Shoes speak louder than words

Shoes speak louder than words

Q. I usually add to my husband’s tie collection at the holidays, but this year he asked for shoes. Specifically, he wants a pair of Allen Edmonds that his brother has. I could buy 6-8 REALLY nice ties for the cost of those shoes. Are they really worth it, or could you recommend a substitute?

A. It is often difficult to understand why the man in your life, who is not generally super “into fashion” and who would not dream of spending huge sums on most of his clothes, feels that shoes are the one category on which to splurge. I assure you he is not alone, and the investment generally makes great sense.

Allen Edmonds is the company that many American men think of as “the shoe to own.” Their dress shoes are thought of as unusually comfortable, especially for men who stand for long periods or who do a lot of walking. The company points out that the shoes’ design includes a heated cork construction inside the shoe that allows it to shape itself and conform to the unique shape of the wearer’s foot. Another plus is the huge range of sizes: from 5AAA to 19EEE.

Many men would usually find prices of roughly $425 per pair a stretch, but quite a large number of them seem willing to accept the price. Quality men’s shoes, when properly cared for, just might be the longest lasting item in a man’s wardrobe. I also have noted that the company, as well as Amazon and eBay, often run sales where they can be found for less. And, even when wear and tear seems to have worn out the shoes, the brand provides an “affordable” solution. As an added plus, the company offers a unique “recrafting” service. Though this exclusive service is expensive ($125), it allows customers to send their old or worn out shoes back to the factory where they are completely refurbished and rebuilt. During recrafting, the welt is replaced; a new cork lining is inserted; soles, heels, and laces are replaced; and the uppers are polished with near-new results. This process can be done more than once while retaining the original fit.

I have always wondered why men who own Allen Edmonds shoes are so often able to recognize when others are wearing them. One reason is that the shoes have a distinctly recognizable design/pattern for their perforations. But for shoes without perforations, the shape of the toe seems to be the giveaway. The overall shape of the shoe is definitely conservative, not quite as slim or elegant as some European styles, with a more rounded toe than the more pointed toe and slimmer sole that distinguishes top European styles.

I should say that long-time customers, who know Allen Edmonds as shoes entirely made in the U.S.A., cannot be certain of that any longer. The company was bought a few years ago by a conglomerate, Caleres; recently some of its past distinctiveness has relaxed in an effort to reach a younger customer. Even so, much remains the same.

Despite your concern that Allen Edmonds shoes are notably more expensive than most men’s shoes, the truth is that other high-end shoes on the market are hundreds of dollars more, with a few going well beyond $1,000! These include such brands as Alden (pushing $600 a pair), John Lobb (well over $1,000), Edward Green ($1,250), Church’s ($750), and Ferragamo’s ($995). Perhaps the nearest parallel in price and quality is Cole Haan. BUT, men swear by one or the other. I think the safe bet is to buy the specific pair he requested and be glad that you only have to come up with some stocking stuffers . . . in fact, you can put those stockings inside the shoes!

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