It doesn't appear to add much pressure to that part, as the crease is behind the cap toe.
It doesn't appear to add much pressure to that part, as the crease is behind the cap toe.
I’ve been meaning to respond to your “disingenuous” (a strong word) comment for several days but I’ve been tied up.
[Speaking of time constraints, I want express apologies and thanks for your patience to those SF Members who sent special make-up shoe requests to me a couple weeks ago. I should have been smarter about making an offer like that while I was on vacation with family before heading right into a couple of especially busy weeks (including the visit with Jack Nicklaus at Augusta – please see my blog at http://allenedmondsblog.blogspot.com/, if you like golf and the Masters). We now have developed a process internally to respond to your requests on an expedited basis.]
Back to the rationale for our use of the tagline “The Great American Shoe Company” and its sincerity. For the reasons I’m about to outline below, I feel that it’s appropriate even more strongly today than 3 years ago when we adopted it. Reasonable men can differ, as is often said. There’s likely a difference of opinion between us as to what it means to be “Great American”. For you, it must mean that 100% of the shoe manufacturing must start and end in the USA. That’s a tough hurdle to clear – to begin with, fine calfskin and other premium leather components are only available from Europe, as are many high quality rubber soles, so we start from the get-go with an international process. Of the 212 steps that it takes to make our welted shoes, only the first few on the upper are done in the DR (as I explained in detail in the post previously cited above). What arrives as a flat, half-sewn and open-ended “upper” in Port Washington for our welts, is nothing remotely close to being wearable. All of our insoles are cut to each specific length and width in Wisconsin, then prepped for being teamed with the corresponding lasts and the uppers, many of which uppers were also made entirely in Port Washington as well. Once the upper is started in either factory, the entire rest of the process to turn leather into shoe occurs just on the other side of the wall from my desk.
Making shoes this way gets to the first attributes of “Great American” that I’ll mention – being approachable, unpretentious and democratic. (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….” is central to our corporate culture.) I want our shoes to be affordable for the ex-urban factory worker who wants to look good in his one suit as well as for the sharply-dressed chairman of a Fortune 100 board in a large city. Among the Brits, Alden and a couple factories in Continental Europe that also are the only makers of superior quality, classic Goodyear-welted shoes, only Allen Edmonds regularly sells first quality products for less than $350, let alone the below-$250 offerings we have going right now in our Anniversary Sale.
Our great country at its best has gone above and beyond the call of duty; we do the tough things that other countries don’t and the world has often been much the better for it. At Allen Edmonds, our customer service people (as so many of you have remarked in this thread) follow that example. We also are flexible and responsive to special requests in an American can-do kind of way. We’re quick on delivery (usually), too, as our production line is right in the middle of the country where shipping is easier. Who else does Goodyear-welted, team-colored WebGems for $199 during March Madness?
Our 46 proprietary stores are in Great American cities from New York, Boston (our Newberry Street store is two blocks from the bombings in Boston), Philly, Washington DC, Atlanta and Orlando… to Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Francisco; from Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago and Cleveland to Kansas City, St. Louis (next month), Houston, Dallas and New Orleans.
We’ve partnered with two of the greatest American golfing icons of all time in Jack Nicklaus and Ben Crenshaw. Ben Hogan’s famous extra-spike shoes were made in our plant. We’ve outfitted the last two Ryder Cup teams with their dress shoes for the opening and closing ceremonies. We’re a business partner of Major League Baseball and on the feet of MLB’s executives in New York. We’ve done the shoes for countless Hollywood movies. Stars on SNL, network news and late night TV often stop in our Rock Center store before their appearances. Author Michael Lewis personally wrote a tribute to AE for our “90 Stories for 90 Years” Anniversary Book last year. Bestselling historian David McCullough stops in our Boston store and does a jig in his new shoes for our store manager. My nephew spotted the original “Shaft” Richard Roundtree at a film festival in Minneapolis and complimented him on his AE Strands – to which Shaft said, “Thanks. They’re my favorite shoes.” And every President from at least Reagan to W wore Allen Edmonds with his right hand raised for the Oath on Inauguration Day, and President Obama wears them also. We have photos with my predecessor of, and/or complimentary handwritten notes from, each (save the current POTUS) on our wall. We’re the shoe of American leaders – from the Oval Office to the corner office to the principal’s office.
We’ve worked with America’s allies for decades. Our main calfskin suppliers are in Germany and France, our main leather sole supplier in Turkey. Our Verona, Urbino and Firenze styles are made by family-owned partner plants in small towns in Italy, and are top 40 sellers for us. We bring our Milwaukee corporate culture to our people in Santiago in the DR, where several of my leadership colleagues and I go every year to serve a Holiday Feast to the workers (we man the buffet line) and to thank them for their hard work and high quality. They work for us exclusively. I’m proud of the jobs and economic vitality that we create there – investing in our hemisphere, just a few hundred miles from Florida’s coast, in a democratic nation just a narrow channel away from the oppression in Cuba and sharing the same island with impoverished Haiti where Columbus first landed in the New World. We’re good diplomats.
Speaking of job creation – our price/value relationship in our shoes has allowed us to grow employment significantly in the U.S. We’ve added about 270 U.S. jobs in the past 2+years and it continues apace. Our production census is up about 50%. Employment in our other critical functions -- including new product development, customer service, shipping, marketing, retail management, finance and store personnel – has grown at least as much, with some more than doubling. Our New England heel base supplier recently told me that our growth has caused his family-owned company to increase their employment by over 25%.
As many of SFers know, we’ve expanded into small and large leather goods in our stores and we’re adding clothing in growing sku counts. Our Massachusetts wallet-maker is nearing the point where he can put his long-mothballed production line back into operation. Our briefcase and bags-making partner in the South has moved production back onshore to meet our Made in USA stipulation. We’ve partnered with a tailored clothing, ties and custom shirt manufacturers on the East Coast to make those items also to our specifications for us (our team of designers choose the patterns and fabrics – we have decades-experienced clothing design professionals working for us now). If we’re as successful as I hope with those products, these suppliers’ U.S. employment will also grow significantly. And our business with Skip Horween and his fourth generation tannery in Chicago has burgeoned.
All of this growth is made possible entirely because of the loyalty and support of our customers, including the opinion-leaders in this forum. We wouldn’t risk their trust in us by being disingenuous, and it’s not in our culture or our ethics to do so purposely. Our glued-on rubber-soled shoes are made in construction methods that we don’t have in Wisconsin. We can’t compete with our high-end welted construction plant against the India and China manufacturers of those kind of low-complication shoes that sell for $150 or less (or much less). We don’t want to forfeit that huge part of the shoe business, however, so we’ve joined in. If our shoes are made in the DR, though, we clearly state that fact in our catalogues, online and in the shoes. We specifically use a sub-brand (“ae by Allen Edmonds”) for our DR shoes, in fact, to be even more clear. Here’s a link to our bestselling DR shoe, the “Boulder”. See if you think we’re hiding something (note the final bullet point in the product description)...
So, I now ask you…. Do we still reasonably differ, or are you convinced?
Thank you for this thoughtful response. Even as someone who disagreed with the "disingenuous" comments, you've given me much more perspective on your Great, American Shoe Company.
Paul, thanks for taking your time to write that long, yet very informative piece. If I ever had the skills to work for Allen Edmonds, I would do so in a heartbeat under your leadership.
I wore my black McTavish today and walked nearly 10 km home in them as I my missed my bus! By the time I got home, my feet were still comfortable and although I knew I needed a good rest, my feet still said, "Let's keep walking." Comfort, looks, style, affordability AND made in the USA? What more could a man ask for?
Picked up my third pair of AE's in four months yesterday (a pair of Bourbon McAllister's). Finally was able to stop in the actual AE store and get sized properly. Up until now I've been wearing a 11.5D (little too tight) or an 11.5E (too loose), both on the five last. Turns out I should be wearing an 11E on that last instead (I have a high instep). Not a big deal, but wish I could have been able to get sized properly from the get go for the other two pairs that I own. I look forward to heading to Wisconsin next month and visiting the shoe bank for the first time. And, I passed on some chili Fairfaxes yesterday at Nordstrom's Rack. Those are some very, very nice looking shoes and oddly fit very well (given that they were an 11.5D). Looking forward to expanding my collection and moving away from Cole Haan and toward AE. Next up - some sort of suede pair for the fall. I like the Katmai, but not sure if it would work given my instep.