9 pair of AEs, the times I wear them seems to be in inverse proportion to how much I paid for them. AEs that I bought new don't seem to get worn much at all.

Also:
1) I like calf. I'm not opposed to cordovan, but some around here are. It might be worth exploring why.
2) NIB AE Macneils have been on Ebay the last couple weeks, going in the $160 to $200 range. I've seen my size in navy, brown and burgundy. I don't need them, but they're tempting at that price and are a trad classic.
 

Andy

Site Creator/ Administrator
Staff member
Also go to the Home Page and find Tutorials (down the left column) - there is an excellent discussion of all shoe brands there!

And do you really need black?
 

Cvaria

New Member
fantastic replies! multiple pearls of wisdom

Also go to the Home Page and find Tutorials (down the left column) - there is an excellent discussion of all shoe brands there!

And do you really need black?
Thank you,

yes sir, i'd like to have black for the black suit/ grey suit and black leather days.

Everyone else,

I appreciate all of the replies. I really needed that valuable advice advice. I learned the hard way not to "just throw money at a problem" to fix it when I started buying suits. That foolishness cost me a lot of money. :icon_scratch:

I love my ebay vintage bostonians, I wish I could completely resole them. the reply about staging the purchases was very insightful.

Is the a book out there that defines and explains men's shoes? I really feel that most men style books gloss over this topic. "dressing the man" treats it as almost an afterthought. I see that a [SIZE=-1]Blucher is a high shoe or a half-boot. This is something I didn't notice until googling "[/SIZE][SIZE=-1]Blucher" and reading the definition. There must be a consolidated body of work somewhere that explains it all.
[/SIZE]
 
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Orgetorix

Honors Member
Is the a book out there that defines and explains men's shoes? I really feel that most men style books gloss over this topic. "dressing the man" treats it as almost an afterthought. I see that a [SIZE=-1]Blucher is a high shoe or a half-boot. This is something I didn't notice until googling "[/SIZE][SIZE=-1]Blucher" and reading the definition. There must be a consolidated body of work somewhere that explains it all.
[/SIZE]
That may have been an accurate definition of a blucher at one time, but no longer. Today, a blucher--the British term is derby--is any shoe with open lacing.

Like this:



As opposed to a balmoral (US term) or oxford (British term), which has closed lacing, like this:



See the difference?
 

Cvaria

New Member
I searched ebay for days and found 4 pairs of shoes:
$66 AE merlot Mcallisters (+30 needed heels)
$54 AE Black Mcallisters (+30 needed heels)
$35 AE black pebble grain McNeil (+30 needed heels and a good polish)
and
Florsheim imperial walnut pebble grain longwings ($100 mint condition)
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under $400 found great shoes that all look new after re-heeling and polishing.

I can relax and slowly find some nice aldens now. i'll buy those new though. i'm just having trouble locating a well stocked dealer in the baltimore area. i know there is an actual alden shop in DC. I think i'll make a trip there this weekend. AAAC is a great help.
 

TheWGP

Senior Member
All nice acquisitions that should serve you well if they fit well and you take good care of them. Visiting the Alden store in DC should help you figure out your size in different lasts - I'd advise taking a pad & pen, writing down lasts & then which size worked for you in them, even. In my experience, AE's lasts have less variation than Alden's and more true to size on average. Well, except AE's 5 last, which is very long & narrow... but you knew that already with the McAllisters! ;)
 

godan

Advanced Member
[QUOTE In my experience, AE's lasts have less variation than Alden's and more true to size on average. QUOTE]

I have found this to be true, and you may, as well. My several pair of AE's in my size all fit. I have learned to buy Aldens only when I can try them on. The variation is significant.
 
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