Since this thread is a top google hit I'm going to bump and add my two cents.
Sleek and cheap shoes can easily lay down a nasty looking crease in about ten days of wear. This is especially noticeable with brown shoes. I am trying to save some money as well and I went with Loake. Can't wait to buy some C&Js when I can justify it.
Bottom line: as much as the Loake lasts aren't the best of the best the overall appearance of these shoes strikes me as more stylish than AE shoes and would hold up longer than $100 corrected grain shoes.
I found these for $150/pair a couple weeks ago:
Wow, I didn't realize this thread was from 10/2008. Bringing it back from the dead, huh?