You know, when I was in the shoe business, the conventional wisdom was that only natural-finished soles were top-quality because they weren't trying to hide any defects. Made perfect sense to me. Cheap shoes always have soles that are colored. Then I sold (and subsequently bought) Florsheim Kenmoors, which have the longest-wearing soles I've ever experienced, both as a customer and in the trade. (I'm not saying there aren't longer-wearing soles out there...I'm just saying my Kenmoors have gone over two years of VERY hard weekly wear and they're not even close to my even considering even thinking about resoling them.) And check out Florsheim's classicly beautiful wood-grain finish on them: Kenmoor
(By the way, the one I own is the plain-toe version of the above, which is the handstained Cashmere calf...gorgeous.)
That wood grain finish is an old style isn't it? I'd love to find some old stock Florsheims. How long were you in the shoe business? I had a very interesting convo. with a guy who worked at a J&M store. He'd been in the business for over 50 years -- mainly in Massachusetts and Maine.