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Vintage Dress shoe appreciation, tips, maintenance and advice

post #1 of 298
Thread Starter 

"They don't make them like that anymore." This saying is especially true when it comes to dress shoes that were made in the USA. In prior decades US had numerous dress shoe brands that included lines of excellent, classic and well built shoes. Nettleton, Hanover, Alden, Allen Edmonds, Florsheim's Royal Imperial, Johnson & Murphy bench made and crown aristocraft and others dominated the market from 1950 to 1990. Sadly, some of those names are gone and some still survive, but in a cheaper, off-shore form that are ghosts of their former quality. Their former creations, however, still survive and are part of many shoe collections.

 

Just because a shoe is old, does not mean that it worthy of collection. Sometimes, an old shoe is just a old shoe and it needs to hit the trashcan. Other times, that old shoe is a classic gem that still has much to offer and is highly desirable to many. This thread is designed to provide a place to share information to help forum members know which vintage shoes are desirable and which are simply old shoes. While it is fun to look at shoe porn photos, it needs to also be a place for sharing methods for putting more life into a vintage style, how to maintain what you have and advice for problems.

 

So, let's start the thread with a class Florsheim Royal Imperial long wingtip. This classic designed originally features the five nail sole and v-cleat "suicide" heel. This particular shoe was made in 1969 and purchased off Ebay. Just a fresh polish and conditioning the sole with leather lotion was all that was needed.

 

 

So, what do YOU have to share?

post #2 of 298
Thread Starter 

Are you considering getting some shell cordovan shoes and a small home improvement loan to pay for them? Well, an alternate plan is to find some vintage shell cordovan on Ebay. Florsheim had a long history of producing several cordovan styles such as the plain toe blucher (PTB) and a long wing blucher (LWB). The LWB was available in black and #8 cordovan, with the #8 being far more common. The most common style was the 93605. David over at vcleat.com has some terrific vintage information about the 93605 and I strongly urge a trip to his page located here. David did a study of the 93605 sold on Ebay for a year and found the following size and width distributions which I place here with his permission.

 

 

 

The end result is a supply of shell cordovan LWB that are available at fraction of of retail for new Alden or Allen Edmonds. Even though the EEE is as rare as can be, I managed to find these on the Bay several months ago and I bought them before the ad was 2 hours old. When you find the right pair you need to act before someone else walks off with them. Prices range from $75 for worn shoes in only fair condition to as high as $400 for new old stock, never worn, not in a box. Very good to excellent condition will range of $175 to $275. Still far less than $675 to $720 for new AE or Alden.

 

post #3 of 298
The size distribution of those Florsheim sold on eBay is interesting. It looks like feet were a lot skinnier years ago.
post #4 of 298
Quote:
Originally Posted by mreams99 View Post

The size distribution of those Florsheim sold on eBay is interesting. It looks like feet were a lot skinnier years ago.

Well ya... people weren't as fat.

post #5 of 298

I'll play as pretty much my favorite hobby these days is perusing the bay for vintage deals.

 

 

Allen Edmonds Brown Chesters from the early to mid 80s

 

 

Allen Edmonds Black McAllisters from the early 80s

 

 

Florsheim Kenmoor Shell Cordovan LWBs in #8 made in 1976

post #6 of 298
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattRiv View Post

I'll play as pretty much my favorite hobby these days is perusing the bay for vintage deals.




Allen Edmonds Brown Chesters from the early to mid 80s




Allen Edmonds Black McAllisters from the early 80s




Florsheim Kenmoor Shell Cordovan LWBs in #8 made in 1976

Those are beautiful. I recall the Chesters are nearly new. What are you doing to get the shine to that level on the two AE shoes?
post #7 of 298
Quote:
Originally Posted by smfdoc View Post


Those are beautiful. I recall the Chesters are nearly new. What are you doing to get the shine to that level on the two AE shoes?

The Chesters looked like they had been worn maybe 2-3 times.  The uppers were prestine and looked fresh out of the box, no products had ever been applied.  The insoles had no foot prints or staining and the outsoles had been worn outside of carpet, but not much.  I'm wearing them right now!

 

My method:

 

1. Clean the shoe with a brush and then a damp cloth, make sure to get into the welt.

2. Hit the shoe with some conditioner.

3. Sometimes I throw on some Saphir Renovatuer at this stage, which really makes the leather supple.

4. After that I apply 1-2 rounds of cream polish in the color of the shoe or neutral for something like bourbon or a burnished shoe (or if I don't have the proper color).

5. Two light coats of wax with a buff shine on the entire shoe.

6. Then I apply light coats with a dab of water to spit shine until I get a mirror finish that I'm happy with.  I only do this to the heels and toe box in front of the crease.

 

Each step you should let the shoe rest and dry before buffing and proceeding to the next step.  I think I spent maybe 2 hours on the Chesters from basically new to how I wanted them.  I learned the spit shine method from my brother when we were in JROTC together in high school.  

 

Here is a pair of Aldens that I recently got from ebay that were in dire condition that I mainly got as a project and to help learn my sizing.  They don't fit, so I plan to sell them or see if they fit my dad.

 

Here's the listing photo:

Processed By eBay with ImageMagick, z1.1.0. ||B2

 

Here is after I stripped one shoe with acetone:

 

Stripped shoe in the light after some bick 4:

 

Completed project.

post #8 of 298
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattRiv View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by smfdoc View Post


Those are beautiful. I recall the Chesters are nearly new. What are you doing to get the shine to that level on the two AE shoes?

The Chesters looked like they had been worn maybe 2-3 times.  The uppers were prestine and looked fresh out of the box, no products had ever been applied.  The insoles had no foot prints or staining and the outsoles had been worn outside of carpet, but not much.  I'm wearing them right now!

 

My method:

 

1. Clean the shoe with a brush and then a damp cloth, make sure to get into the welt.

2. Hit the shoe with some conditioner.

3. Sometimes I throw on some Saphir Renovatuer at this stage, which really makes the leather supple.

4. After that I apply 1-2 rounds of cream polish in the color of the shoe or neutral for something like bourbon or a burnished shoe (or if I don't have the proper color).

5. Two light coats of wax with a buff shine on the entire shoe.

6. Then I apply light coats with a dab of water to spit shine until I get a mirror finish that I'm happy with.  I only do this to the heels and toe box in front of the crease.

 

Each step you should let the shoe rest and dry before buffing and proceeding to the next step.  I think I spent maybe 2 hours on the Chesters from basically new to how I wanted them.  I learned the spit shine method from my brother when we were in JROTC together in high school.  

 

Here is a pair of Aldens that I recently got from ebay that were in dire condition that I mainly got as a project and to help learn my sizing.  They don't fit, so I plan to sell them or see if they fit my dad.

 

Here's the listing photo:

Processed By eBay with ImageMagick, z1.1.0. ||B2

 

Here is after I stripped one shoe with acetone:

 

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

 

 

Stripped shoe in the light after some bick 4:

 

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)

 

Completed project.

Man, those are sweet shoes and thanks for the tips. I am too impatient and rush the steps. A true case of "slow and steady wins the race." Great job.

post #9 of 298
Thread Starter 

Florsheim used the metal V Cleat insert in the heel to reduce wear and extend the life of the heel. These metal cleats would eventually make contact with the ground and could cause a deadly loss of traction with wet or marble floors. Wearers quickly started referring to them as "suicide heels" and I am sure that some of the falls resulted in product liability suits. From my perspective, the heels are a key feature of these vintage models and they help date the age of the shoe. These images were used by permission from vcleat.com and there are more tips about determining the age of a Florsheim here.

 

If the cleat was flush with the outside of the heel it was made before 1973.

 

 

If the cleat was insert from the edge of the heel it was made after 1973.

 

Processed By eBay with ImageMagick, z1.1.0. ||B2

 

Other age determining clues are:

 

  • The Imperial Kenmoor 92604 and 93602 (the two most common Florsheim Imperial models on eBay) were produced from 1958 to 1988
  • Most of the Royal Imperial models you see on eBay (97623, 97624, 97625, 97626), were made in the 1990s
  • If the numbering looks old and is black, it is likely from the 1950s or 1960s
  • In 1993 and after, some models are labelled “Made in USA”. This was probably done to distinguish them from “Made in India” models
  • Theater like Florsheim corporate logo appeared in shoes ~1992
  • Rectangle Florsheim corporate logo appeared in 1997
  • Models labelled with “Assembled in USA” started in 1997
post #10 of 298
Thanks to the info here and on v-cleat, I've dated my shell gunboats to either Jan '72 or '82. When I got them resoled, I had the original v cleats replaced with double JR soles and heels and I can't remember whether the cleat was on the edge or not. So they are either 34 or 44 years old. I guess I ought to pull them out and take a picture.
post #11 of 298
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Count de Monet View Post

Thanks to the info here and on v-cleat, I've dated my shell gunboats to either Jan '72 or '82. When I got them resoled, I had the original v cleats replaced with double JR soles and heels and I can't remember whether the cleat was on the edge or not. So they are either 34 or 44 years old. I guess I ought to pull them out and take a picture.

Yes, pictures please. It is amazing how nicely shell will hold up if they were taken care of. By the way, there are some cobblers that will replace the sole and build a new V cleat as a heel for those that want to keep the original look. Yours are probably far safer.

 

I recently found this excellent example of how vintage shell can hold up. AE and Alden both makes a #8 plain toe blucher and so did Florsheim. This 93606 in 10.5 C was made around 1980. The date code was worn off so the exact date is not know. These are stellar for a shoe that is probably 25-30 years old. No wax that I can discern. I will be listing them on Ebay soon, so you can PM me if you have an interest.

 

post #12 of 298
This may be a stupid question. I'm OK with asking stupid questions though.
I have this pair of boots from Cheaney. I actually bought them second-hand to go with a pirate costume for a special event. That event has passed, and I've cleaned them up and polished them. I would like to wear them as a winter "bad weather" boot when I need to wear a dress boot, but....
Here's my question:
Is this boot considered "out of style"? Can they be worn without raising an eyebrow?
post #13 of 298
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mreams99 View Post

This may be a stupid question. I'm OK with asking stupid questions though.
I have this pair of boots from Cheaney. I actually bought them second-hand to go with a pirate costume for a special event. That event has passed, and I've cleaned them up and polished them. I would like to wear them as a winter "bad weather" boot when I need to wear a dress boot, but....
Here's my question:
Is this boot considered "out of style"? Can they be worn without raising an eyebrow?

Not a stupid question at all and one never wants to be unstylish. You have some classic Jodhpur boots there. These are similar to a single monk shoe. While they are not currently offered by every shoe maker, they are certainly available and are stylish. Carmina currently offers a jodhour boot, as does other high end makers.

 

 

Over at Gentleman's Gazette, they said the following:

 

Wearing the Jodhpur boot

 

Wearing boots somehow exude a great sense of authority and immediately identifies the wearer as being a man of distinction. On the lighter side it also helps prevent your shins from peeking underneath your trouser cuffs! Once we decide to wear boots the next question that arises is which one? Choosing to wear Jodhpur boots instead of any of the other ankle length boots available in the market makes a lot of sense to me as it has many advantages , firstly it is an extremely intriguing boot being not as plain as the Chelsea but far more elegant . The Jodhpur boot is a very clean looking boot which has a large blank canvas of leather starting from the toe and extending all the way to the top. This lovely vast expanse of leather comes without stitching and the hint of straps peeping out from under the trousers adds to its mystique.

 

Bottom line: If you like them, rock them.

post #14 of 298
Thread Starter 

Florsheim made a number of different long wings and my favorite calf was the 93602. This is known as the Hand Stained Brown and includes Cashmere Calf; Full leather lining; Double leather soles; Storm welt; Leather heels with v-cleat. This has been called the "King" of Florsheim's classic gunboat models. The 93602 was made from 1958 to 1988 and then replaced by the 97604. The 97604 was actually made with a double V cleat for double the loss of traction! The 96302 is fairly common on Ebay and some great buys can be had if one is patient.

 

post #15 of 298
A bunch of members bought new old stock JM Handmades some 10 years ago. Gosh, those were the days. Search my username for a few leads. I still have mine but they're in need of a resole, and frankly, they're just sitting because I'm not sure who I'd trust to do the job.
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