At first I was surprised too given the hate AE gets here but you have to consider AE is the most "accessible" style-forum approved shoe manufacturer. Volume wins!
+1. That they're easy to find at reasonable prices makes a huge difference. I need decent, affordable shoes to wear while I wait for the perfect pair of perfectly discounted English shoes in my size to show up on B&S/Ebay/etc. And their cost-value ratio works best for me at my current (recent college graduate) income level.
That said, I'm not in love with their design or their fit. When I can afford more expensive shoes, I imagine my AEs will be largely phased out.
A fortunate and/or spendthrift crew I see. My barker shoes are always my first choice, and I'll make minor adjustments to my shoe rotation in the week before I need to wear them. If I had to buy a fresh pair right now, I'd probably find a $100 pair of Cole Haans. (As a college student, it's the limit of my current penury).
+1. I had a pair of the Hallam in size 12 but they were too tight. I currently own the Darlton and Darlton ptb in size 11.5 and while they fit, its not a pleasant fit. Same goes with the Darlton loafer. If I went with TTS they would have been too big. My John Lobbs are butter. Sometimes I cant believe how good they fit. In fact, yesterday was a weekend and had no reason to wear them but I just tried them on for the hell of it