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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
On a recent trip to New York I realized that I had a tear on the side of an AE Park Avenues. This happens when I buy them at Lord & Taylor in a D width because I'm undeniably an E in AE. The ones I've bought from the AE store here in Atlanta, in an E width, have lasted longer and still look good.

I spent the past weekend in a city which is hosting a major golf tournment in a few days. I wore C&J for Peal & Co. for Brooks Brothers cap-toe oxfords and discovered a scrape on one side, probably from my resting my right foot sideways while driving. I've bought a pair of driving shoes to eliminate this problem in the future, but I think these are beyond repair.

So, now I need two pair of shoes. I try to keep three black and three brown in rotation.* Currently, the remaining black ones are both Peal & Co oxfords while the "brown" are brown and burgundy Park Avenues.*

*This only refers to conservative dress shoes. It doesn't include bucks, spectators, or shoes for bowling, tennis, running, or to wear with a tuxedo. Or the Brooks pebbled LWBs that replaced my Alden All-Weather Walkers when they finally gave out. But I digress.

Comparing the AE Park Avenue at $425, the Alden plain-toe balmoral at $549, and the C&J Connaught at $635, is there a justification for the price difference that will matter to me?

Also, what will I find is the difference between the C&J for Peal and the C&J under their own label? With the D width being sufficient in the Alden and Peal but not in EA, do I need to look for something wider in C&J? Since I wear a 13, would I be particularly pleased that the Connaught doesn't have an elongated toe?
 

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Given how you trash your shoes, go with the cheapest! :D

Seriously though, you really have to try to shoes on before knowing exactly how they will fit. As long as the widest part of the show fits the widest part of your foot, that’s more important than an elongated last.

There are other considerations too, but you really need to try on the shoes you’re intending to buy.

As for comparisons, they are as different stylistically as they are in price. Is there a difference in quality? Yes. Whether that difference sways you one way or another vis a vie price, it’s your call.
 

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As SG suggested, try them all on. I know which brand I would prefer of the 3.

At this price point have you considered Carmina? At $450 I think they are a much better option than AE or Alden if you can find a last you like.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
As SG suggested, try them all on. I know which brand I would prefer of the 3.

At this price point have you considered Carmina? At $450 I think they are a much better option than AE or Alden if you can find a last you like.
Thank you, I'm looking over the Carmina web site now. Beautiful shoes, I need to go by their shop next time I'm in New York.

Perhaps I'm asking the wrong question - eliminating the style choices I made in the original post, as the price points are fairly consistent across each brand. The AEs and Carminas are about the same price, while Aldens are $100 more and C&J $200 more. Assuming that I have no financial reason to select a less expensive shoe, and can find a comfortable shoe in a style I like in each case is the additional cost balanced out with additional quality of manufacture?
 

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On a recent trip to New York I realized that I had a tear on the side of an AE Park Avenues.
Time for another trip back in for test fittings.

I spent the past weekend in a city which is hosting a major golf tournment in a few days. I wore C&J for Peal & Co. for Brooks Brothers cap-toe oxfords and discovered a scrape on one side
Are you sure this means the shoe is dead? Post pictures. A combination of Saphir renovating creme [the pigmented filler] and polish can usually fix non perforating scrapes

So, now I need two pair of shoes. I try to keep three black and three brown in rotation.* Currently, the remaining black ones are both Peal & Co oxfords while the "brown" are brown and burgundy Park Avenues.*
Post pics? Seriously, you had 3 PAs. The problem I am envisioning with your rotation is boring boring boring. All the same - lots of captoe oxfords. Mix it up with different perforations and styles!

Also, browns and burgundies are a lot more fun than black. Why not go 2 black and 4 non black?

Comparing the AE Park Avenue at $425, the Alden plain-toe balmoral at $549, and the C&J Connaught at $635, is there a justification for the price difference that will matter to me?

would I be particularly pleased that the Connaught doesn't have an elongated toe?
You have giant feet. A Connaught, lengthwise might be good - much better than a 363, 348, 373, or 337. the Connaught is stubby old man traditional. But, are any of your 2 black shoes captoe ox's?

Also, if you buy from UK retailers, the exVAT price of a Connaught is more like $490-500. Check fit at cockett's NYC retail store then look for official UK stockists to buy from.
 

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The CJ sold under the CJ label and those made for private labels are essentially the same shoe but with some stylistic differences.

The sole may be different on one vs. the other or it may be offered in a different color or material. Otherwise, the same construction.

Think of private label offerings as a huge group order. Brooks Beothers will request a certain model with certain features and C&J will produce it.

Barney’s does this too but it’s still labeled as C&J for Barney’s. You may not find that exact shoe offered by both.
 

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Thank you, I'm looking over the Carmina web site now. Beautiful shoes, I need to go by their shop next time I'm in New York.

Perhaps I'm asking the wrong question - eliminating the style choices I made in the original post, as the price points are fairly consistent across each brand. The AEs and Carminas are about the same price, while Aldens are $100 more and C&J $200 more. Assuming that I have no financial reason to select a less expensive shoe, and can find a comfortable shoe in a style I like in each case is the additional cost balanced out with additional quality of manufacture?
That's a difficult question and you have to understand that "quality" as it pertains to shoes only comes in incremental increases. For example, a pair of C&J costs around $600+ in the US. A similar pair of Edward Green is around $1200. Are the EG's better? Yes, without question. Are they twice as good? No. At the end of the day, they are still goodyear welted shoes, albeit ridiculously nice ones.

So looking at your particular questions, what do the several brands get you? I think AE is an acceptable starting place for good quality goodyear welted shoes (though I would suggest that you'll get similar quality with Carlos Santos for $100 cheaper). When you move to Alden you'll get a 270 degree welt and a steel shank in the shoe and the soles are probably of better quality leather. The uppers might be as well. I found that an acceptable reason to pay more if you're comparing only the two and want a US made shoe.

Now, when you consider Carmina, you're getting a better shoe than each and it's a bit related to cheaper labor in Spain. Carmina will give you a closed channel sole and the sole edge will be cut closer to the shoe. Both aspects will make it look more elegant. The waist looks miles better than AE and Alden. In my personal opinion, Carmina offers more elegant looking lasts as well and I've been more impressed with their leather than I have AE or Alden. Since Carmina runs $450 USD and I like the looks, they are a no brainer to me over AE and Alden.

I suppose you are now wondering how Carmina compare to C&J. Sadly I don't have the answer here as I don't have a lot of experience with C&J. I made up my mind a few years ago that when I hit the $500 pricepoint I was going to venture out to Bonafe and Vass, both of which I consider superior (leather quality, handwelted construction, and looks) to AE, Alden, Carmina, and C&J. That being said, I have heard that C&J makes a very nice shoe and a lot of their models are appealing. Remember you are paying a bit for English labor though and you don't get the closed channel sole until you get to the Handgrade level (and at that point, maybe save your pennies for G&G or EG).
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Time for another trip back in for test fittings.
Done that - in AE I wear an E width. A D width will eventually get a tear along the outside edge of the left shoe. Happened with a pair of Bruno Maglis back in the 90s. If Alden and Peal didn't fit perfectly in a D I would always assume I needed a wider shoe.

Are you sure this means the shoe is dead? Post pictures. A combination of Saphir renovating creme [the pigmented filler] and polish can usually fix non perforating scrapes
They need new heels too. I'll go to my cobbler and see what he can do.

Post pics? Seriously, you had 3 PAs. The problem I am envisioning with your rotation is boring boring boring. All the same - lots of captoe oxfords. Mix it up with different perforations and styles!
This is deliberately the boring part of my wardrobe. The next pairs will probably be a bit more adventurous, but not much. Maybe something like the C&J Highbury, a plain-toe 3-eyelet derby.

Also, browns and burgundies are a lot more fun than black. Why not go 2 black and 4 non black?
I have other non-black shoes. I've been wearing the heck out of the brown pebbled Brooks LWB.

You have giant feet. A Connaught, lengthwise might be good - much better than a 363, 348, 373, or 337. the Connaught is stubby old man traditional. But, are any of your 2 black shoes captoe ox's?
I'm leaning toward the Connaught specifically because it's stubby old man traditional. I'm a big guy (46/48 jacket, 40 waist, 13 shoe) and I think longer shoes don't really add anything to my proportions.

Also, if you buy from UK retailers, the exVAT price of a Connaught is more like $490-500. Check fit at cockett's NYC retail store then look for official UK stockists to buy from.
Found Bowhill and Elliott which has the Connaught in my size, $486 delivered. Now to go try them on...
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I just discovered Cobbler Union, which is here in Atlanta. At $395 for Spanish-made shoes they're in the ballpark (actually, they're across from the old ballpark, which is now a Whole Foods).

The practical concern is that they seem to do one width, which they describe as a D that would fit "85% of all men." So I do have to go try them on. I'm also wondering what happens when it's time to get a fiddle-waisted shoe resoled. Is it going to be ridiculously expensive?
 

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I'm leaning toward the Connaught specifically because it's stubby old man traditional.
Anyone finding the Connaughts "stubby" is likely to be an iGent favouring spear-tip monstrosities and can be safely ignored. My Connaught hand grades are undoubtedly among the best looking shoes I own and have garnered more comments and compliments in less time than any other pair I've ever had.

Found Bowhill and Elliott which has the Connaught in my size, $486 delivered. Now to go try them on...
Mine are among the most comfortable pairs in my collection, so hopefully the same will be true for you. I certainly recommend them unreservedly.
 

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I do not have C&J as they are special order in my size. But I can tell you that the jump from AE/Alden to Carmina is pretty dramatic in terms of overall esthetics. The shapes of the lasts between Carmina and AE along with the lack of 360 degree stitching and narrow sole edge are all magnified for us with larger feet.
That said, I have an AE black Soho captoe and brown park avenue which still get some wear and are still quality shoes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Checked out Cobbler Union. Beautiful shoes, tried on the black captoes and they were comfortable. Staff was knowledgeable and very nice. Again, the question is whether they’ll cause problems years down the road like my AEs that were too narrow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I am a HUGE fan of AE, but anyone that pays $425 for a pair of Park Aves is not doing it right. They are on sale on a pretty regular basis. The AE Anniversary Sale is coming soon. If the E width works for you, get another pair of Parks for about $325-350 on sale.
I get their emails; lately they seem to have been doing everything-but-Park-Avenue sales. Hopefully that will change for the Anniversary Sale.
 

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An interesting question posed in the OP, and inherent in the question as structured is a pricing issue, and it is that among the only 3 choices allowed, all are substantially overpriced in the world market. The U.S. shoe market generally asks for more money at any level of quality than a similar quality shoe sells for elsewhere. The secondary issue is that while differences in quality can be discerned, much of the comparative price differences are subjective; I.e., it's not is shoe X worth 35% more than shoe Y, but rather is it worth it too you?

I have a catalog from AE offering Fifth Avenues for $249. Brooks runs several sales a year offering 1/3 - 1/2 off their Peal shoes. Among the 3 listed, only Alden price controls like mad. They'd much rather sell fewer shoes for more, than more shoes.

As I'm reasonably familiar with Sanders as a leader in value among UK makers, and own four pair so as to be familiar with their quality compared to both the AE I have owned, and Alden I do own, I can say that my subjective, but informed, opinion is that the quality is better than AE, comparable to Alden and that you will struggle to find it a substantially poorer shoe to even C&J. The shoe below retails for about $314. And as has been pointed out, footwear of very fine quality is also being made in Spain that offers similar, and sometimes even less cost than that via off-shore retailers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
The Park Avenue, Fifth Avenue, and the Carlyle are all $249 and come in widths. For that price I think that should be my short term solution.

(I think the Carlyle is on a narrower last so I might need a different width; we’ll see.)
 

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The Park Avenue, Fifth Avenue, and the Carlyle are all $249 and come in widths. For that price I think that should be my short term solution.

(I think the Carlyle is on a narrower last so I might need a different width; we'll see.)
I'm sure you've noted AE's occasional QC problems, assuming that the specific pair you select (Which would be the case if you're buying them in person.) doesn't suffer from any of them, I would think any of those models to be a solid choice and an excellent value at that price. Certainly the ready availability of multiple widths is a benefit, and even an absolute requirement for some.
 
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