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Shoe Gurus: Help Me Out

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 

I know a little bit about shoes in terms of construction, leathers, lasts, etc. I am far from an expert though, and there has been something that has crossed my mind as a result of several discussions in this community. I own several pairs of Allen Edmonds and I always thought of them as entry level or mid price range shoes based on what I had heard and what I was told by others. I like the models I own just fine. The quality seems to be decent and not too expensive.

 

So now I am entertaining thoughts of moving to the next level in terms of shoes. I'm talking about John Lobb, G&G, etc. But what does that mean? Who can give me straight up, no bull, assessments of why some of these other manufacturers out there are considerably better than AE? I'm not concerned with issues of style and silhouette, I'm talking about real facts concerning construction, leather, and anything else relevant that puts some shoes on a higher level than what is offered by AE. 

 

I'm just not sure if it would be worth it for me to move on from something that I like just fine already, and take the plunge and spring for some high end shoes. Is it like escargot? Do I just not know what I am missing?

post #2 of 41
I can't comment on the quality of materials for higher end English shoe brands, but my guess is that the craftsmanship on these shoes is superior to that of AE. I say this because I believe companies like Lobb, G&G, AS, EG, etc., take longer to produce their shoes (and produce them in smaller quantities), whereas, shoes like AE are mass produced and churned out all over the US. maybe i'm splitting hairs here but I think if it takes weeks for a shoe to be made then that means a great deal of attention to detail is being paid to every pair, and that level of craftsmanship is passed onto the consumer
post #3 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by gaseousclay View Post

I can't comment on the quality of materials for higher end English shoe brands, but my guess is that the craftsmanship on these shoes is superior to that of AE. I say this because I believe companies like Lobb, G&G, AS, EG, etc., take longer to produce their shoes (and produce them in smaller quantities), whereas, shoes like AE are mass produced and churned out all over the US. maybe i'm splitting hairs here but I think if it takes weeks for a shoe to be made then that means a great deal of attention to detail is being paid to every pair, and that level of craftsmanship is passed onto the consumer

 

I assume what you are saying is correct, but again, what does that equate to other than just taking longer to make a pair of shoes? 

post #4 of 41

Have you seen G&G or, say, EGs (I've never seen Lobbs, so IDK)? The stitching looks tighter and more even, the waists are narrower (this is a style thing, but I understand it reflects construction), and the clicking seems to have been done with more care. The leather looks better, too, though how much of this is better finishing/polishing from the factory I couldn't say. My only experience with these, of course, is browsing in stores -- various places for AEs, and Leffot for the higher-end brands. The differences came across much more clearly IRL than online.

 

And then there's gemming, which I'll admit to only barely understanding. Of course, I think Lobb RTW and G&G are both gemmed...

post #5 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by YRR92 View Post

Have you seen G&G or, say, EGs (I've never seen Lobbs, so IDK)? The stitching looks tighter and more even, the waists are narrower (this is a style thing, but I understand it reflects construction), and the clicking seems to have been done with more care. The leather looks better, too, though how much of this is better finishing/polishing from the factory I couldn't say. My only experience with these, of course, is browsing in stores -- various places for AEs, and Leffot for the higher-end brands. The differences came across much more clearly IRL than online.

 

And then there's gemming, which I'll admit to only barely understanding. Of course, I think Lobb RTW and G&G are both gemmed...

 

I have seen some pairs from some of those manufacturers, but I'm not sure I would have known what to look for in order to know the difference. But you bring up some good points that go a ways into answering my question. Tighter, more even, stitching makes sense. I am ignorant as to what clicking is and why it is important though.

post #6 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Caustic Man View Post

 

I have seen some pairs from some of those manufacturers, but I'm not sure I would have known what to look for in order to know the difference. But you bring up some good points that go a ways into answering my question. Tighter, more even, stitching makes sense. I am ignorant as to what clicking is and why it is important.


Clicking is the cutting of the leather. AEs often don't have pieces or broguing as carefully cut as the higher end shoes. Look at something like a pair of Lobb Philips to see how pin-straight and fine the brouging is compared to a brogued AE. That's partially styling, of course.

 

I will admit that I'd not very knowledgeable about shoe making -- the reasons I listed above are the result of my looking closely at the shoes I've seen that are noticeably nicer than AEs and trying to quantify what makes them better looking. I hope this isn't too much a case of the blind leading the blind, but I'm pretty sure that if any more experienced members find anything too egregiously wrong they'll correct me.

post #7 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by YRR92 View Post


Clicking is the cutting of the leather. AEs often don't have pieces or broguing as carefully cut as the higher end shoes. Look at something like a pair of Lobb Philips to see how pin-straight and fine the brouging is compared to a brogued AE. That's partially styling, of course.

 

I will admit that I'd not very knowledgeable about shoe making -- the reasons I listed above are the result of my looking closely at the shoes I've seen that are noticeably nicer than AEs and trying to quantify what makes them better looking. I hope this isn't too much a case of the blind leading the blind, but I'm pretty sure that if any more experienced members find anything too egregiously wrong they'll correct me.

 

Well I can tell you this, you are moving is exactly the direction I was wanting to go. I can hear "hand made" all day long but what are the practical considerations that make hand made better? I think are touching on that which is great. I wonder what else in terms of construction or materials makes these manufacturers better than AE.

post #8 of 41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Caustic Man View Post

 

Well I can tell you this, you are moving is exactly the direction I was wanting to go. I can hear "hand made" all day long but what are the practical considerations that make hand made better? I think are touching on that which is great. I wonder what else in terms of construction or materials makes these manufacturers better than AE.


A lot of what I know is from threads on here and the section on shoes in Gentleman, to be honest. Learn about the difference between handwelting and gemming, too -- I don't want to explain it wrong, but it seems to be an important difference between hand-made and machine-made shoes. I think the brands you mentioned are still gemmed, though.

 

I read most of the Vass thread, which is where I learned a lot about shoe construction.

post #9 of 41
Thread Starter 

Great suggestion. Will do.

post #10 of 41
Think about why you want to buy those shoes, and then decide if the increased price makes it worth it.

I went from wearing <100 dollar department store brands to AE because AE looks and feels like a much better shoe, and many people can vouch for the durability.

Shoes are about style, comfort, quality, and durability to me, and I can see notable improvements in all of those when I upgraded to AE.

If you pick up one of those shoes you mentioned, put it on and compare it to an AE and you can't see/feel the difference yourself, than it may not be worth it to you to pay a premium. To me if I need someone online to tell me why something is "better", than it doesn't really feel worth it.
post #11 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by allysan1027 View Post

To me if I need someone online to tell me why something is "better", than it doesn't really feel worth it.

 

I think you may be misunderstanding my purpose. I'm not looking for someone to convince me that what I already want to do is right. I'm looking for real reasons to either move up or stay where I am at. Some good points were already brought up in that regard. To use someone else's analogy, it's like you've only ever had ok but dry donuts. You know when you find a good one. If these higher end manufacturers turn out to be that moist delicious donut to AE's dry one then I'll go for it. If there isn't much of a noticeable difference then I wont.

post #12 of 41
It might be better for you to take the next step to the mid-range shoes like C&J and the like rather than moving to G&G, Lobb, Edward Green, etc. Moving upwards from Allen Edmonds, you're going to get a higher quality leather, tighter stitching in both the sole and the throat/quarters of the shoe, more handwork (which you admittedly said fails to interest you), and really better style (which you again mentioned as irrelevant).

If you're removing style from the situation, you've removed essentially the soul (ignore the pun) of the equation. G&G's quality is great, but what separates it is the hard chisel, the intricate detailing, and the sleekness of the lasts. You simply won't find that in the gunboats of Allen Edmonds; note that I am not hating on AE, rather stating the change. When you go to a smaller brand like G&G, Berluti, etc., you're dealing with a brand that can be more selective with its styling because of its more limited distribution.

The real question about upgrading is, is it worth it to you?
post #13 of 41
In your search for "better" shoes, it occurs to me that construction is only a part of the differentiating factors that you should consider. As much as shoes better in grade than AE's will have better detailing or better leather, whether or not the shoes will be worth the extra money comes down to two things - appearance and comfort.

If you find that there is a qualitative difference in the styling of shoes from Lobb, or G & G, or whomever else's brand you decide to buy instead of AE, that will be one reason to upgrade. (For myself, I have only two pairs of AE's, and neither manufactured in the US - a pair of horse-bit loafers, and a pair of AE Sevens, a short-lived high-end Italian-made version of AE.)

The other reason would be comfort, and that will depend entirely on the shape and size of your feet, in comparison to the shapes and sizes of the lasts used to make the shoes to which you want to upgrade. If your feet and the lasts of whichever high-end shoe manufacturer do not match, your shoes will not fit properly, and you will be dissatisfied with the results, regardless of the care and skill of manufacture, and regardless of the greater elegance of appearance of the footwear in question.
post #14 of 41
With the possible exception of the oak-bark tanned soles on the higher end models, the additional quality of the more expensive shoes has no real impact on the longevity, wearability, or comfort of the shoe. Even the highest end RTW shoes are generally gemmed.

The remainder of the quality differences come down to appearance. Tighter, more delicate stitching, closed channel soles, straighter clicking, more elegant heels (no 360 welts), narrower waists, etc. While this is not necessarily the style of the shoe, it has a lot to do with the overall appearance.

heres my take:

I really really like allen edmonds for heavily brogued shoes like the strand, mcallister, player, etc. These slightly less sleek lasts pair well with the broguing. Quality is just fine and they hold up well.

For more formal shoes like plain captoes, I go slightly higher end, like C&J, Cheaney etc. These are slightly more expensive, but the things mentioned above tend to add a more elegant, sleek, and sophisticated look.

Aside from maybe the St. James, I have no interest in any shoes from G&G, EG, etc. They just don't do much for me.

it all goes back to marginal cost vs. marginal benefit. For me, anything above say a C&J Handgrade is just not worth it. If the extra quality doesn't improve comfort, fit, or longevity, isn't it really just quality for quality's sake? Up to you...its a personal decision.
post #15 of 41
There's no substitute for actually trying a pair of higher-end shoes for yourself. I've tried AE and Alden and will never buy them again after trying C&J Handgrade.
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