Allen Edmonds seconds are almost a rite of passage into the menswear world – it’s just about the least expensive way to get in to a nice pair of welted shoes. Finding shell cordovan shoes on the cheap is not as common, however. For the rare few that aren’t familiar, the term ‘seconds’ refers to second-quality pieces. Generally, this means there is some small cosmetic imperfection in the uppers that keeps them from being sold at full retail. For Allen Edmonds, these ‘defects’ are generally very small (although it will always be a little bit of a gamble). Alden is known for having more noticeable flaws on their seconds, but that’s another story. Examples of what AE seconds typically look like can easily be found online. If you’re still interested, here’s how you can get some shell cordovan on the cheap.
Like Alden, Carmina, Vass, Crockett & Jones, Enzo Bonafe, and other top-tier footwear brands, Allen Edmonds uses shell cordovan from Horween (read more here), which is unilaterally considered the best shell (they did invent it, after all). Prices at AE start around $650 for shell, and that’s on the low end compared to all these other brands.
The Shoebank is Allen Edmonds’ online seconds ecommerce site, and on it you can find all sorts of deals, no code needed. All the shell styles that I’ve found are there for 50% off (so $325). The site is kinda tough to navigate – if you’re looking for shell, I’d suggest sorting prices from high to low so that they’ll be towards the top. Here are the styles I think are most interesting (links to the main AE site):
- MacNeil longwing. My personal favorite (here’s my non-shell pair). A classic longwing blucher, which is a classic style, extremely versatile, and probably my favorite style these days (I have three LWBs and I’m trying to resist buying one of these). Available in black and #8 shell.
- Leeds plaintoe blucher. Similar to the Macneil but without the wingtip pattern and on the rounder 511 last. Available in black and #8 shell.
- Randolph and Patriot penny loafers. Another classic American style. Note that these similar styles do have slight differences – different lasts, strap style (Randolph is full strap), and other minor stylistic changes. Both are available in black and #8, Patriot is also available in brown.
- Grayson tassle loafer. For those that want to go full trad. Available in #8 shell.
- Park Avenue and Strand oxfords. I’m personally not a huge fan of these styles, but many are so here you go.
There are plenty of other scattered styles as well, I just happened to notice that these rarely discounted styles were all in stock in many sizes. Note that returns are possible, but there will be a $25 restock fee. Take a look and see what you find!