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Alden & AE: Quality???

classicusa

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In between buying an occaisional Cole Haan loafer once in a while, I have worn Alden shoes for 25 years. One of those 25 year old pairs of tassel loafers is still in service. Tremendous value.

Every once in a while (7-10 yrs) I buy 3 or so new pairs of Aldens and add them to the mix. My last batch was in about 2001-02 when I bought a Shell LHS, Shell low vamp loafer and Calf low vamp loafer. All 3 in the heart of their service. As always, great quality.

Over the holidays I decided it was time to add. So I bought 2 Alden calf tassel loafers, and my first AEs; 3 pairs of Westchesters in calf.

Here's the problem. Both Aldens had cosmetic defects, and I returned them. Just received the replacements today (From BB), and again, both have what are to me, unacceptable cosmetic defects. Some of this may not be Alden, some of it MAY be BB, but receiving a pair with what had to be a nick or cut, then poorly restained (where there is an obvious color difference) amazes me. Poor stitching on the vamp. Stitching not trimmed on the welt. Are they just lax in their QC, or do they think a customer will accept this? I will be sending both pairs back---again.

On the AEs, the stitching is visibly uneven, and where the heels are stained black, the stain is actually peeling off of one of the heels (which leads me to see it is not really stain at all), revealing bare leather heels. The bottom of one heel is stained around the perimeter, one is not. Not a big deal, since it is the bottom of the shoe, and eventually, it will be a non-issue. But what about now?

We pine about the demise of the American shoemaker, and many of us here strive to support these 2 cos. My first experience with AE quality is a disappointing one. I was hoping/expecting more/better. I am now questioning the quality of Alden as well. What clearly should be relegated to the Alden "seconds" bin is being pawned off on the buyer as first quality. Completely unacceptable. Do they even look these shoes over before they pack them for shipping?

The AEs were just constructed before they were shipped to me, the Aldens---who knows how long they've been in BB's stock. Am I going ot have to pay MORE than even these manufacturers' prices to get a decent pair of shoes???

Am I alone in my experience or are you guys seeing the same things?
 

Owen Meany

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I have purchased (3) pairs of Alden over the last 18 months, No.8 Monk, Suede Shortwings and a pair of Chukka. While the quality of the materials seems very high, all three of have cosmetic "defects" that to me are unacceptable in shoes in this price range. I though the first was an out-layer, the second a coincidence but the third affirmed that the QC on this brand is just not worth it. Over the years, I have had several pair of Cole Hann's which were half the price (or less) and did not have these types of issues.

As to AEs, I have not seem the blemishes, defects and apparent sloppiness that I have seen in the Aldens (unless they are "seconds" of course). However, the materials used to construct an AE do not seem as high quality as the Aldens.

I am now on board with the various and popular English brands where I have found the quality to far exceed any shoes I have owned before.

jtb
 

DerekS

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maybe switch to some C&Js or spring for some Lobbs. Seems AE and Alden QC is really heading downhill....ive heard a lot of folks complaining about this.
 

pebblegrain

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Why do you wait 10 years, then buy 5 pairs of shoes sight unseen, and do this repeatedly?

Just go into a store and buy them in person. If you tell me that you don't live in a city with Alden, please also tell me that you don't travel at all, for decades at a time.

Also, do you resole? 10 years is nothing.
 

sho'nuff

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there are some people i know that never traveled in their entire lives. some families and some kids i know. it should be no slight to them. just not everyone is as well-off as you please remember.
Originally Posted by pebblegrain
Why do you wait 10 years, then buy 5 pairs of shoes sight unseen, and do this repeatedly?

Just go into a store and buy them in person. If you tell me that you don't live in a city with Alden, please also tell me that you don't travel at all, for decades at a time.

Also, do you resole? 10 years is nothing.
 

classicusa

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Originally Posted by pebblegrain
Why do you wait 10 years, then buy 5 pairs of shoes sight unseen, and do this repeatedly?

Just go into a store and buy them in person. If you tell me that you don't live in a city with Alden, please also tell me that you don't travel at all, for decades at a time.

Also, do you resole? 10 years is nothing.


Not sure I understand---saying I've waited 10 yrs to buy some shoes, as if that is a problem, then you say 10 yrs is nothing? If 10 yrs is nothing, why would I need to buy more than that over 10yrs? Don't understand your point.

Just had 2 of the 9 yr old Aldens restored, and another pair of Cape Cods I had resoled recently.

There were some great sales at Brooks Bros on the shoes, so I ordered them. They are sight unseen as the local BB does not stock my size (12E), nor do the retailers that sell AE here (Nordstrom, JAB). So I have to have the shoes shipped direct from the AE factory, and the Aldens came from other BB stores.

And the last time I was in NY (2 months ago) Madison Ave didn't have the models I wanted in my size, and two of the AE stores (across the street), and up a few blocks didn't have them either.

As for "repeatedly" buying 5 shoes every 10 years..what's it to you? That's how I do it. Has nothing to do with what quality I expect to receive. The quality should be excellent whether I pick them up in store or receive them from the factory; one pair or ten.

Is that ok with you, pebble? You should spend less time being a tool, and more time on topic...
 

pebblegrain

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back on topic then, yes the quality is not perfect and has never been.

I've never seen 5 pairs of Aldens in a row vintage or otherwise which were perfect in terms of workmanship, so if you continue to buy sight unseen, then there no way you will avoid this problem. If ordering is your thing then you should also get comfortable with return shipping.

AEs, I've never even seen 3 pairs in a row which were perfect.
 

classicusa

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Well, I have had no previous experience with AE, but people here seem to really like them, and as they can be acquired at a significant discount to Alden, I figured I'd give them a shot.

When I lived in major cities with more selection, I still had to mostly order 12Es. NY is the only place I was able to get them (either Mad or Lib Plz BB), even Chicago stores didn't stock them. You are correct about the retrun shipping; accept it or don't do it. I don't like having to do it regularly when it is an issue of finish/QC. If its a model I am not familiar with and its a size issue, that's on me. If they are coming through with poor stitching, and cosmetic issues, thats on them.

I just expect better from both these cos, particularly Alden, who I have had no QC issues with for 25 years---until recently, and on four consecutive pairs of shoes.

I am just wondering if others are experiencing the same issues when they receive shipments. I'd really hate to have to double my outlay to try some English shoes. Then I have to get all the sizing right for their models, which takes some trial and error.

And sorry for the tool comment...
 

phailing101

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I personally can tolerate the small defects on the AEs and Aldens. I haven't had many issues to be honest......but there are odd things here or there which I just choose to ignore.

The price difference between AEs and the English brands these days are getting quite significant so I have still bought a pair of AEs this year as well as a couple English pairs.

If the two were the same price, that would be a different story. I would only go English.....but C&J in particular have been getting expensive.

As for Alden, I would agree their price to quality ratio is falling. They are getting expensive!

That being said, I still have an order in for some boots and won't hesitate to buy from them. You just need to ignore the smaller defects. I've never had a major defect/issue with a pair of Aldens worth noting.

I'm also concerned about the long term quality of C&Js.......they're already having production issues meeting the demand out there.....which usually doesn't end up fairing well for quality in the long-term as they look to expand production.

Only time will tell.
 

cimabue

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I'm trying to get satisfaction on a pair of Alden shell boots that looked so mismatched in terms of finish and quality of leather you'd swear they had to be seconds, at best.
 

Raralith

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It could be bad luck, or it could be that Alden's quality has slowly declined. I think the three best choices for you right now is to continue to play the return game, and eventually get something you think is good. The second is to go through a better retailer that has their own QC (LeatherSoul?) where they would be embarresed to send you an imperfect pair of shoes. The last and probably better option is just to step up your game and buy better constructed shoes (Lobb, EG, G&G, AC), but expect to buy 1 pair of shoes for the 3 you currently pay for.

I've stopped buying Alden's and AE though, and stored most of the ones I did wear, because the level of quality between the low end and high end is huge; I don't think I've seen a poor quality pair of Lobbs. If you can afford to buy 3-5 pairs of shoes at a time, maybe consider buying 2 pairs of high end instead of 3-5 medicore pairs.
 

cimabue

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Originally Posted by Raralith
It could be bad luck, or it could be that Alden's quality has slowly declined. I think the three best choices for you right now is to continue to play the return game, and eventually get something you think is good. The second is to go through a better retailer that has their own QC (LeatherSoul?) where they would be embarresed to send you an imperfect pair of shoes. The last and probably better option is just to step up your game and buy better constructed shoes (Lobb, EG, G&G, AC), but expect to buy 1 pair of shoes for the 3 you currently pay for. I've stopped buying Alden's and AE though, and stored most of the ones I did wear, because the level of quality between the low end and high end is huge; I don't think I've seen a poor quality pair of Lobbs. If you can afford to buy 3-5 pairs of shoes at a time, maybe consider buying 2 pairs of high end instead of 3-5 medicore pairs.
I don't know if this addressed to the OP or me but I'll comment. I like Alden because of their lasts. I know they're workaday compared to Lobb's, but that just means I can dress them down easily. Frankly, I'm rarely in a suit (thank goodness) so going upmarket won't yield returns in my case. In fact, the refined Lobb's would draw the wrong kind of attention in my circles, I'm afraid. I know this from experience with some of the "lesser" English brands. Tighten up that quality control is all I'm asking. Your comments about letting the vendor do the QC inspections is appreciated, too.
 

CYstyle

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Originally Posted by classicusa
Not sure I understand---saying I've waited 10 yrs to buy some shoes, as if that is a problem, then you say 10 yrs is nothing? If 10 yrs is nothing, why would I need to buy more than that over 10yrs? Don't understand your point.

Just had 2 of the 9 yr old Aldens restored, and another pair of Cape Cods I had resoled recently.

There were some great sales at Brooks Bros on the shoes, so I ordered them. They are sight unseen as the local BB does not stock my size (12E), nor do the retailers that sell AE here (Nordstrom, JAB). So I have to have the shoes shipped direct from the AE factory, and the Aldens came from other BB stores.

And the last time I was in NY (2 months ago) Madison Ave didn't have the models I wanted in my size, and two of the AE stores (across the street), and up a few blocks didn't have them either.

As for "repeatedly" buying 5 shoes every 10 years..what's it to you? That's how I do it. Has nothing to do with what quality I expect to receive. The quality should be excellent whether I pick them up in store or receive them from the factory; one pair or ten.

Is that ok with you, pebble? You should spend less time being a tool, and more time on topic...


In BB, the Aldens are their cheaper and lower quality shoes. The calf skins run about 398$ (do note though the alden Shells are on the upper tier of bb shoes priced at 598$) The ones that actually come more into rotation are the sargents and C&J, and some martegani.

Anyways back onto point, they sell more shirts, trousers and suits than they sell shoes. But the people who come to buy suits and trousers, come in sneakers, flip flops, and other assorted shoes. What they do is ask for a pair of shoes so they can get their trousers hemmed and usually what happens is to grab the messed up old pairs of Alden's rather than wreck new shoes. Plus new shoes come unlaced which takes time. And on top of that, they seem to be torn between phasing them out completely and or slow restock. With a size 12E, there's honesty probably like 2-3 pairs max in the company. they probably send back the pairs you return with even more damage.
 

Joenobody0

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I've had huge problems with BB sourced Aldens, and I have a few pair that were 100% perfect. I've had much better success purchasing from the Alden store in SF, and Leather Soul. I bought two pair of shell Aldens from LSBH and both were completely perfect.
 

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