Like most people, when I got my first job out of college I had no money but I knew I needed to look the part at my job. That meant a decent suit off the rack, a few ties, a few pairs of dress pants and a pair of clunky dress shoes. I took note of the general styles on display at the office and industry at large but always with keeping a budget in mind. As time progressed, I became accustomed to the price ranges and where I could get the best deal for the professional clothes that I wanted.
After a few promotions and pay raises though, I started to notice that my wardrobe wasn’t always fitting in when meeting clients or with more senior managers. Although I had tried to improve my wardrobe over the years, taking time to find deals on name brands such as Versace or Yves Saint Laurent for my suits, but something still seemed to be lacking, especially in the shoe department. I decided to ask some acquaintances and coworkers who seemed pretty fashion savvy what types of shoes they were wearing.
Once I had gathered a few names that were a bit new to me, Ferragamo, Bally and Church’s among them, I set off to look for the price range for these shoes and some styles I would like to purchase. What I found made my eyes water; prices up into the thousands, the cheapest pairs being around $300-$400. There were outrageous prices for custom shoes from scratch, which I had never even considered. I was astounded, how could they be spending so much money on something that is under a desk or a table for most of the day?
My initial reaction was, no way, absolutely not. I am fine with spending my $100 at Aldo’s and I will keep that $300 extra and invest it and turn it into thousands later down the road. Despite my initial pull back, after a few days, I decided to do some impartial research on my own and investigate the question; why would anyone ever buy $300 shoes?
A few pages into my google search, a writer brought up the point that the cheap shoes just don’t last as long. I had to admit to myself that I did make it part of my annual budget to save some money for 1 or 2 new pairs of dress shoes every year. I also noticed, especially after it rained or I was inadvertently caught out in the snow, my dress shoes did not bounce back and quickly ended up in some sad state similar to the below.
The claim the writer had was that the more expensive shoes would last longer, I was skeptical. You hear this all the time when someone is trying to convince you to buy overpriced luxury products that you don’t need. So I decided to take a different route and figure out what made them so expensive in the first place and this is what I found.
What You Are Paying For
Goodyear Welting – This is a process that used to be done by hand and now can be done by machine but still requires much more time than cheaper less time consuming, types of construction. Basically the Goodyear welt is more water resistant and allows for a constant flow of air through the shoe, which keeps them ventilated, durable and strong. It also allows for the shoes to be easily resoled once worn down.
Cheap shoes will likely not have a leather sole, instead they will have a rubber sole. If they do have leather soles, they will be glued together to avoid the more expensive stitching process. Here is a visualization of what the actual construction of the Goodyear Welt looks like.
Full Grain Leather The best way to describe full grain leather is to describe what it is not. The antithesis of full grain leather is corrected grain leather. A great description I came across for corrected grain leather helped me to understand:
What is corrected grain leather? Well, most animal hides are imperfect. They have marks, scars, imperfections that make them unsuitable for use in shoes. You wouldn’t, after all, buy a shoe with a big scar on it. There are plenty of applications for leather which don’t require a perfect surface, but shoes do. So rather than use only the best portions of the hide for shoemaking, manufacturers literally sand off the surface of the hide. Then they build a new, chemical surface on top.
This chemical finish makes for a plastic like shine and the material will crease more severely, not factors that will make you want to have those shoes on one day in the board room.
Quality Craftsmanship – A lot of the cheap shoes are not only made with cheaper processes and cheaper material, they are made overseas in large factories in places like China and India where there can be quality issues. The focus in these factories is on quantity not quality so if you want a quality made shoe, you are likely going to have to buy one that has the more expensive traits above but also is made by someone being paid a little more (and maybe caring a little more) to make your shoe. Allen Edmund’s is considered the “starter brand” for good quality shoes and besides having full grain leather and Goodyear welting, all their shoes are made in the US which is one reason right off the bat that they cost a bit more.
The 3 factors above make for shoes that can last decades. This is really the factor that changed my mind. The economics of it are simple. Instead of buying new shoes every year for $100, you can buy $350 a pair of shoes and once every while, say every 2-3 years depending on how much you wear them, take them to have a new sole or heel put in. This in itself can be around $100 but over time you will have lowered your annual cost significantly. What pushed me over the edge was seeing this pair of Ferragamo shoes that this blogger had inherited from his uncle which were 30 years old!
So what to Get
So now that you understand the difference between $350 dollar shoes and $100 shoes, I think it is also helpful to keep you from getting carried away into the stratosphere of prices that are out there. So depending on the style, brand and particular needs you have I have broken the brands down here into price ranges to fit your needs.
Starter Brands – Allen Edmunds, Shipton & Heneage
Allen Edmunds is well known (in the New York City business community at least) for being the starter brand to high quality men’s dress shoes. The styles can be a bit plain but that can also keep the price down. I consider these more of a classic style shoe, which you can start your wardrobe with. Prices start around $280 to $350.
The second brand is one I don’t know as well personally but I came across after doing some research for this article. The British have horrid weather and have developed quality shoe construction over the years in order to be able to withstand all the conditions. For this reason you will find that many of the high end brands are British. There do seem to be some quality brands on the lower end of the cost spectrum such as Shipton & Heneage and it may be a good time to look into them considering the weakness of the pound after Brexit. The only downside with Shipton & Heneage (and maybe other shoe makers from Britain) is that you will have to order these directly from the online store as they are sold mostly only in Britain.
Mid High End – Salvatore Ferragamo, Bally, Gucci
This is where it starts to get a bit more contentious. Some would argue that these names belong in the high end as well as the middle end because they can range in price from $500 up to $2500 but I would argue these brands tend to be focused on displaying their name as much as they focus on quality. This is not necessarily a bad thing as many people want to be seen wearing a particular brand and those in the know will recognize particular features of a distinct brand but here I believe you are starting to get into the realm of trying to impress people rather than getting quality shoes. Don’t get me wrong, these brands still make very good high quality shoes that will last a long time with good care but just be conscious of what in addition to quality you may be paying for here.
I have heard some people say that Ferragamos feel like walking on air. I own 3 pairs and in all honesty, I don’t really feel the difference from any other high quality brand. I do enjoy that at this level, they tend to be more accommodating in terms of shoe size and customer service. Besides lengths of shoes they also offer wider and slimmer versions of the same size which is important to getting a comfortable fit.
High End – Church’s, George Cleverly, John Lobb, Crockett & Jones
Understated on the brand (no fancy buckles, recognizable logos etc.) but big on quality. There are people that swear by these brands and will argue ad nausea about which ones are better and why. Many of them offer the option to make your custom shoe for you after measuring your feet in their store. I have only seen these stores in places like 5th Avenue in New York and London. Otherwise you will have to order online. If you are paying this much for shoes though I would argue it’s worth the trip to New York or London to test them out yourself but I personally don’t consider this level of shoe necessary to have a quality dress shoe. Prices will range from $1300 to $2400 with custom shoes potentially being even more.
It is always up to you the consumer what type of shoe you would like to buy. If you live in a nice climate that doesn’t mess up your shoes as much as us here in New York and you don’t need all weather shoes, great. If you are happier knowing you only spend $70-$100 on shoes every few years, great, no judgement here. However, if economics and investing on looking the part (which has shown to have a small effect on people’s self-assuredness and potential to move up in a workplace) are important to you and you have the resources to do it, I would highly recommend looking into at least the starter brands.
If you work in a particular industry like banking or a particular firm within an industry that values high quality dress clothes such as these, take some time when you have a chance, to check out some of these brands, their style and how they look. Then take a look at the senior managers or people you may see on the street who look like they have some authority where they work, you may start to recognize some of these names.The information provided by www.cashchronicles.com is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice. You should consult with an attorney or other professional to determine what may be best for your individual needs. www.cashchronicles.com does not make any guarantee or other promise as to any results that may be obtained from using our content. No one should make any tax or investment decision without first consulting his or her own financial advisor or accountant and conducting his or her own research and due diligence. To the maximum extent permitted by law, www.cashchronicles.com disclaims any and all liability in the event any information, commentary, analysis, opinions, advice and/or recommendations prove to be inaccurate, incomplete or unreliable, or result in any investment or other losses. Content contained on or made available through the website is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice or investment advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed. Your use of the information on the website or materials linked from the Web is at your own risk.