I would argue that handling and wearing an AE/RW/Florsheim shoe is a much different, and frankly lower quality, experience than handling and wearing pretty much any Alden. .
I disagree. I own 7 pairs of AE, 8 pairs of Alden, and one pair of C&J. I can say from experience that AE holds up quite well next to Alden in terms of quality, comfort and design. In fact, I actually prefer my AEs for business wear (I'm a trial lawyer). The AE Clifton is one hell of a nice shoe for Tuesday mornings in a courtroom, but they are totally out of place with jeans in the evening at a bar. That's where Alden really shines. The Aldens are heavier because of the steel shank (metal detector nightmare) and are shaped somewhat clunkier (the Barrie last won't win any awards for sleekness) --- which makes them great for Saturday evenings on the town. Even my Ravello NSTs on the Aberdeen last are a bit too clunky for suit wear. However, across the board, my Aldens are much more stylish shoes. Tweed sportcoat, well-worn cords and Alden Color 8 wingtip boots -- perfect for a night of swilling beer.
I also have to say AE also won me over when with their customer service. I bought a pair of the brown cordo Strands in my normal size from an online discounter. They're made from the same Horween brown shell cordovan used in the C&J Ralph Lauren Darlton wingtips I have, and with excellent brogueing. When I got them, they fit very large. I wore them for about a week and as they began to break in, I realized that they were simply too big for my feet. Took them to my local AE store in Chicago, and they re-sized me and exchanged my worn cordovan shoes for new ones, no questions asked and without a receipt! That's one hell of a good way to make a loyal customer for life. Alden certainly has great customer service as well, but currently not at the same level.
Alden makes a fantastic shoe. That's why I own so many of them and read this thread. But they are not clearly superior to other American made shoes.