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Allen Edmonds vs. Alden--Which American Great Do You Prefer?!! OFFICIAL

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by JermynStreet, Nov 11, 2012.

Allen Edmonds or Alden!?

  1. Allen Edmonds

    152 vote(s)
    46.6%
  2. Alden

    174 vote(s)
    53.4%
  1. MoneyWellSpent

    MoneyWellSpent Senior member

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    It does seem that Alden Restoration isn't used as frequently as AE Recrafting. I don't know if it is strictly perception, but it just doesn't come up as often. Then again, I have always wished people would post more before and after pictures of their shoes no matter which brand they use. Alden Restoration just seems like it is less easy to deal with, but I haven't used it either so I have no substantial reason for saying that.
     
  2. MoneyWellSpent

    MoneyWellSpent Senior member

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    There is an undeniable phenomenon that Alden's just "look" like they are more of a premium product over AE's. I haven't seen the same issues that you describe concerning worn Alden's. I still believe that they are near equal on construction, but I had a discussion with some others in another thread regarding Alden's gemming methods and how it is a bit of a mystery. Here is the link to that thread: http://www.styleforum.net/t/337507/an-interview/0_100#post_6197990 Post #57 is where I go into it. Any thoughts on that?
     
  3. gsgleason

    gsgleason Senior member

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    I have had several pairs of both AE and Alden. It is my personal experience that Alden trumps AE on quality and comfort, but AE's customer service is far superior. I've emailed both companies using their website forms, and AE has always replied relatively promptly, whereas Alden has never replied, ever.

    Regarding comfort, I think the steel shank provides value. I can feel the front edge of the heel piece on my foot on my AEs, but it's a more uniform feel on my Aldens throughout.

    Plus, the #8 dye that Alden puts on their shell really looks a lot better than AEs burgudy shell. Just look at my two classifieds in my signature. You can really see the difference in finishing.
     
  4. MoneyWellSpent

    MoneyWellSpent Senior member

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    I think that many people feel that way about the dye that Alden uses on their shell. AE has stepped up their game a bit this year to compete better by introducing new shell finishes. It'll be interesting to see how the playing field ends up after their old stock has completely phased out and their new finish is more commonly found.

    As for the steel shank discussion... I think the shank in shoes like these tends to have more of a placebo effect on the owners than anything else. I will lay this out there for you to make your own opinion: http://www.styleforum.net/t/39800/inside-shoes-martegani-a-e/0_100#post_597674 (Post #39). Rider is a respected forum member and owner of the Rider Boot Company. As he so eloquently discusses in this post, he believes the shank to be less important that many would like to believe. Also, if you aren't familiar with DWF II (another highly respected forum contributor), he is a cordwainer and has decades of experience building shoes and boots from scratch of the absolute highest quality. He has said that if a shoe has a heel height that is under 1 inch, no shank is necessary.
     
  5. ReppTiePrepster

    ReppTiePrepster Senior member

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    I haven't gotten any shoes refurbished by Alden either, but from what I've read, I suspect many do not go through Alden for recrafting because of the wait. Alden has such a demand for production that it's taken its toll on recrafting orders. I think many on the Official Alden thread are happy to go through B. Nelson in NYC to do basically the same thing and have them returned within 2-3 weeks.

    As to your assertion that AE has superior construction... less wrinkling, better pattern design, overall better fit, I have to disagree. I haven't experienced the wrinkling, bulbous toe, nor the bursting-at-the-seems look when flexing. I have about a dozen pairs of Alden and two pairs of AE. My favorite shoe is the LWB. For cost sake, I have desperately wanted the McNeil to work for me but have never been able to find the correct size and fit. In fact, for me, that has been the case for most AE lasts. I have never had any problems with finding the right fit and size with the various Alden lasts.

    I will say though that I have recently found the strand, park ave, and Fifth ave to fit quite well. The 5-65 last seems to be the only one that suits me well, which is great because I can go with calf versions of these and have a solid dress rotation that won't break the bank.

    While Alden certainly has the edge with shell cordovan offerings, it looks like AE is making a greater effort to compete with more offerings and colors. The shell market has apparently gotten too big for Alden to monopolize. If and when AE puts some time into building better boot offerings and have them available in shell, there is serious bank to be made, imo. I suppose though, that if in fact there is a significant shell shortage, all of this is mere conjecture.
     
  6. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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    MWS-thank you for your enormous contribution to this thread and I am so impressed by your interest and knowledge of the whole gemming process. I honestly just got schooled today in the John Lobb appreciation thread by DW Fommer because I mistakenly believed that hand welting and goodyear stitching were not mutually exclusive. Needless to say, I got spanked.

    Regarding AE's shoe construction versus Alden's I'll have to do a little more digging around to see if I can find anything. A post like yours in the "An Interview" thread merits a well crafted response that I do not have the knowledge to give you. I'll send a little correspondence to DWF and see if he has any ideas. I'll also post it on the Alden thread and AE threads to see if anyone else might have an idea. Well researched and very thoughtful post, sir.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. MoneyWellSpent

    MoneyWellSpent Senior member

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    Well, thanks for the kind words! I have tried to figure out Alden's gemming methods by simple research, to no avail. I sometimes get tempted to just blow a little money on a totally screwed up pair on ebay just to dissect them and find out the answer for myself. I know that DW doesn't know the answer to the question, simply because of the fact that I originally posed the question in the Interview thread you mentioned above, and he wasn't able to provide any insight (nor was Bengal Stripe, who is another highly respected member). Needless to say, I've been surprised that nobody seems to know about this.
     
  8. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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    Do you think Uncle Mac would? If anyone has experience with Alden, he does. He might also be willing to let an old pair go for not too expensive. One other question while we are on the topic of tearing up shoes: does anyone know whether Cordovan and calfskin shoes use the same gemming method? Does a heavier hide mean that a different construction method must be used?
     
  9. MoneyWellSpent

    MoneyWellSpent Senior member

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    No, there isn't any difference between the gemming methods as it pertains to the leather that the shoe is made from. Each company uses it's own gemming (which pretty much boils down the the 3 methods we discussed earlier and on the "Interview" thread (straight edge, pinked/serrated edge, and the mystery Alden method, which may simply be the old or original method used from the time Goodyear-welting was invented up to around the middle of the 1900's). Essentially, Goodyear's method replaced the hand-welting method of cutting a leather hold-fast in the bottom of a very thick insole by creating a machine that could cut two thinner pieces and turn them upwards (called a feather) using a much thinner and subsequently cheaper insole. The thin pieces of upturned leather were supported by the sheet of canvas that was glued to the entire underside of the insole, and it was called gemming. This fell out of favor somewhere around the mid-1900's and was replaced by the gemming we now know today. The thin upturned leather was replaced by the upstanding rib wrapped in canvas that we see in most Good-year welted shoes. For what it's worth, JM Weston still uses the original Goodyear-welting technique of turning up a thin leather feather and supporting it with the canvas sheet. Alden may or may not be using the original method as well. Insert the mystery gemming that I have been trying to figure out. From the photos and videos, it doesn't look like the same process as the original technique, and it certainly isn't the modern gemming method.

    I don't think McArthur will know anything about it. He has alot of Aldens, and he has been wearing them for many decades. I think his knowledge amounts to just that (lots of time to know how to care for nice shoes), plus an appreciation for the beauty of the shoes themselves. I don't mean anything bad or offensive by it, but I've not seen him participate in any conversations that relate to topics other than how to shine and care for your shoes and how to get a good fit. He is a great resource on how different lasts fit, etc. Beyond that, I think it could be similar to a guy that has been driving luxury cars for a long time. Such a person knows their comfort, and may be great at caring for them, but that doesn't mean he has a working knowledge of what's under the hood.
     
  10. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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    True enough. I don't know who the resident alden construction experts are besides you, MWS.
     
  11. MoneyWellSpent

    MoneyWellSpent Senior member

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    ^^^ I should probably add that you shouldn't lose all faith in gemming. It has it's place, and even DWF will say so. His main beef with it is that it "masquerades" as something that it isn't in that most people have become convinced that it is the best there is, when it simply isn't. It is the industrialized version of an old world construction technique. That doesn't mean that it hasn't done great things for the shoe industry. It has allowed people to afford shoes that are much nicer than glue jobs, but can't begin to afford hand-welted or bespoke shoes. Gemming is quite strong for what it is, and once again, even DWF will say so. He has said that he has little doubt that people who are buying Goodyear-welted dress shoes, caring for them properly, keeping trees in them, wearing them around town and office, etc., will most likely never see any gemming failure. You have to understand DWF's context. He specializes in cowboy boots, and his products get worn very hard. He isn't making his products simply for show. They are getting used on ranches, farm work, submerged in mud, getting quite wet, used for work boots, and at the end of a long hard day they are being left to dry for a few hours before starting all over again the next morning. A boot made with gemming that is subjected to those circumstances will fail rather quickly, leaving the unsuspecting owner in the cold. His point is to help people understand that there actually is a better method of making shoes (the original method of hand-welting), and why it is stronger than the mechanized version. He isn't saying that we should throw all of our shoes in the trash and start all over. He understands the economic problems and why Goodyear-welted shoes are so popular, he just doesn't want you to think you are getting a house made out of stone when it is actually made from wood.
     
  12. msulinski

    msulinski Senior member

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    Are there any companies using hand welting? Are all bespoke shoes necessarily hand-welted?
     
  13. MoneyWellSpent

    MoneyWellSpent Senior member

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    To my knowledge all bespoke shoes are hand welted. As for ready-to-wear hand-welted shoes, there are a few companies that do it:

    Saint-Crispin's

    Meermin's Linea Maestro line (they do traditional Goodyear-welting for a lower price and charge a slight premium for the Hand-welted)

    George Cleverley's Anthony Cleverley line

    Aubercy

    These are the ones that immediately come to mind. Others may be able to add to the list. Something to be aware of... Because Goodyear-welting has become the commonly understood "finest" shoe construction, some of these companies call their Hand-welted shoes "Handsewn Goodyear", or "Handmade Goodyear." This has no doubt confused many people seeking to learn the difference, but it is important to remember that a shoe can't be both Hand-welted and Goodyear-welted. They are mutually exclusive. Goodyear-welting is the industrial revolution's adaptation of a traditional Hand-welted shoe, nothing more. Since Goodyear-welting has become known as the "finest", many of the manufacturers that do Hand-welting will still throw in the Goodyear name to grab the attention of those that are unaware of this history.
     
  14. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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    Hey

    Hey does anyone know if these are cordovan or captoes? Gorgeous shoes.


    The Linea Maestro by Meermin line is really a good bargain for what it is. If you're in the market for a higher end shoe and want to move outside of the American makers, I'd check out Meermin.
     
  15. MoneyWellSpent

    MoneyWellSpent Senior member

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    Those Alden's are these: http://leathersoulhawaii.com/2011/05/05/alden-shoes-plaza-straight-tip-balmoral-lsw/ Black Shell

    I agree on the Linea Maestro line by Meermin. If you are willing to move away from the American makers and deal with some potential headaches with shipping and guessing with sizes, etc., then they are quite a steal price wise. They come out to about the same as a pair of first quality Allen Edmonds.
     

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