As I’ve mentioned before, men’s clothing enthusiasts often tout the importance of buying high-quality products, an ideal that I generally agree with. Of course, few of us have the funds to buy the best of the best of everything, so the process of finding and purchasing clothing and accessories becomes more of a decision of when to save and when to splurge. Even then, cost does not inherently imply quality, so determining where money is well spent can be difficult. This is a series of posts that show some of my purchases (both expensive and affordable) after a year or more of hard wear in order to display how they have held up over time. Only you can decide what is worth spending on and what isn’t, but the more information you have the better-informed your decision will be.
Although I always liked the idea of dressing well, I didn’t get into it seriously until graduate school. Being at that place in my life made me see that my days as a college student were numbered and that my future career was closing in (if I was lucky enough to get a job). For that reason I wanted to prepare ahead of time in order to get the most out of the small amount of money I had. As engineers – and Jesse Thorn – often say, “Fast, Cheap, Good: Pick Two.” I started hunting for deals on basic and versatile items like khakis and shirts so that I wouldn’t be blindsided at my first job. I made some foolish purchases, but overall it was a lifesaver when I began working and already had a small amount of solid items to turn to.
I digress. These shoes were one of my first purchases in preparation for my career. I bought them in like-new condition off of ebay before secondhand shoes started to get more expensive. I was the only bidder – they were about sixty bucks.
Now that my shoe collection has slowly expanded I don’t need to rely on them as heavily as I did a year or two ago, but they still get used around once per week. I worked them hard and cared for them gently, and they have stood up to everything well. Their color has become richer and more variegated over time and they have remained some of my most comfortable and best-fitting shoes. I could go on about the respectable quality and durability of Allen Edmonds shoes, but I wouldn’t be saying anything that hasn’t been said many times before. Instead, I’ll tell you an interesting story.
After a few months of wearing these shoes I noticed that the rubber on one of the heels started to detach and flap around. This surprised me a bit since I had received the shoes in new condition and had been caring for them properly. Not sure if the issue was inconsequential or a harbinger of bad things, I stopped by the San Francisco Allen Edmonds store for an expert opinion. The store associate assured me that the issue was minor and that any competent cobbler could fix it. He then told me that they’d be happy to take care of it for me. This made me somewhat uncomfortable; I sheepishly explained that I had bought the shoes off of ebay and it felt dishonest to use any sort of store warranty. The man remained unphased and assured me that it was really no problem at all. A few days later they arrived in a box from Wisconsin, nicely repaired and polished. I was stunned. Good companies earn my business not only because of quality products but because of quality customer service. Allen Edmonds is one of those companies.
Would I pay full price ($345) for these shoes? I don’t think so. The “entry level shoe” market has gotten more crowded in the past couple of years and the choices are far more vast compared to what they once were. However, Allen Edmonds shoes are often on sale and when that is the case I think that they are still among the best options for quality shoes at a reasonable price. Not only that but the shoes are much more accessible than the many online-only storefronts so many people can find a place to try them in person, which makes all the difference. Combine that with the recrafting service, large variety of sizes, and the great customer service and it starts to look like a pretty good deal.
Granted, those that are looking for a sleek English oxford will not find it at Allen Edmonds. Nonetheless, the American sensibility and “not too formal, not too casual” look that their classic models provide work well for most lifestyles and provide a great starting point for the man looking to understand what a quality shoe really looks like.
The rest of the “One Year Later” series can be found here.