Can't help you on the last questions, but as far as Loake goes you'll probably hear a lot of opinions. General SF wisdom tends to hone in on their 1880 range and dismiss everything else. Certainly their 1880 are their best-made shoes in terms of leather quality etc. However there are many other models in their other ranges (especially the design range) that are goodyear welted and calf leather and in my opinion represent the sweet spot for value in their range. It's very much diminishing returns as you move up the scale from there, unless you're 'investing' in shoes that you expect to rebuild and keep for decades, where the higher quality will (probably) come in to play. Or you really appreciate the aesthetics of the quality differences (which are often very subtle). On 'polished' (corrected grain) leather versus calf, it's partly a personal preference. Calf is inherently 'higher quality' in that it has to come from premium hides that are unblemished, whereas corrected grain can be split off from less perfect hides. And the process and the finish result in different looks and feels, and each has some advantages and disadvantages (that have been discussed here previously). Thickness, softness etc of the leather can be the same regardless, but in practice higher quality shoes are more often calf than corrected. All IMHO of course.