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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Alden's shoe collection is highly lauded and loved on this forum. And their shell collection- don't get me started. Bad-mouthing either is a cardinal sin- but I haven't the slightest idea why.

Let me back up for a second. I'm a Wisconsinite, born and bred. I love the Midwest, its values, its culture, and its people. All of the people around me on a daily basis are honest, hard-working midwesterners- part of the charm of the midwest. So, coming from that background, I have always purchased Allen Edmonds shoes (Made in Port Washington, WI). But AE quite consistantly is considered the "lesser of the two brands"

I was in Philadelphia recently, and when I told my father I was going to purchase a pair of Alden Shell Cordovans (which I have never owned), he was shocked. He felt that if one was going to spend that kind of money on shoes, we should at least be supporting the local economy and keeping honest jobs in Wisconsin. Also, AE is not unionized, and Alden is. That tidbit right there got me.

So, I am calling out for help. What reasons, if any, are there for me to not purchase Allen Edmonds- cordovans or not- in favor of Aldens? I like their feel better, and I've never had a problem with quality. While they have more contemporary models, I don't buy those, and, if anything, it just shows that they are more adept to the marketplace. I like to support local businesses and the few industries we still have in Wisconsin. So why? Why does AE get no respect?

Also, Happy Easter. Jesus Christ is Risen Today!
 

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FWIW, it's spelled , not "Risen".

I don't see anything wrong with AE's shell offerings per se, but I would categorize them as a notch below Alden's. I say this as a happy owner of both, by the way. My shell MacNeils are great shoes, one of my favorite pairs, but they are just not made to the same level of fit and finish as my Alden shells.

Further, my MacNeils were made by the "old" AE, not the current ownership which continues to drive the line downwind in both styling and production, no matter what the new CEO may claim. I've examined current production at AE's own shops and you'd have to have never owned a pair of older AEs to think the new shoes are on a par with them. They just aren't made nearly as well, but I suspect they will eventually be held up as some kind of gold standard once the company moves all production overseas.

So to answer your question: if you feel more strongly about supporting "local" business than getting the most shoe value per dollar, then you've already got your answer. But if you want the best American-made shell cordovan shoes, buy Alden.

Alden's shoe collection is highly lauded and loved on this forum. And their shell collection- don't get me started. Bad-mouthing either is a cardinal sin- but I haven't the slightest idea why.

Let me back up for a second. I'm a Wisconsinite, born and bred. I love the Midwest, its values, its culture, and its people. All of the people around me on a daily basis are honest, hard-working midwesterners- part of the charm of the midwest. So, coming from that background, I have always purchased Allen Edmonds shoes (Made in Port Washington, WI). But AE quite consistantly is considered the "lesser of the two brands"

I was in Philadelphia recently, and when I told my father I was going to purchase a pair of Alden Shell Cordovans (which I have never owned), he was shocked. He felt that if one was going to spend that kind of money on shoes, we should at least be supporting the local economy and keeping honest jobs in Wisconsin. Also, AE is not unionized, and Alden is. That tidbit right there got me.

So, I am calling out for help. What reasons, if any, are there for me to not purchase Allen Edmonds- cordovans or not- in favor of Aldens? I like their feel better, and I've never had a problem with quality. While they have more contemporary models, I don't buy those, and, if anything, it just shows that they are more adept to the marketplace. I like to support local businesses and the few industries we still have in Wisconsin. So why? Why does AE get no respect?

Also, Happy Easter. Jesus Christ is Risen Today!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Continental,

At what price would you characterize the current shell AEs as a better deal than the Aldens? Or, to state it differently, at what price are MacNeils (older, since that's what you have experience with) a better deal in your opinion than the Alden 975 ($572/pr)?

I have to agree with you on recent construction quality, though. My most recent AEs have been worse and worse ever since Stollenwerk sold out to some Minneapolis private investment group, who changed the way they manufacture. I think (and this may be incorrect) but among the shoes a good way to tell if they are the "old" AEs is the "Made in USA" tag, without qualifiers such as "of imported materials". This change happened right after the time the business changed hands, so I think that could be why. However, a clerk at the AE store in Chicago said it was because of an FTC rule. I don't believe her, though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Am I confused or are you saying you prefer AE because their workers aren't unionized? Why?
While I feel all workers have the right to unionize, I personally believe that it gets rid of some direct personal incentive to perform and a relationship between individual workers and management. This is no more evident than at AE, where the corporate headquarters and factory are adjacent. While I can see how this could make sense with workers halfway across the world, in AEs case, it does not.

Also, my grandmother worked in a speaker factory for many, many years. She always opposed unionization when it was brought up- she was paid a reasonable wage, and was always given the summer off to spend time with her children. If she had worked in a unionized factory, while her wages may have been higher, she may not have been able to fit the job to her life and specific circumstances, depriving both the company of a hardworking worker and my grandmother of income.
 

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Although I have gained quite a bit of very useful information from this web site I am in complete agreement with your characterization of the attitude about Allen Edmond's shoes being at a lower quality point than Alden shoes here at Ask Andy.

I too am a happy owner of fourteen pairs of Alden shoes and at least twice that number of Allen Edmond's. There are several models that are great for a head to head comparison but none better than the one you've mentioned.

I have two pairs of Allen Edmond's McNeils, both in shell cordovan and two pairs of Alden 975's. I'm not going to say the Allen Edmonds McNeils are on par with the Alden 975's, I say they are superior in terms of workmanship, fit and finish, and overall quality. (and they cost less)

Another great head to head match is the $546.- Alden 990, (shell) and the $525.-retail ($490.- on sale now at shoe mart) Allen Edmond's "Leeds" in shell cordovan. Again it's a very close in overall fit, finish, and quality, but all things factored in I like both of my Shell Leed's more than the pair of shell Alden 990's I own.

Try to find a sale on Alden shoes,...(The Alden shop sells discontinued models at a cut rate, Shoe Mart sells seconds at a cut rate and I've even known of a couple of cases where a dealer was liquidating their entire stock but I mean a real planned sale of first line product)

They've even been known to turn one another in to Alden in MA. if they feel another dealer is undercutting full retail! (I'm sure some of the Alden dealers think of it as an "Added value" situation. (For them!) (Why give any level of customer service when you have an exclusive product?)

Now, try to find an Alden dealer who stocks even close to their full line,....:rolleyes: (Maybe two, possibly three in the country) Anyone care to comment?

How about a place to try a pair of Alden's on?....Or for that matter someone who stocks some wide AND narrow widths in Alden's line:crazy: (The Alden shop is the only one I know of in the U.S.A.)

And then there's the attitude of some of the Alden dealers. (Again, they know there are relatively few of them) i.e. You want Aldens you have to come to one of a handful of dealers in the United States and you pay full price every time. Good old fashioned American value for your money!

Alden of Carmel says on their opening page that they are, "A shop unique in the world." When in fact they are not even a brick and mortar shop AT ALL!! AND, to wit, the guy will not even take a phone call insisting on e-mail as his ONLY communication link with an individual who wishes to spend several hundred dollars, (or a couple of thousand in my case) with him!:cry: Now that's old world, dare I say "Trad," customer service and value for your money!

Although Alden's are great shoes the ONLY reason I continue to purchase their shoes is because of Tom Park at Leather Soul in Honolulu. Just as the old adage goes, Tom Park has sold me on the way he does business rather than on Alden shoes. To be fair I have recently purchased a pair of Alden seconds from Joe at Shoe Mart and the transaction went very smooth.

On the other hand I do believe Allen Edmonds will move more and more of their production off shore and quality will slip in the future. (kind of a "slow burn" Florsheim type situation) I hate to see it because while they have gone much more fashion forward in their overall line than suits me there are still several models, both rubber soled such as the Wilbert as well as leather soled, that are very well made and perform for the long run.

Don't sweat the obvious bias against Allen Edmonds here at Ask Andy. It's the internet where everyone is larger than life and people say things they would never dream of saying to you face to face. Heck, most even do it anonymously.

My fifty centavos worth,

Bill Woodward
Portland, Oregon
 

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Also, my grandmother worked in a speaker factory for many, many years. She always opposed unionization when it was brought up- she was paid a reasonable wage, and was always given the summer off to spend time with her children. If she had worked in a unionized factory, while her wages may have been higher, she may not have been able to fit the job to her life and specific circumstances, depriving both the company of a hardworking worker and my grandmother of income.
Although I am not an expert on unions, having visited Alden's factory in Middleboro, MA a couple times and meeting with the workers there, I can tell you with confidence that the way Alden Shoe Company is run, is probably not what you expect of a "unionized" factory. Art Tarlow runs a fine ship. No doubt about it.

Although Alden's are great shoes the ONLY reason I continue to purchase their shoes is because of Tom Park at LeatherSoul in Honolulu. Just as the old adage goes, Tom Park has sold me on the way he does business rather than on Alden shoes.

Bill Woodward
Portland, Oregon
Thank you Bill.
 

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I don't post a lot, but I read almost every day. I own 6 pair of Alden shoes. I have been wearing Aldens for 15 years. I currently own one pair of AE. I have had more in the past, and I will buy more AE in the future. But, honestly, there is no comparison. Each Alden shoe (I own 4 pair of shell and 2 calfskin) is a work of art. AEs are a good pair of shoes, but they are not Aldens. You have to own and wear both for a long time to understand, I guess.
 

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While I feel all workers have the right to unionize, I personally believe that it gets rid of some direct personal incentive to perform and a relationship between individual workers and management. This is no more evident than at AE, where the corporate headquarters and factory are adjacent. While I can see how this could make sense with workers halfway across the world, in AEs case, it does not.

Also, my grandmother worked in a speaker factory for many, many years. She always opposed unionization when it was brought up- she was paid a reasonable wage, and was always given the summer off to spend time with her children. If she had worked in a unionized factory, while her wages may have been higher, she may not have been able to fit the job to her life and specific circumstances, depriving both the company of a hardworking worker and my grandmother of income.
Interesting. So much for "Look for the Union label!".
 

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Aside from the quality issue (I have both brands and like both), when I look at the Alden catalog, I have to search for models that I wouldn't wear. With AE I have to look hard for models that I would wear if I were given them. Right now I can only think of three current models - the Park Ave, MacNeil, and Leeds. There may be more but not many.
 

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I would not characterize any currently produced AE shells as a better deal than Alden's. The AE shells I have were made by the "old" AE, before the ownership change. I haven't seen any new AEs, shell or calf, which come close.

The last pair of AEs I bought were brown calf Byrons, a couple of years before the changeover. They were a steal even at retail. Great shoes. Probably the last AEs I'll buy, if the line continues its current trajectory.

Continental,

At what price would you characterize the current shell AEs as a better deal than the Aldens? Or, to state it differently, at what price are MacNeils (older, since that's what you have experience with) a better deal in your opinion than the Alden 975 ($572/pr)?

I have to agree with you on recent construction quality, though. My most recent AEs have been worse and worse ever since Stollenwerk sold out to some Minneapolis private investment group, who changed the way they manufacture. I think (and this may be incorrect) but among the shoes a good way to tell if they are the "old" AEs is the "Made in USA" tag, without qualifiers such as "of imported materials". This change happened right after the time the business changed hands, so I think that could be why. However, a clerk at the AE store in Chicago said it was because of an FTC rule. I don't believe her, though.
 

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Works of art?

... Each Alden shoe (I own 4 pair of shell and 2 calfskin) is a work of art....
M. Fan loves the Alden shells he recently bought, but look at this picture of one of the soles:

https://i22.photobucket.com/albums/b328/mafoofan/mfanblog/longwing/longwing8.jpg

The design may be outstanding and the materials may be first-rate, but the execution looks a little sloppy to me, frankly. Even Fan says the stitching is "reasonably neat, if not particularly fine." He also says that these are "an order or two better finished than stock Aldens"! So I don't get that Aldens are works of art. In fact Fan seems like Aldens partly *because* they're robust and not fancy-schmancy.
 

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slight distinction

I have recently acquired a pair of AE Bradleys in oxblood shell. At first I did not really want the shoes but only bought them because I needed a pair of more casual shoes for wear with poplin suits, blazers and odd jackets after the doctor advised me not to wear loafers. I have to say that the shoes are very well made and I like them. I have several pairs of AE and Alden shoes and do not notice any difference in quality. However, when you walk in the AE, the shoes strike the floor with a distinctive sound which is not present in the Aldens.
 

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^ That sound and feel is exactly why I do not wear AE any more. I walk on a lot of tile and terrazzo, and it feels, and sounds, like the heel of the shoe (IMHO) is made of rock. The heel itself also doesn't always sit flat, with the leather part of the dovetail protruding a little, making that area prone to slip.

I had two pair of AE in shell---no longer. AE was my first shell (the Randolph), but now that I have tried Alden, I wont go back, even if you gave me the AE for free. Maybe I had two bad pairs, but maybe not.
 

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I have a fair number of pairs from both Alden and Allen Edmond's. while I can't say either brand is substantially better or worse than the other, my Alden's seem a bit more robustly constructed but, from a practical perspective, selections from either brands offerings never seem to wear out. My decisions of one brand over the other have generally been driven by the comparative fit of a particular design.

For example, for years a favorite pair of shoes was a pair of AE McNeil's in calf. I bought a pair of McNeil's in #8 shell. AE had changed the design to incorporate a lower profile (I suppose what they assumed to be more elegant) toe-box and hence, I couldn't wiggle my toes in my shell cord McNeil's, like I could in my calf McNeil's. About two years latter, I purchased a pair of Alden's longwings, in #8 shell, because the toe box looked to be a bit more roomy than the toe on my shell McNeil's (and Joe or Ed at The Shoemart said it was indeed a bit more generous!). I received and tried on the Alden longwings and could once again, wiggle my toes. I gave my shell cord McNeil's to another and have been happily wearing the Alden's,...ever after!

Alden's and AE's are both well made shoes and, for me at least, the difference is all about the fit! ;)
 

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I have a fair number of pairs from both Alden and Allen Edmond's. while I can't say either brand is substantially better or worse than the other, my Alden's seem a bit more robustly constructed but, from a practical perspective, selections from either brands offerings never seem to wear out. My decisions of one brand over the other have generally been driven by the comparative fit of a particular design. . .
Alden's and AE's are both well made shoes and, for me at least, the difference is all about the fit! ;)
+1. I agree with Eagle wholeheartedly on this one. I have 5 pairs of AE and 4 pairs of Alden. I think that the Alden (especially shell cordovan) are a little more well-constructed, but AE makes a very nice shoe. I think that the decision to purchase one brand over the other comes down to the style/design of the particular model and the comparative fit.
 

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I own multiple pairs from both companies. I would like to see both companies continue to prosper in the selling of Goodyear welted American made shoes. Buy what fits and appeals to you the most.

From my perspective, AE has made some shoes with unfortunate designs the past few seasons (eg, their various random brogueing models). However, I'm pleased to see them launch their new classics collection. I do quite like the fact that Alden will allow its dealers to design and special order batches of shoes. Tom at Leather Soul has turned this into an art. Obviously, Alden and AE are operating from different business models, which is perfectly fine.

Yesterday I wore my AE Sohos. I consider the Park Avenue a staple shoe. And I love my Alden LHS, tassels, spectators and Indy boots.
 

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I own multiple pairs from both companies. I would like to see both companies continue to prosper in the selling of Goodyear welted American made shoes. Buy what fits and appeals to you the most.

From my perspective, AE has made some shoes with unfortunate designs the past few seasons (eg, their various random brogueing models). However, I'm pleased to see them launch their new classics collection. I do quite like the fact that Alden will allow its dealers to design and special order batches of shoes. Tom at Leather Soul has turned this into an art. Obviously, Alden and AE are operating from different business models, which is perfectly fine.

Yesterday I wore my AE Sohos. I consider the Park Avenue a staple shoe. And I love my Alden LHS, tassels, spectators and Indy boots.
Well said. And not to:deadhorse-a: but the fellow who began this thread has made what I believe is an accurate observation. Many regulars on Ask Andy, specifically the "Trad" forum, are highly biased against Allen Edmonds shoes.

The general portrayal is that Allen Edmonds are okay but Aldens are obviously a higher end product which I do not believe is accurate.

If there is any difference in quality on a given model it is statistically insignificant and could go either way one brand verses the other.

Do you believe there is or has been a trend of Allen Edmonds bashing verses Alden shoes here on the "Trad' forum?

By factoring in the fact that Alden has so few dealers, fewer still who stock a good selection of the Alden line, and even fewer who have wide models,...And even fewer yet who have narrow widths. The attitude(s), no sales,....

Well perhaps there are those here on the "Trad" forum who have bought into Alden's marketing approach. Perhaps they believe if they pay more for a product that is less available and always sold at full price that they have indeed purchased a superior product.

Fact is I too like Alden shoes. But I think the individual who began this thread hit the nail on the head with his observation.

Best wishes,

Bill Woodward
Portland, Oregon

P.S. I'm waiting to find out if a recently purchased pair of Aldens will be shipping today. When my new pair of Aldens arrives I'm sure I'll love them. But I don't think they will be of higher quality than any comparable Allen Edmonds model I own.
 

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^ I don't think that there necessarily is a trend of "AE bashing", so much as a lot of forum contributors who are enamored with Alden. I believe that this probably has more to do with the fact that Alden primarily focuses on traditional/classic styling (as opposed to attempting to be more fashion forward) and offers a number of shoes in genuine shell cordovan, than with the fact that people have an anti-AE "bias." Like many posters (including many responding to this thread), I have both AE and Alden shoes in my rotation. I think that, in general, you find a healthy respect for both of the brands on the trad forum.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks everyone for your honest and concrete answers. This is very much what I've been looking for. I have a much better understanding of the Alden admiration on AA. To Summarize,

  • Aldens complete offerings are, wrt number of decent shoe designs, better.
    • I would agree, but AE still makes many similar shoes to Alden- see 127.72 MHz's first response.
  • Aldens are a work of art.
    • While they may be on more pleasing lasts, or to more exacting "trad design" I think all Goodyear welted shoes are works of art.
  • Neither wear out with proper care.
    • I'll defer to you chaps on this one- I've had AEs which have been resoled once or twice, but I haven't been the same size long enough to be able to comment on "true" longevity.
  • The Old AEs were better
    • Exactly why I will venture to Port Washington this weekend- see what NOS I can find and buy. Especially among seconds, which the new owners felt were helping to destroy the brand, older shoes are much more prevalent (at least in WI at the Shoe Banks I frequent)
  • Alden's factory is great
    • Haven't been there, but wouldn't doubt it. For a family owned business it's very difficult to not be a good employer.
So, let it be resolved that:
I will visit the AE shoe bank and see what I find available in Shell. (MacNeil or Leeds)
If these do not avail themselves, I will dive in and purchase Aldens. If and when I do this I am certain it will be through Leather Soul. Mr. Park sounds like a supurb retailer.
 
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