The only time I need to wear a suit is for funerals, weddings, and job interviews.
So, I *need* a pair of black shoes. At one level, this is something that takes no thought, buy an AE PA or Strand in black, except that I hate how they both look. I have several pairs of AE shoes [Norwich, Kenilworth, and Berkshire] all in some shade of brown. I'm considering the Flatiron, however, for the same price, I could buy the Kent Wang plain toe balmoral and it looks about ten thousand percent nicer.
The real problem is that I'm looking for a do it all black shoe. I see that the AE Clifton is on sale at Nordstrom right now for $200 and that's probably what I should do, but I just don't love the cap toe shoe.
Anyway, I guess the question is what other quality shoe manufacturers should I be considering?
I like the Cliftons, but based on your described needs, they aren't what you are looking for. The Clifton simply isn't formal enough for weddings or job interviews. You need a balmoral.
If you're trying to stay in the <$300 range and don't like AE's, consider Florsheim or Johnston and Murphy? With these brands you need to be a little more careful with what you pick up as their quality varies. Another thread reminded me of To Boot NY which is another option. Better still, check out Andrew Lock's line of shoes. He's got some great looking shoes and has had a lot of positive reviews.