Being a guy is easy -- at least from a shoe standpoint. I have four pairs of business shoes, three of which are all but identical in fit and style (in the case of one pair, the color is different than the other two). Contrast that with my wife who just about devotes a refrigerator size place in her closet for her foot attire and you'll see how easy in comparison I have it (even though I'm not supporting Nordstrom's stock price like she is, albeit). One of the keys to keeping the size -- and cost -- of my shoe wardrobe down has been supplier rationalization, focusing on total lifecycle value rather than simply unit cost or high fashion. And to this end, I've chosen to always purchase Alden Cordovans -- just about the only shoe you can get in North America made from the retired skin of horses who are past their prime (rather than raised for production like so many other animal skins).
The advantage of Shell Cordovans -- besides the social and environmental impact of using a leather that was humanely treated and not bred for slaughter -- is that they wear extremely well. In fact, I purchased my first two pairs over ten years ago as I was getting out of graduate school. It was a huge sum to pay at the time -- roughly $300 a pair, as I recall. Since then, the price has increased higher than the CPI rate owing largely to the cost of sturdy skins, relative to other models in the Alden line, all of which have changed little since the Kennedy administration, guaranteeing they won't go out of style -- or be in style, as the case may be. In fact, I recently saw a pair for over $500 -- a jaw jumping sum for a cheap bastard like myself. Still, even at this price, they're probably a bargain.
When you're as unhip as me, you care little about high fashion. I reckon that I've probably gotten each of the original two pairs resoled or partially resoled at least a dozen times. And now that they're looking a little bit, well, worn, I decided to send them back to the Alden factory for a complete recondition at the cost of $135 each including shipping (not to mention some spiffy shoe trees). After the restoration, I figure that I'll get a good twenty years of wear out of them in total -- an order of magnitude more than most owners of business shoes get. So perhaps that amount that seemed so high to a poor graduate student was an amazing bargain. Shoes are like any other category -- we should always look for the right solution based on the total cost of ownership rather than simply the unit acquisition cost. To wit, I feel bad for all those poor SOB classmates of mine -- many of whom went to Wall Street, so they can afford it -- who shelled out nearly as much as I did back in the day for Allen Edmonds, a poor Alden imitation, which have long since bit the dust.
- Jason Busch