Once in a while, I'd like to review a product for you guys on this blog. Sometimes, it might be my initial reactions towards a product I just purchased, and other times I'll go over something that has been part of my outfit rotation for some time. Today, I'll start with a fairly new purchase: a pair of shoes by the famous American shoemaker Alden.
Alden is one of the few remaining true American shoemakers. They manufacture in Middleborough, Massachusetts, and have been at it since 1884. The pair I got is one of their most classic designs, known commonly as the long wing blucher (LWB). The design is fairly similar to that of a normal wingtip, the only difference being that the wing design extends from the front of the shoe all the way to the back. Here are some pictures below:
Alden Made in the U.S.A.
See how the wingtip design extends all the way throughout the shoe?
You can tell the stitching on the welt ends at a point near the heel.
Black leather sole with rubber at the edge of the heel.
Wearing the shoes around the house.
You can get these in many shades of brown as well.
Pretty handsome shoe in my opinion.
Outfit I'm wearing with the shoes.
Shirt: Brooks Brothers | Sweater: Old Navy | Watch: Omega
Bracelet: Unbranded | Jeans: Tellason | Shoes: Alden
Okay, so let me go into the review.
Construction: These shoes are solidly constructed. First off, all Alden shoes are Goodyear welted, meaning that the upper portion of the shoes are sewn onto a welt that also attaches to the sole. This is definitely one of the highest forms of shoe construction you can find, and Alden's been doing it brilliantly for generations. The other great thing about Goodyear welting is that it allows you to easily resole the shoes when your soles start to fall apart. Alden has a great policy where you can send in your old shoes to them, and for around $100, they can refinish the entire shoe, get you a new sole, and have them back to you looking altogether brand new.
Another thing to add is that the attention to detail is top notch, probably because these shoes are hand-made domestically. I can't find any flaws in stitching, lining, broguing, or just about any other construction element of the shoes. Suffice it to say, I'm happy with the overall quality.
Comfort: Comfort is surprisingly good. When comparing these to my Allen Edmonds, the Aldens are actually more comfortable even out of the box. I do believe they still require some breaking in of the sole, as the sole is a bit stiff from the get-go, but for the most part I think comfort isn't going to be a problem. Might also have to do with the fact that the last (the shape/mold of the shoe) is a bit roomier than my other pairs of shoes.
Design: Truth is, I don't think these shoes are very sleek or sexy. The last that these shoes are on, called the Barrie last, is slightly chunky, and the longwing design takes a bit of getting used to at first. For that reason, some might consider the design to be too old or boring. However, I don't think these shoes are trying to be some sort of modern chic cocktail-hour shoe (like many English or Italian shoes might be).
They're designed to be a daily workhorse of sorts, with a signature American look & feel to them. The chunkier sole helps support your foot better, the rock solid leather defends your foot from the elements, and the long wingtip design is a classic design that's been loved and worn for ages. I personally love the look, hence me purchasing, but can see why others might feel like the shoes aren't handsome enough to buy.
Material: The materials used are very high in quality. I can already tell that the sole and uppers feel hefty by touch, and will stand up to daily wear and tear with ease. Good news is that leather is still soft, despite being so durable, making the shoes a pleasure to wear.
Price: The price of most Alden shoes will be between $400 and $600 (when made with calf-skin). Clearly, they're expensive, and not something to be taken lightly. To add, Aldens don't go on sale. I was lucky enough to find a loophole and get some on sale via some menswear forums, but I likely won't have an opportunity like that again. So the question begs, are they worth the asking price?
Well, it depends. To some, the price increase from a pair of Allen Edmonds might not be worth it. They're constructed similarly and might even source their leather from the same place. I do know they use the same cordovan leather. However, I do think that the attention to detail on these shoes is much higher than any of my Allen Edmonds. The shoes feels sturdier, and thus, looks like they'll last longer. They're also more comfortable. So to me, the increase in quality is evident, and sometimes I'm willing to shell out some more dough as a result.
Just be aware that the law of diminishing returns is certainly playing a factor at this point. Let's say these were almost two times as expensive as my Allen Edmonds. Are they two times as good? No. Are they, in my opinion, maybe 10-20% better? Probably. So the question really becomes, are you willing to pay double the price for a slight increase in construction and quality (and design for those who like it)?
Conclusion: Overall, the shoes are constructed with the highest quality materials, feel rather comfortable even from the get-go, and are clearly strong enough to be in the game for the long haul. The look of these shoes can take a little getting used to (as I had to), but they are a classic Alden design- something that will likely never go out of style. The asking price is steep, but could be worth it for some of you. For those who need to save some money, stick with Loake, Charles Tyrwhitt, or Allen Edmonds. If you like any of their designs and have the money though, I highly recommend a pair of Aldens. You're guaranteed excellent quality and construction.
Here are some links if you'd like a pair for yourself:
Alden of Carmel