Welcome back to the Gentleman’s Gazette!In today’s video, we’ll discuss whether an iconic American dress shoe, the ParkAvenue from Allen Edmonds, is worth your money or not.
Today’s video is anotherinstallment in our ongoing series, is it worth it?where we take an in-depth look at the history and quality of various menswearand luxury brands, you can find the full playlist here.
This video will focus onwhat is perhaps the standard to which all other American dress shoes arecompared, the Park Avenue from Allen Edmonds.
Before we go over the shoeitself though, let’s start with a brief history of the company.
In 1922, Elbert W.
founded a shoe company in Belgium, Wisconsin.
Ralph Spiegel was aninitial investor and partner to Allen but he was later bought out by WilliamEdmonds.
Therefore, the company was christened Allen Edmonds.
The companyquickly gained notoriety for their innovative manufacturing processes suchas removing nails and metal shanks from their construction to create a moreflexible and lightweight shoe, referred to as Osteopathic in its early years ofproduction.
The shank of an Allen Edmonds shoe would often be made of wood tomaintain durability while increasing comfort.
After providing shoes to the USArmy and Navy during World War II, Allen Edmonds gained a major following as manyof the soldiers from these branches of the military became lifelong customersof the brand.
Thereafter, founder Elbert Allen died in 1946 at which time, his sonElbert Jr.
took over control of the company.
He was followed in turn by hisbrother Boyd in 1968 and then by John Stollenwerk in 1980.
The original factoryin Belgium, Wisconsin burned to the ground in January of 1984.
Following botha literal and metaphorical rebuild, Allen Edmonds openeda factory in nearby Port Washington, Wisconsin where they still operate today.
We’re showing some photos here from Raphael’s trip to the factory but ifyou’d like to see some video footage, you can check out these offerings from theKavalier and the Elegant Oxford, here.
In 1987, the subsidiary company Woodlorewas launched, manufacturing shoe trees and other accessories.
The 1990s were aperiod of great growth and expansion for Allen Edmonds during which time, theypurchased the main shoe company of Lewiston, Maine and began to diversifytheir product range incorporating other products such as umbrellas.
In 2003, thecompany invested 1 million dollars to refit their factory in order to cut downon production costs.
This may have been assigned that the boom of the 90s wascoming to an end.
By 2006, they were again concerned with rising manufacturingcosts and wanted to enter other shoe markets.
As such, they closed theirFactory in Lewiston, Maine and opened a factory in the Dominican Republic.
Whilethe factory in Port Washington still produces the classic lines of dressshoes in house, some of the other lines such as boat shoes are now produced inthe Dominican Republic.
Additionally, some leathers for othermodels are cut in the Dominican Republic and then assembled in the United States.
Also in 2006, 90% of the company’s shares were purchased byMinneapolis based investment firm, Goldner Hawn Johnson and Morrison for100 million dollars.
In 2013, the company was acquired by private equity firm, Brentwood Associates and in 2016, Brentwood sold it to shoe conglomerate, Caleres for 255 million dollars.
The current president today is MalcolmRobinson who has previously worked for a variety of other menswear brandsincluding Phillips-Van Heusen.
Today, Allen Edmonds pride themselves on theirhistory and status as an iconic American shoe company.
Ronald Reagan, George H.
Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W.
Bush are just some of the many Americanpresidents who have worn Allen Edmonds shoes and Park Avenues, in particular.
Allen Edmonds also differentiates itself from many other shoe companies byoffering a recrafting service whereby customers can send in old or worn pairsof Allen Edmonds shoes to be largely rebuilt for a fee.
As part of this recrafting, the welt will be replaced and a new cork lining inserted, the soles, heels, and laces will also be replaced and the uppers will be polished.
So long as thereare no deep cracks or tears in the leather of the uppers and linings, AllenEdmonds will generally be able to recraft a shoe two or three times.
Whileyou could, of course, take a pair of Allen Edmonds shoes to your local cobbler tobe repaired, sending it to Allen Edmonds means that the shoe will be stretchedover the original last shape again ensuring that it maintains its originaldimensions.
Despite Allen Edmond’s heritage andreputation for quality, however, they do find themselves today at a bit of acrossroads.
Their attempts in recent years to reach a younger, less formalclientele with more avant-garde designs haven’t necessarily fared well.
Thisapproach also alienated some longtime customers meaning that Allen Edmonds wassomewhat stuck in the middle.
Also, other longtime buyers and fans within themenswear community both on online forums and YouTube, among other places, havebegun to notice increasing issues with quality control.
So with all that saidthen, let’s take a look at their signature model, the Park Avenue, this isa lace-up cap toe Oxford dress shoe.
Allen Edmondsrefers to it on their website as a cap toe balmoral.
While Balmoral is a termoften used, especially in America, to refer to Oxfords, it most technicallyrefers only to a kind of boot.
You can find our article on that subject, here.
And what’s an Oxford? The shortest answer is this, Oxford shoes have a closedlacing system where the vamp is sewn on to the quarterwhereas derby shoes have an open lacing system where the quarters are sewn ontothe vamp.
If you would like to learn more about any of this terminology, you canfind our video on the differences in shoe styles here and our article on theanatomy of a dress shoe here.
Like many models of Allen Edmonds shoes, the ParkAvenues are Goodyear welted meaning that the uppers are stitched to a cork filledwelt and then to the sole.
The Park Avenue receives an assembly method thatAllen Edmonds refers to as their 360-degree bench welt construction.
A 360degree welt holds no real advantage over the more conventional 270 degree welt, interms of quality, but it does allow Allen Edmonds to more easily replace the weltand the sole when shoes are being recrafted.
The shoes feature a single oak sole with rubber top lifts on the heel, lined calfskin leather uppersmade from premium horween leather, and six pairs of eyelets for the laces.
They arewelted on the 65 last which is Allen Edmonds’ most popular shape and also usedfor many other models including the closely-relatedfifth avenue.
This particular last is known for being slightly longer than thetypical American dress shoe last adding some sleekness to the overall shape.
Withthat said though, the overall styling of the shoe is very traditionally American.
While it’s not exactly chunky or unattractive, the shape isn’t nearly asrefined as what you might see from many other British or Italian shoemakerstoday.
In addition to this, the toe cap is a good deal shorter than many otherbrands.
For today’s video, we purchased a new pair of shoes online directly fromAllen Edmonds for a retail price of $395.
We decided to go with black which isperhaps the most signature and conservative shade.
In addition to thisnew pair, we’re also featuring a pair in brown that I’ve personally owned forabout a year now.
My pair are factory seconds meaning that I purchased them ata discount with the understanding that they didn’t necessarily meet the qualitycontrol standards to be sold at full price, I got my pair for 250 dollars.
Furthermore, as I have poor balance due to a disability, I had rubber half solesadded to my shoes by a local cobbler.
Allen Edmonds does offer a variety ofother sole styles in addition to standard leather including dainiterubber.
Overall, we found the workmanship on this new pair of shoes to be of highquality.
Stitching on the uppers was uniform with a pleasing stitch densityand very few loose thread ends and the welt stitching was largely uniform witha few minor imperfections.
There was a slight notch where the weltmeets the heel on the left shoe but this wasn’t major.
The leather did havecreases or imperfections in some areas but these were all quite minor and couldlikely be covered or even removed with proper care and polishing over time.
Onesomewhat unattractive feature is the slight hump where the vamp meets the toecap, this could be mitigated during production by skiving or trimming awayat the underside of the leather at the seam to a greater degree.
The sides ofthe soles received a uniform black painting that didn’t greatly spill overonto the undersides of the soles.
My factory second pair did have moreimperfections in the leather of the uppers and the soles and some unevenstitching on the welt.
Still, this was to be expected given that they were factoryseconds and they’ve been holding up well over a year’s worth of occasional wear.
Also, here’s a brief word on the overall quality control issues we alluded toearlier, while we didn’t experience any major defects with the pair we purchasedfor today’s video and I also didn’t experience anything major with myfactory second pair, it’s becoming an increasingly shared opinion in onlinemenswear spaces that Allen Edmonds has begun to cut back on quality control tosome degree.
This should be taken with a grain ofsalt, however, as demand for premium quality calfskin continues to increaseworldwide and even reputable brands like horween can sometimes struggle to findenough perfect leather pieces for every single pair of shoes they produce.
Otherbrands, for example, fellow American company, Alden, have managed to keep uptheir extremely exacting quality standards.
With this though, their pricesare substantially higher, as much as $600 per pair and discounts on their shoesare rare.
So you may have to be a bit more cautious when buying from AllenEdmonds today but we’re not going to go so far as to suggest that the overallquality of their product has dramatically decreased.
With that saidthough, the Kavalier has also done a video on the current state of AllenEdmonds as a company today and you can find it here.
Regarding fit and comfortof the Park Avenues, we’ll start with my own personal pair since I’ve obviouslyworn them quite a bit more.
I will say that they did have a bit of a break-inperiod, perhaps two or three wears, where I did find them to be slightlyuncomfortable, particularly in the heels where I experienced some irritation andmild blistering.
After this initial break-in period though, I’ve had nofurther issues and I now find my shoes to be quite comfortable.
I wear a size 8and a half D in most dress shoes and that’s the size of both my personal pairof Park Avenues and the ones we purchased for the video.
I find that bothpairs fit relatively well though the quarters do gap somewhat and there is abit of space in the heel.
I could certainly try a different fit, in fact, one point of pride for Allen Edmonds is the wide variety of different fitoptions they offer.
Many models will range all the way from size 5 Triple Aat the smallest and narrowest to 15 Triple E at the largest and widest.
I wasfitted to a size 8 and 1/2 D, however, when I visited an Allen Edmonds storelocally so it may just be that the 65 last on which the ParkAvenue is built isn’t the ideal last shape for my foot.
As a side note here, I’ll also mention that I do own a handful of other pairs of Allen Edmondsshoes in different styles and made on different lasts and I’ve found that theinitial break-in period and overall fit of the shoe has varied somewhat frompair to pair.
After these varying break-in periods though, I have againfound that the shoes fit well overall and are generally quite comfortable.
Raphael also owns a handful of Allen Edmonds shoes, as well as boots, and hisexperience has varied from pair to pair.
Some pairs he likes more than others.
Now, for our main question of the video then, is a pair of Park Avenues from AllenEdmonds worth your money or not? Ultimately, it’s likely going to dependon your budget as well as your taste.
As we said before, Allen Edmonds currentlysells Park Avenues on their website for a retail price of $395 though they dooften run sales so you should be able to find them for less.
The shoes are wellmade with no major flaws and a durable construction.
If you properly care forthem and wear them in rotation with other shoes, they should last you for agood many years.
Remember also that you can send them back to the factory inPort Washington for around a hundred to a hundred and fifty dollars per pair tohave them re– crafted extending their life even further.
Even so, their overalllook is definitely conservative and not quite as elegant as some other Britishor Italian models that you might find today.
If you’re looking for a moreflattering silhouette at a similar price point, you might want to considerspending your money elsewhere.
Speaking personally, I don’t mind the slightlystodgy or old-fashioned silhouette of the shoes, in fact, I find some moremodern European models to be too bold so this isn’t a downside for me.
If youhaven’t purchased from Allen Edmonds before and you’d like to try out some oftheir styles including the Park Avenue, you might want to do as I didand try factory seconds first.
Currently, seconds aren’t available on the AllenEdmonds website all the time but you will find them occasionally.
If you dodecide to sign up for their email list, they’ll notify you when seconds go onsale.
So while they may not be the most elegant dress shoes on the market todayand quality control is perhaps a bit more of a gamble than it was in pastyears, the models from Allen Edmonds and the Park Avenue in particular stand asquality American dress shoes.
They’re durable, comfortable, recraftable, andmade in the USA with a few exceptions on each of these points.
Are they the bestshoe on the market today? Not necessarily but they are a dependable shoe thatshould serve you well as a sort of base model and for that reason, we think theyare worth it.
in today’s video I am of course wearing a pair of Allen EdmondsPark Avenue cap toe Oxfords.
these are the brown models that I’ve had for abouta year now.
to go for a more conservative and traditional look I’ve chosen to pairthem with a charcoal Brown suit that features a fine pinstripe in tan andlight blue the jacket is ventless and the trousers have pleats as well assuspender buttons as such I’m wearing suspenders today which happen to also beblue harmonizing with the overall yellow and blue color palette which I’ve gotgoing I’m also wearing a pastel yellow dress shirt with French cuffs in whichI’m wearing the gold-plated sterling silver Eagle Claw cufflinks from FortBelvedere featuring lapis lazuli as the stone the cufflinks harmonized well withmy other accessories which are also from Fort Belvedere these include myboutonniere which is an Edelweiss model my socks which are Shadow striped modelsin navy and yellow my madder silk tie also in navy with a repeating diamondmotif in red buff and orange and my silk wool blend pocket square in a colorwe’re calling antique gold ochre featuring a pattern of printed geometricmedallion in beige red and blue with a creamcontrast edge you can find all of the accessories I’m wearing in today’soutfit including the cufflinks tie pocket square boutonniere and socks inthe Fort Belvedere shop.