Friday Rant: Shoe Lessons — If You’re Not a Slave to Fashion, Shell Cordovan is the Way to Go

I've written before on Spend Matters about my mini-obsession with high quality shoes. There is no better example of spend management in the home than paying more upfront for a good pair of shoes and keeping and maintaining them for decades or even a lifetime. I personally have two favorite, made-in-America shoe companies: Alden and Allen Edmonds. The former tends to be uber-conservative in style and breaking in a pair can take months -- sometimes years. Yet they last forever. Allen Edmonds at least makes the effort of pretending to be fashionable (though they're not). I personally have come around to believing that Allen Edmonds are a bit more comfortable -- at least for the first five years of ownership -- though they're not the brand I'd go to war in with a single pair.

Most of my shoes are 15 years old and have been resoled 6-7 times each (a few pairs are in the shop right now, actually). In Chicago, I use the neighborhood "Greek guy", a cobbler on Broadway in the Lakeview neighborhood who does a great job). I've never thrown out a pair, thanks in part to his handiwork (in between the exceptional factory recraftings). I just can't bring myself to do it. Granted, my look is most certainly stodgy and not fashionable in the least. Yet I also know the shoes that I wear most workdays will last longer than most new construction residential houses.

My toughest shoes are made of shell cordovan (horse leather). I can vouch for its durability versus any other leather in the market. There's only one tannery left in the US for this kind of leather and both Alden and Allen Edmonds do a wonderful job with it. I currently have five pairs of cordovans, the first which my family bought for me when I was in college and interviewing for my first real job. The last I bought a few years ago.

Earlier this week, I sent a note to about a dozen of my old school friends telling them about the great benefits of cordovans and suggesting, while expensive, at least on a unit cost basis, they would make a great holiday present to oneself. One person wrote back seconding my recommendation, noting that he, too, has a pair of them, and that they were "great shoes" especially if you have wide feet (the Allen Edmonds in his case). Yet he also shared a useful anecdote as well. To wit, "cordovan is made from a membranous muscle just under the hide of the rump of a horse. This means, when you own a pair of these shoes you can tell anyone who will listen that your shoes are made from 'horse's ass'. You'd think it would get old, but it never does!"

If I've not convinced you yet about the benefits of paying an upfront premium to deck out your feet in horse's derriere, take a look for yourself, below. For the first link, you need to select each shoe and select the cordovan leather to see the shoe (yet all of the styles are available).

Allen Edmonds Cordovan Shoes

Alden Cordovan Shoes (the link is to Alden cordovans on Sherman Brothers' website. Sherman Brothers is the store I got my first pair from back in college. It's on a back alley street in Philadelphia -- or at least it used to be.)

Check back to see next week's rant... I've asked Sheena Moore, Spend Matters' editor, who is far more fashionable than me, to offer her on take on Spend Management and women's fashion/shoes.

Jason Busch

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