Allen Edmonds Appreciation Thread - reviews, pictures, sizing, etc...

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Mild Mannered, Sep 27, 2009.

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  1. bucksfan

    bucksfan Senior member

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    Very interesting discussion. I must admit, I have not been able to read all the responses, but thought I would add in with my own story.

    I know that for me, I began buying "nice" dress shoes only about 5-6 years ago. Prior to that, it was cole haan loafers and one pair of black florsheim cap toes that I wore with all suits. Then, my wife stumbled into an AE outlet during one of their tent sales. She called me and said "they have a black cap toe shoe for $99, do you want me to get it?" At the time, I only knew Allen Edmonds as the best shoe I knew the name of. Looking back, I shudder to think about those lousy shoes I wore for years, even to my own wedding!

    After I had those Park Aves for a few months, I decided to go into the outlet store next time I went by it. I did that, and came away with two more pair of calfskin AEs, paying in the $150 - $200 range for each. I remember thinking that this was really expensive for shoes, but supposedly they are worth it, and hopefully will last a long time. I did not even understand that I was buying "seconds" I just knew that the box had a couple different prices on it, and I paid the lower of the two. I also knew that my business partner has a dozen pair of AE calfskin shoes that he has had for 15-30 years, across multiple resolings, and he swears by them. I had not yet heard of this forum or AAAC, and I had no idea what the AE sale calendar looked like.

    Shortly thereafter, I did a google search for Allen Edmonds, primarily to find out how I should care for them. I stumbled into AAAC and this forum, and began learning about shoe trees, horsehair brushes, and this special leather called shell cordovan. About 2 months later, I went into the outlet store again, and checked out a pair of shell cordovan AE MacNeils. At the time, I was still not sold on paying roughly $400 on a pair of shoes, even if they are shell cordovan.

    A few weeks later (about 3.5 years ago), I received a personalized email from the outlet store manager about a sale coming up, and that shell cordovan would be on sale. It roughly coincided with my birthday, and I ended up buying 3 pair, the Randolph, Bradley and Macneil, all in burgundy shell cordovan. After that, you might say I was hooked. I began selling all my calfskin shoes, and replacing with their shell counterparts. I then started branching out to Alden and C&J for RL.

    Today, I have 3 pair of Alden shell, 3 pair of C&J for RL shell, 3 pair of AE calfskin or Chromexcel and 14 pair of AE shell. (+1 pair of Rancourt shell boat shoes). AE is the vast majority because I like their styling, I know how the lasts fit me, and I find them to be a very good value, both in firsts (on sale) and on seconds (also on sale, if I can), and I like supporting american businesses. I find the quality to be almost on par with Alden and Rancourt, though below that of C&J (but, priced accordingly). Doing this, I am able to afford a very nice shoe wardrobe while still doing what I need to financially to allow my wife to be a stay-at-home mom and support our 2 young kids.

    Finally, to those who are discussing nice shoes (particularly shell cordovan versions) being an "addiction" I will say that it absolutely is, and I don't see an end in sight. My first 3 pair of shells held me over for about a year... in the past 9 months, I have purchased 7 more (and I am actively looking for my next pair...). In fact, today is the inaugural wearing of one of my most recent purchases, the black Cambridges.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2013
  2. cincikid

    cincikid Senior member

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    I never thought that Cambridges in black shell would look that good!
     
  3. wohwoh

    wohwoh Well-Known Member

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    Does anyone know what last the Lamont is on? I couldn't find any information from Googling.
     
  4. RogerP

    RogerP Senior member

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    Quote:You may well be right about about AE's intent with respect to brand identity. And while I appreciate that these terms don't lend themselves to precise definition, I was thinking about branding within the "premium" context, as opposed to "luxury" or "exclusive" or "elite" or "frills" (whatever that might mean). I had always considered AE the entry point to premium footwear (as I understand the term, anyway). And I still think that for the most part, the product itself meets that definition. But I am thinking of the brand in those terms less and less. Indeed, I have a sinking feeling that "2 for 1!" specials aren't far away. If they are aiming for a brand image of decent quality shoes at affordable prices for the average man, then I do not dispute for a moment that they are succeeding. And maybe I'm wrong, or perhaps just out of date, but I had perceived them in the past as something more than that. Something better than that. Something kind of special. Something aspirational. Of course, that could all have been misperception on my part.
     
  5. RogerP

    RogerP Senior member

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    bucksfan - really nice shoes, and thanks for sharing your story.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2013
  6. cincikid

    cincikid Senior member

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    I thought I'd throw my $.02 to the discussion on the value of AE brand.[​IMG]
    I consider myself a very educated customer. I always tend to do a research before I make a purchase. Yet, up until exactly a year ago, my knowledge of the dress shoes was very scant. For me, J&M represented the top of the line, partly due to their past heritage, but largely because I did not realize the differences between cemented soles, and Blake- or Goodyear welted shoes.

    Exactly last year ago I got my first pair of AE Fifth Avenue in burnished brown during the 2012 rediscover America sale. They were roughly the same price as they are today: about $234. I went with my usual size having known nothing about the AE lasts (or what the lasts are, for that matter). For the reasons I couldn't explain at the time, the Fifth Avenues didn't fit me right. I tried to break them in, but I gave up and called AE customer service. This was the first time I learned about different lasts shoes are made on. In an attempt to figure out my size on different lasts, I started an internet research and unsurprisingly, I found SF and AAAC to be the two quintessential, ultimate resources that answered nearly all questions I had about shoes at that time. Shortly after I began reading this thread, I learned about the Shoe Bank and decided to pull the trigger. I got my first three pairs of the AE shoes: black McTavish, brown Aberdeen and suede Neumok for roughly the price of one pair of Fifth Avenue. Rest assured, I couldn't find any cosmetic or structural flaws with the shoes. Not een thinking twice, I went ahead and returned the Fifth Avenue.

    While I think that AE represents a tremendous value at the selling price, I don't think I will ever want to pay the full price for the AE shoes as I know I can buy them on sale or as seconds virtually any time. Does it diminish the value of the brand in my eyes? Perhaps it does somewhat (attitude is in the eyes of a beholder), but not much, as I still consider AE to be top quality and being able to get them at a fraction of the retail cost to be a fantastic deal (and a well-kept secret). I am still dressed better than anyone in my office, although I think I didn't pay much more for my AE shoes than they did at the DSW.

    This said though, I think I would gladly pay the full price for Aldens, as I know they never go on sale (having said that, I was able to score couple pairs at J.Crew at 25% off with subsequent 15% discount). For me, psychologically, Alden is a better brand just 'cause I know Alden doesn't have a ShoeBank and the tent sales and it will likely cost more next year than it does now. Make no mistake however, I will still be buying AE on sale, but I will be hard pressed to think they are on par with Aldens, although I can't discern one from another in terms of quality.

    Another thing that bothers me about AE is their line-up. Looking at the offerings of AE and Alden I keep thinking of an analogue of Samsung and Apple, respectively. I don't know why AE has so many similar shoes on different lasts and under different names. Why making tons of LWB (MacNeil, Aberdeen, Williams, Banchory, etc.)? Why not focus on just one MacNeil (and call it that name!) and make it in "dressy" and "rough" leathers, lined and unlined? This abundance of models is confusing. By the same token, why release Elgin and Strandmok on top of a classic Strand? Why not call them all a Strand but describe Elgin as a casual version made of the waxy tan leather and Strandmok as a leather Strand on a Vibram sole? I really wish AE focused on their core designs: Leeds, MacNeil, or Strand, to name a few, and offered more options "within" each model to keep it simple

    You won't find many different models of Alden longwings. It's typically just one LWB on the Barrie last. Yet, you can get it in tons of leathers, on gazillion different soles with million possible colors of a sole edge. For me as a customer this makes much more sense than giving each possible combination its own name.
     
  7. wurger

    wurger Senior member

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    Roger, rest assured, spending more than $200 on a pair of leather shoes is very special and aspirational for 99% of men out there, even on this forum, some of the expectations on AE finishing are very unrealistic at times.

    We, among others here, are lucky to own and experimence even more higher end premium shoes, so relatively speaking, the allure of AE isn't what it was.
     
  8. mdubs

    mdubs The Mayor of Aldensville

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    I have a pair of black Shell Cambridges that I recently picked up (my first pair of black shell) and I am often surprised by how nice they look... :)
     
  9. mdubs

    mdubs The Mayor of Aldensville

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    I have always waited on the line until she picks up... It can take a few minutes sometimes, but I managed to talk to her three timing yesterday....
     
  10. MoneyWellSpent

    MoneyWellSpent Senior member

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    I think that they are entry level "premium" shoes, even if that isn't necessarily their company identity as many sartorially inclined people classify it. I think that they hold a spot within the ranks of "premium" footwear by default, because of their quality. In other words, I think it's incidental. If they are using the same "gold-standard" construction techniques as a pair of Gaziano & Girling shoes, then they have to be classified within the higher echelon of footwear known as "premium". They just aren't as concerned with having the most elegant last shapes, or perfect lines of stitching, or flawless leather. They can't be concerned about that, and remain at the prices that they are. As the CEO said in that video Wurger posted, they consider themselves to be "the shoes of leaders, from presidents to principals." I interpret that to be synonymous with "workhorse."

    You do sound pretty disappointed in your last paragraph there. Personally, I think they are better, special, and aspirational, to use your words. They have been swimming against the current for decades and are a real success story by producing a shoe that is nice enough to be considered "premium" and to be nice enough to warrant this whole discussion we've been having, while only being a smidge more expensive than much lower quality competitors.
     
  11. jungleroller

    jungleroller Senior member

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    Kind of on discussion here. Whats up with the naming? At Jos A. Bank they are Nathans but on AE's website the same shoe is the Fifth Ave.? Btw I'm ordering these in Bourbon for all their glory. Saw them in person last night in Chicago to make sure I like them. [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  12. MoneyWellSpent

    MoneyWellSpent Senior member

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    I would certainly be on board with this. I'd love it if they would simplify things a bit, especially when they are clearly using the exact same patterns and dies to make a new shoe out of different leathers with a different name.

    I do like the simplicity in that regard from other high-end manufacturers.
     
  13. MoneyWellSpent

    MoneyWellSpent Senior member

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    The Nathan is on the 8 last. The Fifth Avenue is on the 5 last. So, technically, you aren't buying a Fifth Avenue. [​IMG] Those are made expressly for Jos A Bank, so I assume they came up with the name.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2013
  14. NWTeal

    NWTeal Senior member

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    A few notes on the comparison to Alden. I think it's important to remember that AE is a much bigger company than Alden and their production likely churns out more shoes, and consequently more seconds each month.As a result, AE has multiple versions of similar shoes on different lasts to cater to different tastes and styles. I would say someone might like a MacNeil, but hate the Larchmont. This person may or may not know a lot about shoes, but decides the shape of the Larchmont is not for them. The goal is to cater to tastes across a broad range customers and AE can afford to take these risks due to their size. Variety is a strength of AE.

    Also, Alden does have seconds, which are sold exclusively through The Shoe Mart. It's usually $299 calf/$399 cordovan which was mentioned previously. While the selection is smaller, Alden itself has a smaller selection of styles to choose from. Additionally, I think the exclusivity of Alden's retail channels helps promote that perceived brand value that you mentioned. They aren't as common and you basically have to buy them through retailers instead of Alden directly (outside of the NYC store). I don't know if there are others (I think Alden of Carmel is independent. Alden also has exclusives for Leffot, Leather Soul and TSM which also adds to that aura of brand prestige. I went to Alden on Madison Ave and I asked about the future availability of Whiskey shell and the SA mentioned he didn't know since there was a shortage of shell cordovan. I don't know if that's true or not, but it certainly adds to the rarity of some Alden shoes.

    I think at the core the business models are a little different. Financially, AE likely runs leaner margins in favor of volume where Alden runs higher margins in return for less volume. I try not to even compare the two because the price difference (for calf) is anywhere from $100 to over $150, greater if you include AE sale prices (since Alden rarely has discounts).

    I don't have a pair of Aldens, but I've certainly considered it. However, I almost always remember that I can get an equal or similar quality shoe for significantly less from AE. I'm glad AE runs the sales and prices their shoes the way they do. If they didn't, I would be stuck wearing Cole Haans [​IMG]
     
  15. RogerP

    RogerP Senior member

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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cincikid [​IMG]

    . Yet, up until exactly a year ago, my knowledge of the dress shoes was very scant.

    That may be a defining difference in our brand perception right there. I bought my first pair of AE probably circa 1990. I definitely didn't feel I was just picking up something of decent quality for the average buyer then. They were a special treat - from me, to me - on graduating and starting my first full time job. It wasn't a firesale purchase. And I can assure you that back then, 'always on sale' was not the norm for the brand.
     
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