I bought these AEs since I was looking for a pair of versatile dress shoes specifically for business travel. For me, this means a few things in particular.
Non-metallic construction. So no metal shank in the sole, which unfortunately rules out Alden shoes. This matters less in the US since travelers are required to remove their shoes going through airport security. But this is not the case in Europe, which means the metal shank in the shoes almost always triggers a secondary inspection or removal of the shoe and another pass through the metal detector.
Dry and wet weather handling. The other consideration is a rubber sole to deal with both dry and wet, rainy conditions. The new Crane rubber soles on these AE Madisons are similar to British Dainite soles but with horizontal treads. Since I travel light, I also prefer to bring a single pair of shoes, which leads me to the next consideration.
Color versatility. Although black shoes could fit the bill, they are less versatile in matching up to both a business suit and a more casual sports jacket. Hence, the dark brown calfskin.
It also goes without saying that I was looking for shoes with good value. Certainly on sale and even at full retail, I think these Madisons are very good value.
But here's the other thing I've noticed in the last couple of years. In RTW, there is a much greater retail selection with new brands and/or diffusion lines from existing shoemakers. These include:
Among existing RTW makers, there has also been a reinvigoration of new models and lines by Alfred Sargent, Cheaney and Allen Edmonds.
On the bespoke side, one can get bespoke for just a few hundred euros. In Vienna for example, Maftei bespoke starts at about EUR 700. In Warsaw, veteran shoemaker Tadeusz Januszkiewicz makes bespoke shoes for around EUR 500. In Italy, one can find even more choices at a similar price point.