They Are My Aldens (or Ethan’s Shoe Journey)

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If you don’t get the title, watch this vine.  Trust me.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a retrospective.  It’s quite fitting as this is my last article for 2019! Now let’s get into it; a piece on footwear (specially dress shoes) has been a long time coming.

Listen to the Podcast Episode Here!

Introduction

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Some particularly bad shoes from Banana Republic.

Like many of you, I’ve heard the oft stated mantra that “shoes can make or break an outfit”.  I don’t deny that at all; I just happened to want tailored pieces more than shoes. As you have probably seen if you’ve followed me since my Teenage Gentleman days, you’ll know that I’ve always had a lot of jackets, shirts, and trousers, but only a few pieces of footwear.

As a whole, vintage 30’s beltbacks, vintage ties, and [later] sack-jacks were what I needed, not to mention all the tailoring needed to make some of these things work.  Basically in order to dress the way I wanted, I needed all of those striped shirts or the different tweeds that you have seen me in.  Shoes, for the most part, didn’t really have that draw.   In most cases, you could get by with one or two pairs of shoes.  I even kept that mantra as I started to branch out more in my menswear journey.

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Some decent looking Zara suede derbies that I wore as my main pair of shoes during early college.  They were probably a full size too big.

Aldo wingtip derbies.

Aldo canvas loafers bc ITALIAN STYLE.

Though I did get my start in wearing Aldos/ Zara shoes, I eventually dabbled in Banana Republic footwear because I worked there; obviously the quality was just not great and styles were too modern as I got more in tune with my style.  I was suggested by a few vintage people, and later MFA, to start looking at Allen Edmonds.  I was told that they were a good American made shoe with a Goodyear Welt, which made them sturdier and better crafted than all my other shoes. These were all new concepts to me!  At about $300+, I still didn’t have the money for a “real” pair, so I resorted to buying them second hand on eBay.

Allen Edmonds

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My first pair of AE loafers: a brown Grayson.

I can’t really remember what the first pair of AE’s I got were, but man I could tell the difference between my old Aldos and these. They certainly felt tougher, especially due to the quality of leather, which was streets ahead of the cheap/light feeling of my other shoes.  Soon enough, I was hooked on this shoe.  It didn’t help that there were so many on eBay (and a few in my local thrift stores from time to time)!

Collecting vintage taught me a few lessons that prepared me for this shoe journey. The first was to always inspect all the pictures and check the quality.  Basically this meant to avoid anything with rips to the uppers or holes on the sole (I understand the latter can be fixed with a resole).  Because AE’s are pretty well made, most of the shoes in the $40-100 range were still in pretty good condition, which made them easy pickings for me.

The second part was to check the size.  Sizing is something I continue to struggle with, as my feet (7 on the brannock) tend to fit certain lasts differently, leading to a small array of sizes on different shoes.    I found that most of my best fitting pieces ended up being around a 7-7.5D anyway; I also learned the value of insoles for a few that were only slightly too large.  For shoes that were just too big (like certain  early 8Ds, purchased based on my sneaker size), I passed them onto my friends, as I have the smallest shoe size out of all of them.

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One of my first pairs of AE oxfords (black brogues). Still going strong, because I seldom wear oxfords now.

Like with vintage clothing, I noticed that I certainly had a particular style in mind when buying.  Yes, this method were affordable, but I genuinely liked the overall AE look.  There was something about the old school, American-esque aesthetic that worked well for my developing style (that still was much more period-accurate at this time).   Allen Edmonds was remarkably different than the more “Italian”/fashion inspired ones that were a bit too sleek for me.  I also knew enough to not get any ugly  “dad” looking shoes (like square toes).

Even though I was slowly honing in on what I wanted my shoe collection to look like, it was still rather minimal, mainly comprised of oxfords (captoes and wingtips).  I can attribute this to the fact that most vintage photographs and illustrations had their men in lace-ups; anything else was an oddity or just slipped past me.  I thought I didn’t need anything else, that is, until I discovered contemporary classic menswear through the Armoury and Drake’s.

Almost there…

I don’t have to tell you how influential seeing photography of  brands like The Armoury, Drake’s, and B&Tailor were for me, though at the time I didn’t know them well yet.  In every image, they made everything look so great, yet incredibly slouchy, selling this idea of classic menswear to an impressionable Ethan.  Not only did it make vintage ideas look translatable in the contemporary era, but it also simply showed me that classic menswear was its own thing, separate from vintage and especially influencer-driven fashion.

Zonkey boot.

Firstly, it showed the importance of shoes. It was really the first time I felt like I wanted to buy more/better footwear.  Obviously people will notice the jacket, shirt, or tie you’re wearing, but these images really help sell the idea that shoes were on a subtle-yet-equal footing (heh) with the rest of menswear.  Each communicates a different vibe, hence why menswear guys had a large shoe collection.  There wasn’t anything wrong with being minimal, but if you like having variety of styles or outfits, it’s probably best to have more than one or two.

Most importantly however, I got see non-oxford shoes in a better light.  Loafers were no longer simply worn with skinny white pants cropped at the ankle; they were an elegant choice to wear with a fun sock and your tailored trousers. Bluchers and derbies didn’t have to be overtly tan nor necessitated a slim H&M suit.  Each had a different vibe, which in turn created a “new” outfit, or least a variation of it.

It wasn’t just about the styling of it either; clearly the details and last of the shoe was also important. As I got more classic menswear knowledge, I was beginning to see exactly why I liked certain shoes more than fast fashion ones.  Things like vamp length, toe shape (chisels aren’t too square!), and so on.  For the first time, I wanted to try things other than just wearing an oxford all the time. It was certainly a turning point for my mentality and my style.

John Spencer for B&Tailor.  Hot damn black tassels are cool.

Crockett & Jones for Anglo-Italian.

Inspired by all these images, I was soon able to amass a decent collection of shoes consisting almost entirely of Allen Edmonds. Obviously it started out with lace-up oxfords but I branched out a bit with spectators (like my old woven ones) and eventually loafers as I got into prep when I met my friend Raj; you’ll note that I didn’t get into derbies/bluchers until much later.  But something was still off; there was something special about the shoes that I saw in those classic menswear images on tumblr.  As I dove deeper, I began to learn more. Namely that these delightful shoes were Aldens.

Alden

As I’ve said many times before (especially in previous essays), I’ve been pretty ignorant when it comes to brands.  There isn’t anything malicious behind it, but rather simply due the fact that I tend to like what I like and wear it; I’m not like other influencers who constantly look for brands to report about.  With that said, I feel pretty bad that I didn’t really know about Alden. It could also be that I was more obsessed with tailoring/shirting rather than shoes, but it also didn’t help that there aren’t any Alden stores in Los Angeles (but there was an AE in South Coast).

Alden, as most of you probably already know, is one of the USA’s renowned shoemakers.  In fact, for most menswear guys, American shoes either mean Allen Edmonds or Alden as both were in existence for a long time (I’ve even found ads from both in my 40’s Esquire magazines), though Alden is older, founded in 1884.  There is quite a distinction between the two goodyear welted shoes, with AE being the entry level shoe and Alden being the higher quality/premium choice as they use made to a higher standard in small batches, resulting in a starting price at nearly $500 for a pair and they never go on sale (  save for factory seconds). Like with most luxury items, you can find them second hand on eBay or Grailed, but even then, the price is still over $100, with a majority in the $200-300 rage.

In general though, it just depends on aesthetics and how they fit on you, as this lengthy Styleforum thread can attest to.

Their quality, made in USA , and the fact that only have a handful of stores/stockists has lead to Alden reaching an almost cult-like status in menswear (#aldenarmy!). It really is world reknowned, as they are considered one of Americas quintessential shoes; Japan in particular has a big fascination with it, with their dedication to ivy. It was only natural that big players like The Armoury and Drake’s would use their connections to stock the storied shoe in their haberdasheries and photographed them, which lead to me discovering them in turn.

Need I remind you how much I fell in love with bluchers/derbies after looking at Alden’s everyday?

While the Amoury and B&Tailor got me to consider loafers, upon looking back, it was actually the Drake’s social feeds that really sold me on actually wearing them. I was already starting to become enamored with the more casual side of tailoring (particularly ivy-inspired outfits) and it was no surprise that the staff of the British tie-maker rocked the shoes in almost every picture.  Sure, the loafers weren’t as shapely or as elegant as Carmina or Saint Crispin, but that was their appeal to me.  I wanted to look formal (in a way) but not feel formal; I also wanted shoes that would work well with casual attire as well as with suiting.  I felt that luxurious looking shoes like the ones from Gaziano & Girling and the like didn’t accomplish that. You can just see how easy the young Drake’s guys looked in their Aldens.

It really cemented in my mind that if I wanted the right loafer, Alden seemed to be the right fit.  And hell, it started to characterize what I wanted to get out of a good shoe wardrobe.

There was just something about the Drake’s approach that was so charming, especially with their fun socks, and their predilection for shell cordovan; perhaps the candid-esque photography is to blame. Drake’s was my first real exposure to that specific leather, which is renowned for it’s deep burgundy-brown color, hardwearing quality, and the fact that it “rolls” instead of wrinkles over time making it superior (in my eyes) to calfskin.

In any case, I was becoming sold on Alden more than any other menswear shoe.  To this day, I’m not entirely sure what it is, but I do know that the Drake’s feed was the kicker.

The lovely dark shine of shell tassels.

By this time, I was rapidly becoming friends with the Drake’s boys (who have since moved on to other endeavors).  Each of them were Alden’s fanboys, posting their favorite shoes on IG, from their great split-toe derbies to the comfortable looking LHS (in cordovan and suede).  It’s pretty hard not to love Alden when you saw well-dressed guys your age rocking it and literally encouraging you to try it for yourself; even my compatriots on MFA were influences.

I stole this move for my Holiday Attire.

One of my favorite pictures of all time.

Trying the Look, but Not the Brand

As I couldn’t bring myself to purchase $500 just yet (again, tailoring was more important),  it mainly informed my shoe choices on eBay, leading me to buy dark brown shoes to approximate shell cordovan and picking careful lasts that were similar to the LHS (casual) and Aberdeen (shapely last for loafers).  Eventually it became clear that I wanted Alden loafers in order to become the full Ethan I had been wanting to be.

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Trusty AE Graysons, though the last wasn’t exactly what I wanted. They were cheap though!

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I wore tassels all the time, thanks to Drake’s and The Armoury.  These burgundy ones replaced the brown Grayson’s above and worked as my “shell cordovan” pair for years.

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These AE Randolphs were the closest I had to the full strap Alden look., functioning as my “dress loafers”. Unfortunately, I never saw them in burgundy or dark brown on Ebay.

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Thrifted AE Walden’s, as an LHS alternative.

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Truth be told, I was scared to make the jump and officially try Alden, but could you blame me?   I didn’t know what my size was and I didn’t live anywhere near a stockist, so there was no way I could buy a pair, whether new or used.  It was definitely easy for me to buy Allen Edmonds second hand on eBay because of price and the fact that I had a few years of experience with them. They were worn in, so I knew what my size would be even if I bought them new; and lets not forget that I’ve used insoles to make certain lasts fit correctly.  No, if I was going to buy Alden, I wanted to make sure that the fit was perfect, as it would be a hefty monetary investment.

The struggle to find my correct Alden size was laughable.  There were plenty of guides online, but I wanted to make sure I tried them on first before even considering if I was going to save for them.  The Bloke, my local menswear shop stocks Alden, but only from size 8 upward in certain models  (which didn’t include the pennys or tassels that I really wanted); even during trunk shows, they didn’t bring the small sizes. I actually went to the Alden stores in NYC and SF, but my trusty AE’s loafers failed me during our long treks, resulting in sore feet that rendered trying on shoes practically useless (everything felt the same). I didn’t want a repeat of what happened when I bought my Loake loafers, where at first it felt too big (due to heel slippage) but actually was a half size small, scrunching my feet and rubbing against my pinky toes. I had to be certain that the fit was right, free of any outside forces and sore feet. It seemed that I would eternally have bad luck when it came to buying shoes.

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Obtaining Aldens (but they weren’t loafers)

If you look over recent blog posts, you’ll notice that I haven’t really bought new shoes other than a few oddities like the Jubilee or the wallabies. A few keen IG followers know of my struggle and suggested that I try Meermin or Becket Simonon, but I knew that I really wanted the details on Aldens (and as we know, details certainly matter).  There was just something special about the shape of the lasts, making their approach to loafers or derbies different than other shoe brands.  My Allen Edmonds was close in some of those details, but they weren’t perfect.  Its very similar to why I like certain ties or jackets; it’s not just about getting a quality/price ratio, but about getting the exact thing I’m after.

You could call it maturing, as I was finally learning the concept of saving up for something pricer- but-much-wanted pieces. It is a natural response of a clothing journey, as you will eventually find yourself lusting after things you can’t thrift or accomplish through vintage.  I’ve done it with a few things like my Ring Jacket Balloon and now I wanted to do it through Alden.  I ultimately decided that if I was going to get a pair, it should be their full-strap penny loafer in shell cordovan.  I wear my brown penny loafers a lot (more so than my tassels)  but the had a more casual last, preventing them to be effectively used with more “dressed up” looks like with my Ascot Chang suit.  Obviously, I knew this would have to be somewhere far down the line.

One day, I happened to learn that Carroll & Co, an independent menswear store near my work in Beverly Hills was going out of business.  It’s always unfortunate to see a store go under, but the one positive aspect was that they had Aldens on discount, which was a huge deal. By the time I went over, they barely had anything left in my size range, which I had honed down to a 6.5-7.5 based on prior Alden visits. To add insult to injury, the only things they had for me to try wasn’t what I wanted, like a tan suede PTB (7.5D was big) and a 7D black LHS (which felt not quite right). It didn’t seem right for me to spend a lot of money (20% off is $500 is still a hefty sum) for something I wasn’t completely sold by. It almost seemed like a fools errand until they brought out one of their smallest sizes still in stock : a shell cordovan Indy styled Tanker boot with a commando sole in a 6.5D Barrie last. I bought it.

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Real boots for real weather.

In the greater story of my loafer search, yes this was a set back.  But I loved it.  I had never had a real boot to wear in inclement weather. All I had in the boot department were suede chelseas and chukkas, which aren’t really the best in the rain.  I loved them and wore them as much as I could, wearing them with rugged outfits and leather jackets (as I felt loafers don’t really sell the look well).  It was my first real experience with Aldens and shell cordovan; I was hooked and I finally at least knew my size with the Barrie last. This was all at the end of 2018.

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The dark shell cordovan works so well.

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I don’t worry about these getting wet.

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Finally, boots that were perfect for leather jackets.

Brogue Menlo Park

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Let’s move forward in time to the recent past.  As I’ve gotten more involved in the menswear industry (mainly due to traveling), I’ve made a lot more friends. One notable one was Mack, owner of Brogue Gentleman’s Shop in Menlo Park. We got to finaly meet earlier this year during Inspiration LA, but had messaged quite a bit before that, shooting the shit about menswear. Like the Bloke, it is an independent menswear shop, though it’s products are different.  Brogue has a rugged, almost Bryceland’s aesthetic, stocking hefty denim jeans and jackets, but also mixing in tailoring by way of Drake’s, Ring Jacket, and W.W Chan (trunk shows).  Mack follows in the steps of Mark Cho and George Wang before him, crafting a store that not only has products that have been hard to obtain but also helps exude what they think men should dress like.

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It is important to note that Brogue has a very special relationship with Alden. Not only do they have a large selection of the traditional models but they also collaborated to create some special unique models.  As far as I know, this is something not to be taken lightly.  It’s probably a testament to Mack’s business prowess as many of these collaboration models operate under a pre-order basis (but most sell out regardless).

To my surprise, Mack offered to give me a pair of their Harvey loafers as a birthday present of sorts at the beginning of August.  I graciously accepted, knowing that this was probably the most luxurious/expensive thing that I’ve ever been given (the other would be my bespoke fedora from Cody Wellema).  Obviously they weren’t the full straps I’d been pining after, but like the Tanker Boot, I didn’t fucking care. These looked so good and I knew I was going to wear them a lot; this was a gift I did not take lightly.

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It’s a great tassel loafer made on the shapley Alden Aberdeen last, which is the one I’ve seen on for the shell tassels and full straps (not the LHS) worn by the Drake’s boys.  The almond toe is perfectly versatile for casual and suiting attire, while the low relatively low vamp gives it an rakish, slipper look that I really love.  You should know how much I hate long vamp loafers.

The suede is a great brown that lightens up the more you wear it, playing with the contrasting sole and light apron stitching. It’s actually very similar to the loafers that Yamamoto-san wore when I visited him, which have dark apron thread and a dark sole.  Thanks to all of the details on the Harvey, the shoe is a bit dressed down, but still plenty versatile.  Menswear has always had an affinity for suede shoes (especially for use with summer and fall tailoring) and I’m proud to be a part of the club, as I only had suede boots until this point.

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Funnily enough, I ran into sizing issues again! I told Mack that my only Alden boots were a 6.5D (which fit perfectly), so that’s what he sent me. I neglected to tell him that it was on the Barrie last, which tends to be a half size bigger than the much narrower/shapely Aberdeen. Luckily, I was sure to evaluate the fit (on carpet) and knew that I was definitely not a 6.5D in this last.  I sent it back for a 7D and it was pure bliss: I had finally found my Alden size in Aberdeen.

Right away, they fit better than any other Allen Edmonds shoe I owned.  This could be mainly because all my AE’s are different lasts, but when specifically compared to my 7D Graysons (the similar AE model/last for tassel loafers), the Aldens won.  The Alden Harveys hug my feet for a snug, yet comfortable fit, which would only get better over time as the suede breaks in; my Graysons have a bit of room, which results in sore feet if worn during a full day of walking.  When I got the Harvey’s in the correct 7D size, I sitll made sure to pay careful attention to the heel slippage, toe crunch, and pinky room, which all were issues I’ve had in the past with new shoes.  So far, none of these issues have shown up, marking me confident in my Alden sizing, at least in the Aberdeen and Barrie.

Note how the AE’s (left) are more shapely but have a higher vamp.  You can also see how “heavy” the stitching and larger tassels work on the Alden Harvey.  It almost acts to counter the slipper-esque aesthetic.

It could also just be me and my lack of experience with good shoes, but the Harvey’s feel clunkier than my AE’s, which is certainly a good thing for my personal style.  It feels sturdy and heavy in a sense, able to “weigh down” an outfit despite being a loafer; I do not mean that they are too heavy to wear. I also find that the tassels are bigger than the ones on my AE Grayson’s, which I also like. In a sense, they remind me of the visual effect I get from wearing my bluchers and derbies.  However, the suede makes them a casual alternative from my regular tassels, marking a casual, easy-going vibe when they are worn.

It had been a while since I’ve owned new shoes, I made great headway into wearing them as much as I could. Sure there was the teensiest amount of heel slippage since the soles are new (and there aren’t laces to hold your foot down as you walk), but that soon went away.  Now they’re perfect and ready to be worn with nearly every outfit.  It’s certainly a lighter color (not just in terms of the suede) to my AE tassels, but it provides a fun take that for me, exudes the sprightly take of the suede LHS that my compatriots like to wear.

Enjoy a handful of outfits using these new Aldens! They certainly help dress down certain outfits, as the suede is more “carefree” than the typical calfskin or even shell cordovan. I like to think of them as fun pants or raw hems: perfect for ivy adjacent fits, not for draped suits and brocade ties.

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White socks and suede loafers take the stuffiness out of a navy suit.

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The Grails

Mack checked in on me every so often in order to see how the shoes were doing. I told them that they were rapidly becoming my favorite pair and I thanked him for giving them to me, as I had finally figured out my Alden size!  It was at this point that I decided to start saving up for the shell cordovan penny loafer, as it was not only the shoe that stood out to me in all the Drake’s pictures but because I knew for a fact that I would wear them all the time.

As you all know I have a pretty full closet/shoe collection at this point. Having multiple pieces means that each one gets a chance to rest and not fall apart (this is mainly true with shirts and shoes, hence why I they’ve lasted so long).  So, this means that saving up for shell cordovan pennys (a $730~ investment) wasn’t exactly out of reach.  It mainly meant that I had to hold off on going to flea markets or copping eBay pieces, but I’ve honestly stopped doing that for a while as I’ve already obtained a few things I’ve wanted for a while (namely a cotton suit and Ring Jacket).  Pretty soon, I was in a good place financially to great the Aldens full strap penny in Color 8 shell cordovan.

I messaged Mack and asked him if I could place an order with him. He then told me that he was out of my size and the factory actually has them on back order, so I wouldn’t receive them for a month or so.  I told him that was fine and to send me an invoice whenever he receives his newest shipment.  To my surprise (again) he said that I could have them free of charge, mentioning that he was elated that I was having such a fun time with my Aldens and that it made him happy to play a part in my menswear journey.  Obviously I was ecstatic, but I told him that I had already saved up for the shoes and had no problem paying for them on my own (especially as they are a standard Alden model and not a Brogue collaboration). Mack stressed that it was no problem, simply asking for me to include him in the story whenever I finally wrote about the whole experience.

The second surprise came two weeks later, when Mack said that the factory had finished his order early and as a result, I’d get my shoes even quicker! I got the precious Aberdeen full straps and fell in love immediately. The shape was everything I ever wanted, being elegant yet utilitarian; it also helps that I finally knew what my size was, as the 6.5Ds I tried during other trips now appeared to be too small or “scrunched”.   The Color 8 is damn good, providing a rich, dark burgundy-brown that really makes me question why even own black loafers anymore (the answer lies in being punk).  I was elated out of my mind.

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They’re so dark!

Like the Harvey tassel loafers, these pennys have a clunky feel to them, which again plays into the appeal of bluchers and my recent drive to make things a bit punky.  The welt and overall stitching has a “heavy” appearance, which is probably necessary for the tough shell cordovan, but it really helps to contrast against the slipper look of the shoe.  Right away, you can see how superior it is to my AE Randolphs, which were probably the epitome of an elegant loafer in my wardrobe at the time. They’re similar in shape, but the Alden vamp is lower and has much better finishing.

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Unlike my round toe LHS-copies (the AE Waldens), these Aldens were absolutely perfect for tailoring.  This is mainly due to the last and the dark color, helping provide an elegant loafer that isn’t too fashion-y as one’s I’ve seen before.  Chase has told me time and again that Alden’s calfskin is underrated, but honestly, I love the deep richness of the shell cordovan.  In my eyes, it helps anchor down an outfit, as a good shoe does; most of my shoes have been on the light side (even the burgundy ones) and end up making things a bit too casual and light hearted.  Compared to everything else, the shell cordovan full straps feel like a real big boy shoe.

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Now the dark color also works well with more casual fits, again acting as an anchor of sorts.  In addition, it also provides a nice contrast to white socks + light cords and blue jeans, not necessarily in a “formal” sense but almost echoing the punk aspect.  I like to liken it to when people wear their Doc Martens with light wash/faded jeans rather than the typical black jean.

I’ve worn them a lot, with both casual and formal outfits during every season.

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Shell cordovan, faded denim, and Somi Somi!

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The dark purple-brown color is so good.

Now there’s nothing wrong with these penny loafers and all their full strap glory, but I knew that there was still something missing: tassels. After wearing these pennys for quite a while, I found myself missing the elegant-yet-casual charm of tassel loafers.  Becoming accustomed to the beautiful almond shape of the Aberdeen last suddenly made my burdundy AE Graysons look unappealing. It was time to upgrade them.

So I saved and saved until I was able to purchase Color 8 shell cordovan tassel loafers from Alden through The Bloke (before they closed during quarantine).  They gave me a slight discount (which basically meant no tax) and I got it in about two weeks!

Right away, they became my new favorite shoe. The tassel just has a different charm to it that lends itself to be worn with a variety of things; unlike the penny, it doesn’t have overt ivy connotations, which I like. Even though I haven’t been able to go out much this summer, I’ve worn them as much as I could, with both full pants and shorts.

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Conclusion/Recap

The full shoe collection (just missing my Vans and Killshots down below)

Listen to the Podcast!

I can’t believe I ever thought that shoes were unimportant (or at least compared to tailoring), but as always, we have Drake’s, The Armoury, and all the heavy hitters of menswear to thank for this.  Life can’t be lived in oxfords; it’s fun to have a variety, as each provide a different vibe and at times, a totally new outfit.  It’s mainly thanks to eBay and the affordable, but reasonably well-built nature of Allen Edmonds that I was able to amass the decent collection you’ve come to know from my posts. But even after writing close to 5k words, I actually don’t think of myself as a shoe guy.

Yes, I may have a few different oxfords and bluchers/derbies, but I think that overall, I really liked wearing loafers.  As most menswear guys will tell you, loafers are easy to wear and go with almost anything.  However, I started to get more and more specific with my style, opting for approximations of the Drake’s/Alden style with my AE purchases.  Soon, I realized that Alden was probably the way to go if I wanted to really get the right look I was after.  It’s also an American Ivy staple, revered by people all over the world.

Luckily having a decent shoe collection meant that investing wasn’t something imperative, but spending willy-nilly wasn’t going to get me to that Alden stage.  They weren’t bad shoes, but they were the basic end, with each one not “perfect”.  However, I thought that was just the struggle with OTR shoes, as you can’t really tailor footwear.

I still maintain that I’d rather have a great sportcoat than a great pair of shoes, only if I had access to my currently existing wardrobe. But as my wardrobe buying died down, it seemed time to finally grab the Aldens.  Almost as if by miracle, Mack of Brogue gifted me two amazing pairs for me to finally reach my grail goals. And it’s something I will never take for granted and will treasure the rest of my life.  Aldens are notorious for that quality.

Overall, it’s a very similar experience to when I bought my Ring Jacket Balloon.  Firstly, it it definitely marks a mature-stage in menswear, akin to getting your first real custom piece (like when I got my bespoke shirts and suits from Ascot Chang).  The quality and craftsman ship is miles ahead from anything, even compared to vintage (despite vintage also being made well), simply because it’s new and prestine.

But the main thing is basically, at a certain point, you can’t get what you really want through thrifting or buy second hand. And those details are is certainly worth saving for!  Obviously for some, Allen Edmonds are just fine (and they also last a while), but when you get to the nitty gritty (at least for me) you’ll learn that a specific brand is the only way to get that.  And unfortunately (or fortunately?), I was hooked on Aldens.

After wearing my Aldens for a bit, it’s very clear that Aldens exist on a different level than my AEs.  Not only was it a matter of pre-owned vs new (it is nice to break in something myself for once), but the fit and construction were far superior.  The Aberdeen last in a 7D is perfect for my feet and haven’t given me issues so far; the 7Ds in my AE’s all fit a bit weirdly on me, with even one Grayson pair fitting different than the other! Obviously I don’t have much suede or shell cordovan to compare them to, but so far they are absolutely amazing, with the shell cordovan in particular being my go-to for every outfit I can think of.  I think an addiction is forming (Mack even boasts a large collection of Aldens).

Now I’m not sure what the future holds!  Alden is already well regarded amongst shoemakers, with the main differentiating factor is the approach to lasts or the handmade quality.  Most menswear guys opt for Carminas (in a similar price point) simply due to shape.  Or you move on to Crockett & Jones even to Saint Crispins for an even better quality.  In the end, it’s all about details you want out of your shoes, similar to how you go to different makers due to their lapels or house cut.  And for the first time, I finally had an idea of what I wanted my shoe wardrobe to look like.

Overall, I feel like I’ve finally matured a stage in my menswear journey in a sense.  I never felt that my AE’s were particularly bad or shameful, but Alden has a bit of prestige that I would be remiss not to comment on.    For now, I think slowly upgrading my other shoes to Alden will be a good move, as I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like graduating as I tend to move away from overly artistic/elegant footwear.   Maybe a similar step up will be Crockett, but I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. I now have plenty of Alden loafers that will get me through all of the outfits I can currently compose.

Again, a big thank you to Mack and Brogue for their extraordinarily generous gifts. These Aldens will always have a special place in my heart, not because they are totally “Ethan style” but because they came from a good friend who has been an inspiring part of my journey in this fun little fashion niche.  And obviously, without their gifts, I wouldn’t have been able to fully commit to Alden and buy them on my own, as I have with my beloved Color 8 shell tassels.

Always a pleasure,

@EthanMWong

Q&A

Q:  Hi gents, big fan of your podcast. 1) I wanted to know your thoughts on the podcast of Bruce Boyer- unbuttoned. Specifically the narrator saying that Neapolitan style was actually influenced from American styles.

A:  I’m not too sure on the actual history of non-American menswear, but there are similarities in terms of softness (at the very least).  I’m sure Italians had more to say on the subject of quarters, shoulder pleating, and lapels, but I can see what he’s referring to.  We default to Bruce on this one.

Q:  2) I loved the segment around rules. What are your opinions are round YouTube sites such as gentlemen’s gazette, real men real style and teaching men’s style. As in do you rate them for the content their sharing?

A:  Read this article and listen to this podcast episode.

Submit your own questions and stories here!

17 comments

  1. Shem Teo · January 6

    Ethan where is that yellow mustard linen shirt sleeve shirt from?

    Like

    • Ethan M. Wong · January 7

      Hey Shem, the linen shirt is from Uniqlo!

      Like

      • Tanner Ortery · January 8

        What are the pants in that same outfit?

        Like

  2. Luca N. · January 6

    As far as I know, in the terrier Drakes pic these are JM Weston a very premium brand from France. Model 180 they’re still pretty popular in parisian avenues. Ask Gauthier Borsarello! You are a lucky guy and I will love to get my self a pair of Alden loafers too

    Like

    • Ethan M. Wong · January 7

      Ooo, good note! I totally thought Michael Hill only wore paraboots and Alden. So that makes sense!

      Like

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