meh, all about fit really.
an ill fitting pair of exquisitely finished shoes is worth nothing.
Doubtful. Used and in good condition, perhaps. New, rare and in non classic designs.
Bespoke shoes can start as low as $800 and Vass is in the $600s range via forum proxies.
Thank you for all the information and suggestions, everyone. This is exactly the kind of information I was hoping to get. It does help give me an idea of what more I will get more my money by going a level up from AEs. I definitely think a side by side comparison will also be illuminating so I will attempt to find a store that carries both AEs and higher end manufacturers. Meanwhile, does anyone want to take any picks of the detailing in their (higher end than AE) shoes, and post here?
I hear you on that one. I have known that with proper care my AEs will last me a good long while. But I am getting the impression, which I will have to confirm for myself of course, that higher end shoes do seem to have greater detailing according to many people. This is one of those things that is often lost on me until I really get in and look at it. For instance, I never knew I was missing suits made from superior fabrics until I started buying a few.
Currently, I have shoes in the low (Loakes), mid (C&J & Church's) and higher (EG) strata in my collection but have yet to decide which are the best value to me (meaning which brand I would buy again should I need to replace some existing shoes).
For me, I would assess my shoes for (1) comfort, (2) longevity and (3) asthetics.
Comfort will mostly depend on the last and sizing but certain construction factors (e.g. the smoothness of the seams inside the shoe) also matter.
Apart from the fact that higher-end shoes having oak bark tanned soles will probably have better longevity per soling, low-end shoes will most probably last as long as higher-end. However, as I Topy all my shoes the sole leather durability will not be important to me.
For asthetics, I do not value the minor detailing that cannot be seen more than a few feet away. However, I would expect the more expensive shoe to look better throughout its life as the higher quality leather upper will crease less and probably polish better.