If you need a pair of workhorse dress or dress casual shoes in this tough economy, read on.
For recrafting, all you need is a nearby Goodwill, Salvation Army or thrift shop and a little luck. If you have a favorite thrift shop, you've probably seen an occasional pair of Allen-Edmonds or Alden shoes. In the past, you might have passed on them, especially if they were a bit beaten up or scuffed. But think again if you're on a budget these days.
A brand new pair of AE shoes can retail for $325 (and more for Alden dress shoes). But you can buy those used AE shoes for $10 and send them to the AE Recrafting program for $95. Alden has a similar program through its retailers (as do many of the English shoemakers based in Northampton like Crockett & Jones and Edward Green but these will be pricier than the US makers).
You'll get back a pair of shoes that will be re-welted, re-soled, re-heeled and refinished. Depending on the original condition, you could get back a nearly new looking pair of shoes for about $200 less than retail. Here's an AE pair (bought new about a year ago) after it was recrafted by AE.
You might recognize this as the AE Thayer monk strap which uses the 8 last. The beauty of the AE recrafting program is that you can specify a different outsole from what it originally came with. In this case, I requested the Titan rubber outsole which is similar to the hard-wearing British Dainite sole.
One final note: Many members of the various men's clothing forums dismiss AE and Alden, finding them to lack the "elegance" and "style" of English or Italian makes. This is a bit sweeping. To my eye anyway, the AE 8 last, as shown above, is a perfectly fine and elegant last.
The other option of course is to breath new life in your worn out pair of Goodyear welted shoes by resoling them. You do have a pair of welted shoes I hope? You can go to the original maker as mentioned above (which is preferred since they work off the original last). Or you can ask an experienced cobbler to resole your shoes. A skilled cobbler can do an amazing job in restoring a pair of shoes as this Styleforum thread illustrates. If you don't know of a good cobbler locally, check the links below.
Not sure what kind of replacement outsole or heels you need? The UnionWorks website has a pretty exhaustive list of resoling options.
- AskAndy thread on Allen Edmonds recrafting
- AskAndy thread on resoling Brooks Bros Peal shoes
- Cobblestone resoling service (St. Louis)
- B. Nelson resoling service (New York) and an accompanying Styleforum thread
- Official Dainite website (aka Harboro Rubber) and Styleforum thread
- Shoe Service Institute of America - Need a cobbler but don't live in NY or St. Louis? Use the locator function on the SSIA website to find one in your city or state.
- Time Magazine article on thriving cobblers in the current economy - Interesting article that was published after I posted this entry