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I've owned both brands in various styles over periods of time and find that the Aldens are more durable and use better leather. Also, don't usually like the AE rubber heel.
The Alden saddle cordovan is a more traditional (preppy? American?) style and would not look right with, say, a dark dressy DB Italian suit. IMO, it seems designed for a Brooks Brothers flannel or gabardine or cuffed wool (or khaki) pants with blazer. The AE black monk strap seems more "fashion forward" and dressy, as in suitable for a slim cut dark contemporary suit (Jil Sander?).
The Aldens. Much better leather, combination heel than AE. But, unless you are pining of cordovan leather, you could probably get a comparable quality shoe (with similar appearance) for a much lower price at an outlet, Ebay, Bluefly, etc. Based on your previous posts, it seems like $450 for a pair of shoes would really be a huge investment for you, Tom (as it would be for me, so please don't take offense to my statement).
IMO, you really have to be (1) desparate for shoes, or (2) really rich to justify a 100% retail buy of $450 shoes, considering the deals out there.
If you are set on the Aldens though -- they are cool -- you might want to check what Brooks Brothers has in their Alden stock. Very likely you could get the same shoe from Brooks Brothers, for a substantial discount -- and here's how: (1) Wait two more months or so for the friends and family sale (I think it will be in Sept. or so) AND (2) go on Ebay and find Brooks Brothers gift cards, which you can get for an average of 75 - 80% of face value. My sense is that this would drive down the price of Alden cordovans from BB to about $250.
These ones aren't saddles, but I liked the look enough to order a pair myself. Moreschi burgundy oxfords If I were you, I'd know my size and scope out Ebay for a few weeks. You can try on Aldens in several places out where you are, I'd imagine.
Tom, I'm a big fan of saddle shoes and am able to wear them frequently as I don't work in an overly dressy work environment. I own a number of pairs of saddle shoes in Allen Edmonds, two of which are black saddle with burgundy (different models/lasts). Given the choice, and having seen the Aldens, I would recommend the Aldens. Here's a link to some pictures of the Alden saddle shoes from a couple of angles: http://homepage.mac.com/hpk1/pages/Aldensaddle.html As to sales, might I suggest www.theshoemart.com. Call and talk to Ed about the shoe. Sometimes I have had them offer 20 percent discounts.
I own many pairs of both Aldens and Allen Edmonds and as others have said, the Aldens are nicer shoes. The leather on the Aldens is much better than the Edmonds. That being said, I, like you, had little previous experience with expensive shoes. Bottom line is that both the Edmonds and the Aldens will be infinitely better than any shoe you previously owned. The Edmonds, although not as nice as the Aldens, are still great shoes. In addition, you'll have much better luck getting the Edmonds on e-bay, if you wanted to take that route.
For what it's worth, you could call the Allen Edmonds shoe bank in Port Washington Wisconsin. Ask for Alice. If you don't mind a shelton-type shoe with a Vibram sole you could buy a shoe style called the Prescott in burgundy/black polished cobbler for $79 if they have your size. It's been discontinued, but a good deal if still around. I bought a pair as recently as a couple of months ago.
Might be a less-expensive way to see if you like the AE saddle.
It appears I have been wearing ill fitting shoes for some time. I went to an orthopedic shoe store that carries Aldens. The kind woman there has been fitting shoes for 44 years at this place. I have been wearing 10D or 10E for many years. It turns out I wear a 9.5EEE. Additionally, none of the Alden dress shoes fit me properly (all too narrow). I have to keep searching for the proper last.
Yes, I am a chiropractor. Although I am specialized in structural rehabilitation. I compare to normal chiropractors sort of how orthodontists compare to dentists.
Tom, The Aberdeen, Copley, and Hampton lasts all offer a 'EEE' fitting in a number of dress styles. (There are probably other lasts that offer 'EEE' fittings that I'm not aware of as well, but the Saddle Oxfords - great shoes; I just got a pair in Cordovan - are on the Barrie last, and only go up to 'E' width.) I see that the picture you posted of the Saddle Oxfords was from the Alden Shop website; they're not too far from you (in San Francisco), and they seem to have a nice selection, plus their prices (at least online) are somewhat cheaper than I've seen elsewhere.
Thanks JFK. Â I'll look into some of your ideas. Â Including visiting AE and Alden in SF. Mike, I just noticed the "or" in your post. Â I dont' want to sound defensive, but... In recent years, the chiropractic education has become a four year doctoral degree plus a one year internship. Â It is similar in terms of hours to a basic medical degree. Â However, medical doctors typically continue for two or more years of residency, which is unlike chiropractic. Â As a doctor of chiropractic, I see myself as a limited scope physician specializing in a combination of neurology and orthopedics, without the use of drugs or surgery. Â