Sunday, January 31, 2010

StylePointer rates American shoemakers

All right, it's gotta be the shoes! They're usually among the first things that are noticed about a person. When it comes to professional dress for men, a well-made shoe is all-important, for comfort's sake if nothing else.

Not even the brand name can be more important than comfort. Certain shoe lasts aren't for everyone. I have spent more money on name brands where I should have paid attention to how well the shoe fits. Doc Martens of England, for example, are really durable, but the last is too wide for my foot, which I consider to be a medium (D) width.

Same with Alden, perhaps the best in U.S.-made cordovan shoes; too wide for me. I usually choose a C width in Aldens.

Johnston & Murphy? Another great shoe; another wide last. These also last a long time and are a sound investment for those whose feet fit the shoes.

There are three U.S. shoemakers that work best for me:

Cole-Haan has lasts that fit like clockwork. The company was bought by Nike in the late 1980s, and has since improved the comfort level of its shoe offerings, though some of its designs are less aesthetically pleasing than its classic predecessors.

Allen-Edmonds is a staple in consistency, offering rubber as well as leather soles. I recently have found discontinued models (like the Mapleton) that are incredibly comfortable.

The early H.S. Trask models are unbelievable with respect to its use of bison leather and rubber soles. The Gallatin oxfords are nothing short of stellar. I purchased my first pair in the '90s in Philadelphia, and I still have them.

If I had to my top five U.S. shoemakers, it would look something like this:

1. Allen-Edmonds
2. H.S. Trask
3. Cole-Haan
4. Alden
5. Johnston & Murphy

In an upcoming Style Points entry, I will give my top five English shoemakers.

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