I buy OTC for the most part, although I have large calves so some OTC brands still fall down (I'm looking at you Brooks Brothers). I've just ordered 8 pairs of Pantherella OTC off STP, so we'll see how those fare.
All good points. Here's a good example of a reasonably priced balmoral boot (in brown preferably): http://www.allenedmonds.com/aeonline/producti_SF7715_1_40000000001_-1 Cheaper than Alden, especially if you wait for a sale or get them from B&S.
I've found it to be quite the opposite? My higher end RTW (Finamore, BB Luxury) have them, whereas my lower end BB and other brands don't. Also, RTW doesn't preclude 'nicer brand', RTW just means Ready To Wear, so any shirt that isn't made to measure or bespoke. I've seen people with them open, and it just looks sloppy to me. No sprezz, just bad.