Allen Edmonds Park Avenue Cap Toe Oxford: Is It Worth It? – Iconic American Dress Shoe


Welcome back to the Gentleman’s Gazette!
In today’s video, we’ll discuss whether an iconic American dress shoe, the Park
Avenue from Allen Edmonds, is worth your money or not. Today’s video is another
installment in our ongoing series, is it worth it?
where we take an in-depth look at the history and quality of various menswear
and luxury brands, you can find the full playlist here. This video will focus on
what is perhaps the standard to which all other American dress shoes are
compared, the Park Avenue from Allen Edmonds. Before we go over the shoe
itself though, let’s start with a brief history of the company. In 1922, Elbert W.
Allen Sr. founded a shoe company in Belgium, Wisconsin. Ralph Spiegel was an
initial investor and partner to Allen but he was later bought out by William
Edmonds. Therefore, the company was christened Allen Edmonds. The company
quickly gained notoriety for their innovative manufacturing processes such
as removing nails and metal shanks from their construction to create a more
flexible and lightweight shoe, referred to as Osteopathic in its early years of
production. The shank of an Allen Edmonds shoe would often be made of wood to
maintain durability while increasing comfort. After providing shoes to the US
Army and Navy during World War II, Allen Edmonds gained a major following as many
of the soldiers from these branches of the military became lifelong customers
of the brand. Thereafter, founder Elbert Allen died in 1946 at which time, his son
Elbert Jr. took over control of the company. He was followed in turn by his
brother Boyd in 1968 and then by John Stollenwerk in 1980. The original factory
in Belgium, Wisconsin burned to the ground in January of 1984. Following both
a literal and metaphorical rebuild, Allen Edmonds opened
a factory in nearby Port Washington, Wisconsin where they still operate today.
We’re showing some photos here from Raphael’s trip to the factory but if
you’d like to see some video footage, you can check out these offerings from the
Kavalier and the Elegant Oxford, here. In 1987, the subsidiary company Woodlore
was launched, manufacturing shoe trees and other accessories. The 1990s were a
period of great growth and expansion for Allen Edmonds during which time, they
purchased the main shoe company of Lewiston, Maine and began to diversify
their product range incorporating other products such as umbrellas. In 2003, the
company invested 1 million dollars to refit their factory in order to cut down
on production costs. This may have been assigned that the boom of the 90s was
coming to an end. By 2006, they were again concerned with rising manufacturing
costs and wanted to enter other shoe markets. As such, they closed their
Factory in Lewiston, Maine and opened a factory in the Dominican Republic. While
the factory in Port Washington still produces the classic lines of dress
shoes in house, some of the other lines such as boat shoes are now produced in
the Dominican Republic. Additionally, some leathers for other
models are cut in the Dominican Republic and then assembled in the United States.
Also in 2006, 90% of the company’s shares were purchased by
Minneapolis based investment firm, Goldner Hawn Johnson and Morrison for
100 million dollars. In 2013, the company was acquired by private equity firm,
Brentwood Associates and in 2016, Brentwood sold it to shoe conglomerate,
Caleres for 255 million dollars. The current president today is Malcolm
Robinson who has previously worked for a variety of other menswear brands
including Phillips-Van Heusen. Today, Allen Edmonds pride themselves on their
history and status as an iconic American shoe company. Ronald Reagan, George H. W.
Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush are just some of the many American
presidents who have worn Allen Edmonds shoes and Park Avenues, in particular.
Allen Edmonds also differentiates itself from many other shoe companies by
offering a recrafting service whereby customers can send in old or worn pairs
of Allen Edmonds shoes to be largely rebuilt for a fee. As part of this recrafting, the welt will be replaced and a new cork lining inserted, the soles, heels,
and laces will also be replaced and the uppers will be polished. So long as there
are no deep cracks or tears in the leather of the uppers and linings, Allen
Edmonds will generally be able to recraft a shoe two or three times. While
you could, of course, take a pair of Allen Edmonds shoes to your local cobbler to
be repaired, sending it to Allen Edmonds means that the shoe will be stretched
over the original last shape again ensuring that it maintains its original
dimensions. Despite Allen Edmond’s heritage and
reputation for quality, however, they do find themselves today at a bit of a
crossroads. Their attempts in recent years to reach a younger, less formal
clientele with more avant-garde designs haven’t necessarily fared well. This
approach also alienated some longtime customers meaning that Allen Edmonds was
somewhat stuck in the middle. Also, other longtime buyers and fans within the
menswear community both on online forums and YouTube, among other places, have
begun to notice increasing issues with quality control. So with all that said
then, let’s take a look at their signature model, the Park Avenue, this is
a lace-up cap toe Oxford dress shoe. Allen Edmonds
refers to it on their website as a cap toe balmoral. While Balmoral is a term
often used, especially in America, to refer to Oxfords, it most technically
refers only to a kind of boot. You can find our article on that subject, here.
And what’s an Oxford? The shortest answer is this, Oxford shoes have a closed
lacing system where the vamp is sewn on to the quarter
whereas derby shoes have an open lacing system where the quarters are sewn onto
the vamp. If you would like to learn more about any of this terminology, you can
find our video on the differences in shoe styles here and our article on the
anatomy of a dress shoe here. Like many models of Allen Edmonds shoes, the Park
Avenues are Goodyear welted meaning that the uppers are stitched to a cork filled
welt and then to the sole. The Park Avenue receives an assembly method that
Allen Edmonds refers to as their 360-degree bench welt construction. A 360
degree welt holds no real advantage over the more conventional 270 degree welt, in
terms of quality, but it does allow Allen Edmonds to more easily replace the welt
and the sole when shoes are being recrafted. The shoes feature a single oak sole with rubber top lifts on the heel, lined calfskin leather uppers
made from premium horween leather, and six pairs of eyelets for the laces. They are
welted on the 65 last which is Allen Edmonds’ most popular shape and also used
for many other models including the closely-related
fifth avenue. This particular last is known for being slightly longer than the
typical American dress shoe last adding some sleekness to the overall shape. With
that said though, the overall styling of the shoe is very traditionally American.
While it’s not exactly chunky or unattractive, the shape isn’t nearly as
refined as what you might see from many other British or Italian shoemakers
today. In addition to this, the toe cap is a good deal shorter than many other
brands. For today’s video, we purchased a new pair of shoes online directly from
Allen Edmonds for a retail price of $395. We decided to go with black which is
perhaps the most signature and conservative shade. In addition to this
new pair, we’re also featuring a pair in brown that I’ve personally owned for
about a year now. My pair are factory seconds meaning that I purchased them at
a discount with the understanding that they didn’t necessarily meet the quality
control standards to be sold at full price, I got my pair for 250 dollars.
Furthermore, as I have poor balance due to a disability, I had rubber half soles
added to my shoes by a local cobbler. Allen Edmonds does offer a variety of
other sole styles in addition to standard leather including dainite
rubber. Overall, we found the workmanship on this new pair of shoes to be of high
quality. Stitching on the uppers was uniform with a pleasing stitch density
and very few loose thread ends and the welt stitching was largely uniform with
a few minor imperfections. There was a slight notch where the welt
meets the heel on the left shoe but this wasn’t major. The leather did have
creases or imperfections in some areas but these were all quite minor and could
likely be covered or even removed with proper care and polishing over time. One
somewhat unattractive feature is the slight hump where the vamp meets the toe
cap, this could be mitigated during production by skiving or trimming away
at the underside of the leather at the seam to a greater degree. The sides of
the soles received a uniform black painting that didn’t greatly spill over
onto the undersides of the soles. My factory second pair did have more
imperfections in the leather of the uppers and the soles and some uneven
stitching on the welt. Still, this was to be expected given that they were factory
seconds and they’ve been holding up well over a year’s worth of occasional wear.
Also, here’s a brief word on the overall quality control issues we alluded to
earlier, while we didn’t experience any major defects with the pair we purchased
for today’s video and I also didn’t experience anything major with my
factory second pair, it’s becoming an increasingly shared opinion in online
menswear spaces that Allen Edmonds has begun to cut back on quality control to
some degree. This should be taken with a grain of
salt, however, as demand for premium quality calfskin continues to increase
worldwide and even reputable brands like horween can sometimes struggle to find
enough perfect leather pieces for every single pair of shoes they produce. Other
brands, for example, fellow American company, Alden, have managed to keep up
their extremely exacting quality standards. With this though, their prices
are substantially higher, as much as $600 per pair and discounts on their shoes
are rare. So you may have to be a bit more cautious when buying from Allen
Edmonds today but we’re not going to go so far as to suggest that the overall
quality of their product has dramatically decreased. With that said
though, the Kavalier has also done a video on the current state of Allen
Edmonds as a company today and you can find it here. Regarding fit and comfort
of the Park Avenues, we’ll start with my own personal pair since I’ve obviously
worn them quite a bit more. I will say that they did have a bit of a break-in
period, perhaps two or three wears, where I did find them to be slightly
uncomfortable, particularly in the heels where I experienced some irritation and
mild blistering. After this initial break-in period though, I’ve had no
further issues and I now find my shoes to be quite comfortable. I wear a size 8
and a half D in most dress shoes and that’s the size of both my personal pair
of Park Avenues and the ones we purchased for the video. I find that both
pairs fit relatively well though the quarters do gap somewhat and there is a
bit of space in the heel. I could certainly try a different fit, in fact,
one point of pride for Allen Edmonds is the wide variety of different fit
options they offer. Many models will range all the way from size 5 Triple A
at the smallest and narrowest to 15 Triple E at the largest and widest. I was
fitted to a size 8 and 1/2 D, however, when I visited an Allen Edmonds store
locally so it may just be that the 65 last on which the Park
Avenue is built isn’t the ideal last shape for my foot. As a side note here,
I’ll also mention that I do own a handful of other pairs of Allen Edmonds
shoes in different styles and made on different lasts and I’ve found that the
initial break-in period and overall fit of the shoe has varied somewhat from
pair to pair. After these varying break-in periods though, I have again
found that the shoes fit well overall and are generally quite comfortable.
Raphael also owns a handful of Allen Edmonds shoes, as well as boots, and his
experience has varied from pair to pair. Some pairs he likes more than others. Now,
for our main question of the video then, is a pair of Park Avenues from Allen
Edmonds worth your money or not? Ultimately, it’s likely going to depend
on your budget as well as your taste. As we said before, Allen Edmonds currently
sells Park Avenues on their website for a retail price of $395 though they do
often run sales so you should be able to find them for less. The shoes are well
made with no major flaws and a durable construction. If you properly care for
them and wear them in rotation with other shoes, they should last you for a
good many years. Remember also that you can send them back to the factory in
Port Washington for around a hundred to a hundred and fifty dollars per pair to
have them re– crafted extending their life even further. Even so, their overall
look is definitely conservative and not quite as elegant as some other British
or Italian models that you might find today. If you’re looking for a more
flattering silhouette at a similar price point, you might want to consider
spending your money elsewhere. Speaking personally, I don’t mind the slightly
stodgy or old-fashioned silhouette of the shoes, in fact, I find some more
modern European models to be too bold so this isn’t a downside for me. If you
haven’t purchased from Allen Edmonds before and you’d like to try out some of
their styles including the Park Avenue, you might want to do as I did
and try factory seconds first. Currently, seconds aren’t available on the Allen
Edmonds website all the time but you will find them occasionally. If you do
decide to sign up for their email list, they’ll notify you when seconds go on
sale. So while they may not be the most elegant dress shoes on the market today
and quality control is perhaps a bit more of a gamble than it was in past
years, the models from Allen Edmonds and the Park Avenue in particular stand as
quality American dress shoes. They’re durable, comfortable, recraftable, and
made in the USA with a few exceptions on each of these points. Are they the best
shoe on the market today? Not necessarily but they are a dependable shoe that
should serve you well as a sort of base model and for that reason, we think they
are worth it. in today’s video I am of course wearing a pair of Allen Edmonds
Park Avenue cap toe Oxfords. these are the brown models that I’ve had for about
a year now. to go for a more conservative and traditional look I’ve chosen to pair
them with a charcoal Brown suit that features a fine pinstripe in tan and
light blue the jacket is ventless and the trousers have pleats as well as
suspender buttons as such I’m wearing suspenders today which happen to also be
blue harmonizing with the overall yellow and blue color palette which I’ve got
going I’m also wearing a pastel yellow dress shirt with French cuffs in which
I’m wearing the gold-plated sterling silver Eagle Claw cufflinks from Fort
Belvedere featuring lapis lazuli as the stone the cufflinks harmonized well with
my other accessories which are also from Fort Belvedere these include my
boutonniere which is an Edelweiss model my socks which are Shadow striped models
in navy and yellow my madder silk tie also in navy with a repeating diamond
motif in red buff and orange and my silk wool blend pocket square in a color
we’re calling antique gold ochre featuring a pattern of printed geometric
medallion in beige red and blue with a cream
contrast edge you can find all of the accessories I’m wearing in today’s
outfit including the cufflinks tie pocket square boutonniere and socks in
the Fort Belvedere shop

local_offerevent_note February 11, 2020

account_box Branden Gomez

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