Wednesday, September 16, 2009


May be a bit long… so if you do want to read it you might also want to grab some popcorn.
They’re an older pair of shoes, probably from the 1950s going by the logo inside. I have a lot of friends that wear vintage shoes, they were made in a day when men wore leather soles as he de facto standard, and they are always a safe bet when it comes to buying quality on a budget.
Because of the turn toward sneakers over the last 40 years, the leather soled shoe industry hasn’t really faired well, yet I can’t get past the nostalgia of a leather sole. Nothing is better for dancing (and I dance at the drop of a hat), and they tend to give you about 20 times more wear than any rubber soled shoe, that can't be resoled, on the market.
With the decline of the leather sole there have remained two stalwart companies that have fought the trend by continuing to mass-produce well made dress shoes in the US. One of those is Alden and the other is Allen Edmonds.
Now to the point...

The “Strawfut” A good breathable summer shoe.

I received these shoes in a dilapidated and torn state. I like them for several reasons, one of the biggest is because they are Allen Edmonds. I have a closet full of Allen Edmonds -- modern Allen Edmonds. When the chance arose to own a vintage pair, a pair that looked pretty unique… well I couldn’t turn it down.
Going by the older style Allen Edmonds logo inside I'd guessed they were from the 1950s (yet I could be wrong) and a time when the company made a summer shoe that could breathe. Recent summer models are completely lined in leather which tends to defeat the purpose of having a woven leather or fabric in the construction. These were truly open to the air and functionally cool to wear. The leather lining is in the heel and the toe and in between is an open breathing nylon mesh.
The last (wooden form on which shoe was shaped) used has a very wide forefoot and narrow heel, oddly good for my foot since I have very hobbit proportioned feet, wide in front and narrow in the heel. I tend to have a lot of tight fitting shoes that don’t grip my heel, so when I find a shoe that does I buy it, and vintage shoes tend to favor my footshape.
Most Allen Edmonds lasts today are much narrower in the toe box when compared to the "Strawfut" which obviously makes me wish they still used the last on which it was made. Unfortunately I recently heard that Allen Edmonds had a fire several years back that destroyed many of their old lasts, so remaking them (if they had the inclination) might be an impossibility. I do wish however that they would return these beauties to their lineup if only for the sake of having a breathable and extremely comfortable flexible shoe.
Ask Andy and AE's CEO
After a while of having them sit in my closet next to my wearable shoes I started thinking about getting the tear in the heel fixed, but first I wanted to post them on Andy Gilchrest’’s clothing website to see what other people thought of the style.
Fortunately, the CEO of Allen Edmonds frequents the site, saw the shoes and sent me a message asking if I’d send them in so he and the head of manufacturing could see the shoes firsthand to study the design and refurbish the shoe for me. I agreed and sent them to him direct. Soon after he gave me a ring and I was on the phone with Paul (the CEO) and Jim (the VP of operations). We talked about the style. Why the Allen Edmonds used the nylon mesh instead of a natural material back then (a natural material would have become brittle and have worn out by now), if they could fix the tear in the heel and whether or not they should be resoled.
A few weeks later the shoes came back. As soon as they were in the door they went on my feet (what do you want? I was in a rush and needed a snazzy pair of wingtips for going out), so the pics of the refurbishment had to wait. While I was out, I finally got to feel how the shoes were on my feet. With their straw mesh they breath like no other shoe I own, yet look and wear like a regular dress shoe. They also win extremely high points for being flexible beyond any shoe I’ve ever worn.
Allen Edmonds repaired the tear in the back of the upper, they replaced the heel and gave the leather a new lease on life, and gave me a shoe that I’ll covet and maybe wear sparingly seeing that I tend to treat my dress shoes like most people treat jeans.
I’d like to thank Paul and Jim at Allen Edmonds for returning these in great shape, and let them know as well that I’m wearing them while I write this and that they are ready to hit a dance floor in Los Angeles following this last word.