“The best shoe I have ever touched…”
As I opened the lid of the shoe box and picked up my new pair of Allen Edmonds Fifth Avenues, I realized that, until that moment, I had never touched a shoe like this before. This was more than a piece of leather designed to keep dirt and wear off your foot, this was a piece of art.
I’ve talked a lot about shoes on Cubicle Chic. Most recently, I discussed Weejun loafers and the style sin of wearing square toed shoes. I continue to maintain, as I attested in my first blog post, that shoes are the most overlooked element of a man’s wardrobe. While The Gentleman has given several recommendations for shoes in the $100 to $150 range that can significantly enhance a man’s daily dress, I’ve never discussed any truly amazing shoes. That’s because up until last two weeks ago, I had never owned one. That has changed.
Allen Edmonds does not make cheap shoes in either sense of the word. Their basic dress shoes all retail for about $325, some a little less, and some a little more. I was able to purchase my pair on Zappos for $285 with no shipping or tax. I typically talk about stylish purchases at a much lower price point, however, I think there is something to be said for saving up your pennies and breaking the piggybank for a shoe purchase like this.
Allen Edmonds opened up shop in 1922 in Wisconsin. Its storied history includes outfitting the United States Army and Navy with footwear during World War II, and today it has the honor of being one of two shoe companies still producing men’s dress shoes in America (the other being the considerably more expensive Alden).
Domestic production of clothing and accessories is something that I want to discuss a lot more about in the future. For now, I think it’s sufficient to say that there is something comforting in buying a pair of shoes that you know was made in Wisconsin by a shoemaker who was paid a fair wage for his labor. For more on Allen Edmonds’ labor and production practices, the New York Times had a very informative article on that very topic a few years ago. I believe that clothing and leather goods made under such good working conditions have superior construction and last longer. With Allen Edmonds, that definitely seems to be the case.
The Fifth Avenue adds a subtle, yet distinguished row of brogueing perforation to the captoe. I chose to get my Fifth Avenues in walnut. Walnut is a color that’s lighter than typical brown with a slight yellow/orange tint. It’s a very bold and unique look.
The texture of these shoes is what I first noticed. The grain is smooth to the touch, which is something I have never experienced on any leather shoe before. The leather is also flexible yet feels sturdy. They are completely unlike the rigid dress shoes that I have previously worn.
Cost is certainly a consideration when buying a shoe like this. Aside from the definite increase in quality from a $150 pair of Johnston & Murphys to a $300 pair of Allen Edmonds, the other major benefit of buying a shoe like this is the recrafting process that goes along with the brand’s great reputation. Allen Edmonds will take nearly any of their shoes back at any point in the life of the shoe and totally rebuild it and repair any damage for around $100. This sort of repair plan makes the initial investment of $300 a lot more manageable.
Aside from being available on shoe sites like Zappos, Nordstrom and Jos. A Bank also carry Allen Edmonds. There are also a small number of Allen Edmonds retail stores, including three in New York City. Buy them at the best discount you can find, but definitely try them on in person if you can.
You’ll probably see these shoes a lot more in upcoming posts, especially those involving me in business dress. While The Gentleman understands that a purchase like this is definitely a splurge, I’d recommend that you try on a pair the next time you’re considering buying a dress shoe. Think about whether the advantages of a superior, domestically produced shoe may outweigh the cost. It certainly does for me.
Next time, the Gentleman dresses for dinner with a professor…