Finding Affordable Shoes

Shoes may or may not be the most important part of a man’s ensemble, but they can certainly be the veto point. A man can look sharp as a tack in a well-tailored suit, but if he’s wearing dull, square toe shoes, everything was for naught. Unfortunately, nice shoes are expensive. Even the ones commonly recommended as “entry level” brands will retail for $350 or more. So, in an effort to direct readers to where they can find well-made shoes for less, I’ve compiled a list of every place that I know of.

eBay: The most obvious is eBay. We have a customized search link you can use, but you can also employ other methods. Last week, for example, I talked about how Ralph Lauren shoes are some of the hidden gems on eBay, so long as you know how to look for them. The same goes for shoes made by Brooks Brothers. Theirs don’t get as bad as some in Ralph Lauren’s range, but you would still be wise to look for indicators of quality. You can also check out sausages234, an eBay seller who specializes in footwear.

Thrift stores: These will take a little more work than doing a search on eBay, but you could potentially walk away with some better deals. The key is in knowing where to thrift and how to spot quality. Use Jesse’s series on thrifting as a guide.

Good online retailers: There are two online retailers who consistently have some of the most competitive prices around - Pediwear and P.Lal. It would be smart to check with them before you purchase anything, as they’ll often offer price-matching guarantees. You can also check out A Fine Pair of Shoes. They sell really nice English models, and will discount much of their stock at the end of each season. Finally, Franco’s will often have shoes on sale. Right now there are a bunch of Rider Boots, which are very well made.

Online discount houses: Likewise, there are a bunch of online discount sites. Classic Shoes for Men, Shop the Finest, and Virtual Clotheshorse come to mind (though the last two focus more on the Italian variety). Sierra Trading Post also regularly stocks Trickers. You can knock 30% off or more if you sign up for their DealFlyer newsletter. Different coupons are released every day.

Affordable brands: There are probably more brands than ever before selling well-made, affordable shoes. Here’s a list:

  • Loake: Loake makes a few different lines, but the one that’s generally worth buying is their 1880 range, particularly the ones that are Goodyear welted and made with hard-bottom leather soles.
  • Charles Tyrwhitt: Many of Charles Tyrwhitt’s shoes are made by Loake or equivalent factories. Ignore the lure of sale prices, however. Charles Tyrwhitt’s stuff is always on sale.
  • Herring: I have no first hand experience with the line, but my understanding is that many of their shoes are also made by Loake (or, again, equivalent factories).
  • Meermin: One of my favorites of the lot. Their shoes are handwelted, which is believed to be a better construction method than Goodyear welting, and they have a semi-affordable made-to-order program. You can read a review I did of them here.
  • Shipton & Heneage: Shipton & Heneage sells shoes made by various well-respected manufacturers in England and Italy. Sometimes you’ll find shoes here selling for less than what the original manufacturers would have you pay. Sign up for their Discount Club to receive coupons.
  • Made in Maine: There are a bunch of quality shoe manufacturers in Maine. The first that comes to mind is Rancourt, who sells handsewn shoes at a very reasonable price. There’s also Town View Leather and Arrow Moccasins, both of whom also sell handsewn shoes, but mostly of the moccasin variety. Those give less foot support, but they can be good for short walks. Additionally, there’s Eastland’s Made in Maine collection. I bought one of their boots last year, and on the inside, there was a strip of reconstituted leather covering the back (where the heel cup would normally go). The leather fell apart after my third wear, and customer service wasn’t terribly helpful, but to be fair, the shoes still wear fine. Finally, a reader of ours suggested Dexter 1957, but I have no first hand experience with them. Reviews online are scant and mixed.
  • Kent Wang and Howard Yount: Both these companies can usually be relied upon for selling decently made things at lower-than-average prices.
  • Markowski: I have no first hand experience with this line, but their customers have given positive reports on StyleForum. The shop is based in Paris, but the shopkeepers speak decent English. They also hold sales, which knocks their prices down somewhat even further.
  • Andrew Lock: Jesse gave a good review of them here (he even had a shoe expert take them apart).

Allen Edmonds factory seconds: The term factory seconds just means shoes that haven’t passed the quality control process, but often the “defects” are incredibly minor (like a very small nick). You can contact Allen Edmonds’ “shoe bank” store in Brookfield, Wisconsin to make a purchase. Their number is (262) 785-6666. 

Suede: Let’s say all the above are still out of range to you. If you can’t afford higher-quality shoes, at least aim for suede. They’ll generally look better with age than a pair made from corrected grain. Perhaps the most affordable suede shoes I know of are Clarks’ desert boots, which sometimes go for as little as $60 on sale. Once you get them, know how to take care of them well, so that you get as much out of your purchase as possible. 


Tilley hat from Pediwear

The multicam T3 Tilley hat was kindly donated for me to test by the kind people over at

I have been a fan of this style of hat for some time as I am not keen on wearing a hood in heavy rain. My father had a Tilley hat for around 7 years and it went all over the world with him.

After I had seen that Tilley were going to bring them out in multicam I instantly wanted to try one already with the knowledge that it was a good field tested product that works.
I initially found them difficult to find in the UK until I came across Pediwear.

The hat comes with a lifetime warranty against damage as all Tilley hats do. It is made from a highly durable Cordura nylon fabric with a great DWR finish, this makes the hat both waterproof and easy to clean.

The Multicam pattern looks good and works well. This is what Tilley had to say about it -

“The Tilley MultiCam® is a 7-colour camouflage widely used by the military,
designed for use in varied environments. Made from 100% Cordura® nylon
with a water repellent finish and fashioned on the classic Tilley T3 with
brass snap-ups on the brim.”

As a added bonus and peace of mind the hat also floats and has duel wind cords to help keep it on your head in bad weather.

So far this hat has performed great and I am a big fan. I certainly can see this being used a lot with the peace of mind it will last a lifetime of hard use.

I will also do a long term review in 6-12 months.

The folks over at Pediwear were very helpful and I was met with great customer service.

What a Diff’rence A Shape Makes

Much like suit jackets and sport coats – which can look dramatically different depending on their silhouette – the shape and cut of a shoe can be just as important as its general style and color. I don’t think I really appreciated this until I recently received a pair of Saint Crispin’s chukkas. When I originally ordered, I was worried that these might be too similar to another pair of chukkas I own from Crockett & Jones – specifically their Brecon model (available at Pediwear, although Ben Silver has better photos). When put side-by-side, however, you can see that the two couldn’t be any more different. 

Keep reading


Suede Shoes

I’m a huge fan of suede shoes and wear them more or less year-round. The word “suede” comes from the French word “Suède,” which simply means Sweden. At one point, Swedish suede gloves were the most common form of luxury, and the French word for Sweden ended up being used for the leather itself.

Suede can be made from almost any leather. You often find it made from lambskin, goatskin, and calfskin. In Germany they make it from stag and in Louisiana, there’s a producer that makes alligator suede. To get the texture, the animal’s skin is buffed with an abrasive. This can be done to the grain side of the leather, which will give you a finer, more velvety texture, or on the flesh side, which will give you a slightly coarser feel. Each animal will produce a slightly different feel to the suede, however, so the variation isn’t just through top vs. flesh side usage.

I personally prefer finer, velvety suede. To examine the quality, I examine to see if the fibers of the nap are uniform in length and packed tightly together. If the nap is firm, dense, and compact, the suede will be a bit more resilient. I eschew suedes with longer naps, as I find that they get a bit ragged and develop bald spots over time. I also avoid any suede that feels a bit greasy.

Since it’s fall, I suggest that you try suede shoes with wool flannel, corduroy, and moleskin trousers. Those tend to have “softer” looking textures, and I think they look quite well next to suede. The above are just some of the options - oxfords, Norwegian split toe bluchers, chukka boots, field boots, double monks, and tassel loafers. I myself just ordered a pair of Crockett & Jones Belgraves in Polo suede from Pediwear and plan to wear it often on weekends. In being an oxford, this shoe is a bit dressy; in being made from suede, however, it’s also a bit casual. They’re the perfect way to look sharp in a non-business, casual setting, I think.

(Pictures above by MostExerent, Ethan Desu, Leffot, and Run of the Mill)

The Very Useful Chukka

Of all the shoes I’ve ever owned, I don’t think any have been as useful as these plain, simple chukkas. They’re Crockett & Jones Brecons, which I bought six or seven years ago. Since then, I’ve worn them about once or twice a week – mainly in the colder months – and have paired them with everything from sport coats and flannel trousers to leather jackets and jeans.

What makes the particularly versatile is the toe shape. Sleek, but not overly so, they go as well with tailored clothing as they do with casualwear. You can compare their dressiness, for example, to more casual kinds of ankle boots, such as Clarks’ Desert boots and Alden’s unlined chukkas.

My friend David also mentioned to me once that he thought chukkas look better in textured materials – such as suede or pebble grain leathers. I think he’s right. Texture helps break up the otherwise plain vamp, and makes the boots feel a little more at home with rustic tweed jackets and Barbour coats. Smooth black calf is good for George boots (a type of chukka with a tall shaft) but for anything brown, I’d recommend getting something fuzzy or pebbled.

If you get a pair with Dainite soles, you can even use them as wet weather boots or travel shoes. Dainite can be a little more comfortable on long walks than hard leather bottoms, and if you’re traveling, having a pair of shoes that can be worn with a wide range of clothing styles can be useful. Plus, the simple eyelet system and open throat design makes chukkas easy to slip in and out of at airports (at least compared to their more laced-up cousins).

If you’re looking for a pair of Dainite soled chukkas, this Brecon model can be bought from Crockett & Jones or Pediwear. Skoaktiebolaget and Gentlemen’s Footwear also have some nice models from the popular Spanish shoemaker Carmina. For something more affordable, consider Loake’s Pimlico and Kempton. They’re essentially the same boot, but built on different lasts (this StyleForum member has a nice comparison of the two). Lastly, there’s Meermin, who I think offers the best bang-for-your-buck in footwear. At the moment, they only have a mid-brown suede version, but if you contact them, they might be able to put together a group made-to-order project for other materials.

It’s On Sale: Shoes at Pediwear

One of the most affordable places to buy shoes just got a little more affordable. Pediwear is a UK-based retailer, with a best-price guarantee that you rarely need to use since they almost always have the best prices (for full-priced, new shoes, anyway). At the moment, they’re having a winter sale, with up to 20% off select footwear. My pick? These Loake Kemptons you see above, priced at $219 with the discount. 

It’s On Sale: Select Shoes at Pediwear

Pediwear just put some of their shoes on sale, with discounts being as high as 30% off. Included are Loake’s Pimlico and Kempton boots, which I recently mentioned in my post about Dainite soled chukkas. The discounts on these two particular models aren’t that big, but Loake’s prices are already some of the most competitive around. 

You can comb through Pediwear’s sale section to see what else is available. Just note that not everything is of high quality, so Google around and search StyleForum for opinions if you’re unsure of anything. 

(Photo via Red Clay Soul)