Newbie, thanks and observations on Alden vs Allen Edmond Shell

Mus

Starting Member
4
Hi I am new but reading the forum helped me make the leap from $150 shoes to some "real shoes" -- and I decided that I might as well go whole hog, or rather shell cordovan due to inspiration from this site. So I wanted to thank everyone. I pretty much only wear black shoes (architect...lots of black), but the idea of the cordovan color on the shell cordovan appealed to me as it would patina and wear. I normally hate burgundy shoes as they seem like "old lawyer" shoes rather than architects shoes. But the color in shell seems right however, a different thing entirely due to the nature of the material. Architecturally analogous to the difference between real rosewood or mahogany and cheap oak or pine stained dark to look like mahogany. I also knew I wanted a minimalist shoe with a significant sole and so the plain toe blucher. With that in mind, I started my quest first at the AE store and then at a local retailer that carries Alden. I actually bought both and returned one--the AE.

I know there have be threads about this before, though they seem a couple years old, so I would like to add my observations that the Alden seems markedly superior to the AE.

FIT: The Alden was far more comfortable from the first second (the most comfortable new shoe I have ever put on); the AE Leeds was tight around the ball of the foot or gapped around the ankle depending on size. I know that fit will vary on each persons foot however.

STYLE: Again, some subjectivity but I would argue that the Alden is more elegant, even through it uses a chunkier, wider last. The eyelet tabs are thiner and better shaped and proportioned to the whole, giving more elegance to the overall shoe. When the show is this simple, such things make a huge difference. At least on my 10 1/2 size feet (normally 11) the curve from the toe to the arch of the foot is more pronounced and sweeping, giving the overall form greater elegance whether with narrow jeans or suit trousers. The Alden stitching on the welt is colored to pick up the cordovan tone, which is a very nice detail. The AE's shape lacked definition or refinement even though it is similar in principle of course.

MATERIAL & COLOR: I know the cordovan comes from the same source. But if I had not read that I am not sure I would have believed it.

The AE was really more brown than I expected, and matte in finish (and while color can I know vary, it was roughly the same on the three pairs I tried on). Not much depth to the color or finish. The eyelet panel on one shoe was a noticeably different shade than the last, or the other panel. The Alden is a beautiful deeper plum/oxblood/cherry brown that shifts in different light and out of the box was highly gloss with depth in the color. every panel was perfectly matched. It seemed both more refined and "tougher." The cordovan on the Alden is really pretty amazing even after two days of wear, with the color shifting as the shell gets its waves. I would have sworn the shoes had two different grades of material, though I know they are the same from the source as are apparently the same. I understand Alden might die their hides again and in any case, they seem to finish them differently and to my eye to a higher level.

CONSTRUCTION & FINISH: AE: I found numerous loose ends on the stitching, a slightly rough beveling on the inside on one tongue, and the edge dressing on the sole was not that even. There seemed to be a couple holes the last on each shoe with missing stitching. To be honest, the finish of the leather and in the construction just did not seem up to par for the cost. The Alden....perfect. Or as perfect as bench made shoe should be. There is a noticeable and quantum leap in the attention to detail in the Alden compared to the AE. You feel this as well when it is on. That steel shank creates a sense of authority and stability.

So in sum: the Alden is expensive indeed but it exudes quality. To me it is not traditional but a throughly modern shoe. As an architect, I would say it is the Eames Chair of Shoes.

The AE is slightly less expensive but because of the issues above actually seems less a value. Maybe it was just a weird pair, but I tried on a few in the store looking for the right size, and none of them were finished as well as any of the Aldens I saw or tried. And in a close comparison at home there was no contest.

Now of course, I am a total newb. But the Alden was clearly an amazing shoe. Now. hopefully it will last decades (or at least 6 times longer than the Kenneth Coles that drop off a cliff in appearance after one year and seem impossible to resole properly anyway) to justify the expense beyond the aesthetic refinement.

One thing: anyway you think I can get away with wearing these with black suits or pants?

Okay, time to go sit in my eames chair in my alders and watch Madmen...
 

Youthful Repp-robate

Honors Member
4,560
United States
New Jersey
Montclair
I have sometimes worn brown shoes with my black jeans, but those have faded into a gray-ish color. I'm not sure if I would do it with black trousers; I suppose if you can do it with élan it will look fine, but if you do it clumsily you might seem to be a rube. You may run the risk of being "corrected," too. Burgundy shoes look great against dark gray or navy pants, obviously.

Also, although I am far from an expert on nice shoes, I feel obligated to give you the talk about shoe trees, the Mac method, and letting shoes rest.
 

MacTweed

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
175
United States
SC
Charleston
I enjoyed reading your (an architect's) perspective on your Alden shoes. I, too, enjoy the attention to detail that goes into the Alden shoes. Thankfully, my wife has allowed me to purchase 3 pairs of Alden shell cordovan shoes over the last year. :icon_smile_big:

In regard to color matching, I believe (I, too, am a newbie) that color 8 shoes would look nice with black suits and trousers. I have worn mine with black wool trousers a few times this year (I hope I looked okay).

PS - I am jealous of the Eames chair! Speaking of architecture, I believe my Dwell magazine copy is running late in the mail!
 

mrp

Senior Member
997
United States
Florida
Cocoa
Now of course, I am a total newb. But the Alden was clearly an amazing shoe. Now. hopefully it will last decades (or at least 6 times longer than the Kenneth Coles that drop off a cliff in appearance after one year and seem impossible to resole properly anyway) to justify the expense beyond the aesthetic refinement.

One thing: anyway you think I can get away with wearing these with black suits or pants?

Okay, time to go sit in my eames chair in my alders and watch Madmen...
You can definitely get away with wearing them with black, Color 8 and black go wonderfully together.
Congratz on the shoes, now you just need to get another pair, they need a days rest and make sure to put some good fitting shoe trees in them (cedar).
 

Bjorn

Moderator
4,849
Sweden
Sweden
Balsta
I've heard Alden puts a little more time into finishing the shoe, as in polishing. However, with a little time and patience and effort (and quality polish) you can get that right with any shoe that has good quality leather.

In my experience, from quality makers, you get what you pay for in shoes, and the more expensive shoe will be better made. Find a more expensive shoe in shell than the Alden, and a cheaper one than the AE, and you'll see...
 

Mus

Starting Member
4
Doh!!!

Thanks on the shoe tree and maintenance. I was following those.

But here is something not to do: Don't accidentally splatter vinegar on your color 8 shells like I did this morning. I immediately wiped it off, but finish was matte where it hit and splattered (looks like the AE finish on those spots actually. shoes are now at cobbler that sells aldens for refinishing...fingers crossed
 

mrp

Senior Member
997
United States
Florida
Cocoa
Thanks on the shoe tree and maintenance. I was following those.

But here is something not to do: Don't accidentally splatter vinegar on your color 8 shells like I did this morning. I immediately wiped it off, but finish was matte where it hit and splattered (looks like the AE finish on those spots actually. shoes are now at cobbler that sells aldens for refinishing...fingers crossed
It's leather, it will shine back up. Wore one of my favorites today Color 8 Longwing, hopefully they will get around to making me a pair in Whiskey (it's been a good year of waiting) :)
 

eagle2250

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
29,388
Harmony, FL
United States
Florida
Harmony
Both AE's and Alden's are great choices in men's shoes. I agree with your assessment that the finish on Alden's shell cordovan offerings are superior to the finish on AE's (The finish on calf hide offerings of both brands are very comparable), the design profiles offered are a bit sleeker/elegant with the AE's. In any event, may you long wear those new shoes and may you do so in good health!
 

Mus

Starting Member
4
Chairs to match your Shells

well, I did try and try to shine them back up...but where the vinegar splattered the finish never came back to the gloss and it was noticeably darker. The shoe repairman said they would really need to restore/refinish it as the acid strips the top layer off. But they seem know what they are doing with the shell and alders as they sell them and work on them. They assured me I would not be able to tell and no long term damage was done. Still, I don't have my shoes for a week or so.

Thanks everyone for the tips and advice.

MacTweed, are you an architect? Three Shell Cordovan Aldens I get you about half way to an Eames Chair; and if you are in the design fields you can often get a substantial professional discounts from Herman Miller. Since you have shoes for life, maybe next year you can get a chair for life. Also, I think they tend to retain their re-value a bit better than shoes!

If you are really hardcore, you will hold out and search for a vintage Eames Chair from the 1960s when they still used rosewood (now not available) for the wood shells. It will match your cordovan colored shells beautifully. Of course, it will likely be more than a new one in walnut.

Actually, the Eames chair I have is an Aluminum Group Lounge Chair. The stretched leather across the metal rails is unique and sleek while still giving and very comfortable.
 

MacTweed

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
175
United States
SC
Charleston
Mus,

No, I am not an architect--just a great admirer of architecture and interior design (as is my wife). I am actually a graduate student studying health administration.

I have never actually sat in an Eames chair, but they look comfortable. And they are very aesthetically pleasing. Although rosewood is beautiful, I think I would prefer an Eames chair in walnut. Given an unlimited budget padauk would be ideal for my tastes (although I do not believe they are made in that wood). For now we ordered two Ethan Allen Grayson chairs for reading (one for me, one for my wife)--they will finally be here Monday after a 2 month wait! Finally something nicer than Ikea.