Great advice, Tom S.
I too have numerous Alden and AE shoes, but still like to pick up good mid-level shoes (and even a few AEs, this being Wisconsin) at thrift shops, and refresh them by cleaning and polishing, and occasionally recrafting through a good cobbler. Maybe one of these days I'll try stripping it the way you suggest.
At long last, a fellow addict and borderline shoe obsessive! I am glad to have such distinguished company, Patrick! And the business of inexpensive finds of excellent and mid-level brands: Yes, Sebago, Dexter and Bass, but also SAS, AE, and Doc Martens. Even a C&J! And, and...A tangential remark -- Without a great deal of effort or expense I managed to assemble a pointlessly large collection of Made-in-USA loafers from Bass, Sebago and Dexter from eBay. Most were lightly used; a couple were new old stock.
I admit I went a little nuts.
Okay, a lot nuts.
One thing these shoes have in common, besides their age and manufacture: None of them have that awful corrected grain finish.
And none of them cost any more than a new pair of Weejuns; most were considerably less.
Which is how I wound up with so many.