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buying old shoes in good condition?

vinouspleasure

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What are people's thoughts on buying 15-20 year old calfskin shoes that have not been worn or were worn once? Would they fall apart by virtue of age?
 

NoVaguy

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Originally Posted by vinouspleasure
What are people's thoughts on buying 15-20 year old calfskin shoes that have not been worn or were worn once? Would they fall apart by virtue of age?

assuming they are unworn, made of leather and made by some sort of stitched construction, ideally goodyear welted, they should be fine. There is the risk that the leather may dry out, so you should apply conditioner and cream to the leather before wearing.
 

Tarmac

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I think 15 or 20 years old is fine, but that 30+ age bracket is pushing your luck.

I have several pairs of new old stock shoes which I am pretty sure are from the 80s. They are as good as new.
 

cvac

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It seems like "new old stock", i.e. shoes that were warehoused and NEVER worn by anyone are your best bet.

Shoes that have been worn have the previous wearer's foot impression. That is not good for your feet. A shoemaker can fix that by taking apart the shoe and doing some things to it, then resoling it - but it won't be cheap and defeats the purpose of getting used shoes cheap.
 

DocHolliday

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Originally Posted by NoVaguy
assuming they are unworn, made of leather and made by some sort of stitched construction, ideally goodyear welted, they should be fine. There is the risk that the leather may dry out, so you should apply conditioner and cream to the leather before wearing.

Yeah. The Fedora Lounge crowd often buy and wear shoes from the '40s and '50s and even older. Lots of guys here like the old Florsheims, and some collectors even go for the early 20th century stuff. Just make sure the leather's in good condition -- not brittle or otherwise damaged. And, as NoVaguy mentioned, make sure they're well conditioned.
 

HomerJ

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Originally Posted by cvac
It seems like "new old stock", i.e. shoes that were warehoused and NEVER worn by anyone are your best bet.

Shoes that have been worn have the previous wearer's foot impression. That is not good for your feet. A shoemaker can fix that by taking apart the shoe and doing some things to it, then resoling it - but it won't be cheap and defeats the purpose of getting used shoes cheap.


I learned that when I bought a pair of AE's from eBay. Upper is real nice but the shoes are painful to wear because of hard imprinting. I put some soft insoles in there but now the shoes are tight. $40 lesson, oh well.
 

AlanC

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As someone who regularly purchases older shoes in good to new condition I endorse the practice. However, with very old shoes you can run the risk of deteriorated leather, even if you can't tell upon inspection. I purchased a vintage pair of Nettleton captoes that were just gorgeous. They were probably worn once or twice as there was some very light scuffing on the sole. They likely dated from the '50s, I'd guess. Anyway, one day I was putting them on when the shoehorn slipped and ripped through the leather at the heel. I was devastated, but can only figure that they had weakened from dryrot over the years.
 

tlmusic

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Originally Posted by vinouspleasure
What are people's thoughts on buying 15-20 year old calfskin shoes that have not been worn or were worn once? Would they fall apart by virtue of age?

I bought a nice, unworn pair of Alden captoes on Ebay. I showed them to a cobbler who sells Alden, and he said the shoes were about 15 years old.

I did not put any conditioner on the shoes, and I wore them for a few days. The leather started to crack slightly as I creased the shoes. Right away, I put on Bick conditioner, which seemed to stop the cracking.

Some permanent damage was done. The shoes went from looking perfectly new to a little bit funky quite quickly.

I learned the hard way that older leather can be fragile sometimes.
 

Tarmac

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also, IMHO people think vintage shoes on ebay,etc are much older than they really are. I think most of the oldest vintage florsheims, for example, are from the 80s, not 50s and 60s like most people think.

I have no way to back this up but this is something that I thought.
 

tlmusic

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Originally Posted by Tarmac
also, IMHO people think vintage shoes on ebay,etc are much older than they really are.

This seems very likely true. Many of the high quality men shoe brands have remained pretty conservative, so even recently made shoes can look like they come from another era.

In the case of the 15 year old Alden's I bought on ebay, I was surprised to find out they were older, since I bought them expecting them to be new. I showed the shoes to a cobbler who said he could determine the age of the shoes from some numbers stamped inside.
 

well-kept

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I have a pair of Cleverleys made by George Cleverley himself in 1970. The date is handwritten on the trees. That makes them close to forty years old and the leather is in fantastic condition. As supple as any new shoe. I do baby them a bit but it's clear that, properly treated, they could go another forty years.

I recently found a gift for my girlfriend - a pair of handmade, custom English riding boots. The date, written inside? ... 1908! A century. I spent a couple of hours on them, conditioning and polishing and they look wonderful, the upper leather neither dry nor cracked. The only parts they were cracked were the insoles. I think that the inherent quality of the leather combined with care and storage conditions determine longevity.
 

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