I finally dipped my toe in to the world of Alden last week with the purchase of a pair of their Cordovan Longwing Bluchers (Derbys to UK folks) from Northern Ireland’s finest; The Bureau. It’s been a long time coming. I reported a while ago that I find American styles too long in the toe, which is still the case in my regular size, but after trying a few Alden styles on at Browns London I found if I took half a size down they’re about spot on (Alden’s U.S. 9.5 comes in roughly just under a U.K. 9, but about the same length as a U.K. 9.5). A little snugger in width than Tricker’s, but perhaps a better size for me than I normally take to be honest.
The bigger satisfaction though was finally getting my feet in to some Horween Color #8 Shell Cordovan. I’ve been eager to compare it against my Comipel Cordovan Tricker’s and the difference in appearance is quite something. There’s more on that topic and also some more information on Comipel vs Horween at the bottom of this post.
So on to the Longwing Bluchers, which are, for my money, the quintessential American shoe. Especially in horse hide. Horween Cordovan shoes are Alden’s bread and butter and after much deliberation (and a lengthy enquiry trying to get Tricker’s to make a pair of short Stows in the stuff) I’ve decided that there’s no company I’d trust more to make a fine pair of shoes with this material. With a few options of the Alden Longwing Bluchers out there, the detail of the MTO antique finish leather soles swung it in The Bureau’s favour. The added detail of the dark stained welt on this particular pair (which I think was a one off supplied in error by Alden) really sets them apart. It’s a detail I’m going to look to add to a lot of my shoes when they’re next due resoling. The material sings on this style and Alden certainly seem to get more out the material than other manufacturers.
It’s worth noting I don’t find Alden’s finishing on the welt particularly neat when compared to that of Tricker’s (which is seamless on every pair I own). The join is a little messy where the welt meets back on itself. It’s a small aesthetic detail that doesn’t affect my overall satisfaction with the shoes (or the performance). I guess shoe makers focus more energy in to different areas than others. The welt is also cut square at the top of the rib (i.e. the edge of the leather piece) and is seemingly left unfinished (which is actually a detail I like) unlike Trickers where the top of the welt looks ‘sealed’ and rounded. The double stitching on the welt is a detail I also like in Alden’s favour, especially the choice of red for the thread stitched into the upper.
Last but not least, the colour. As regular readers might be aware, I’m a big fan of the rouge noir tones of Color #8. If there is a deeper, richer, more complex colour out there in the leather world, I certainly haven’t found it. This is also a colour that benefits Cordovan immensely as the nature of the leather means it creases lighter rather than darker in the stress points, showcasing the subtle points of difference between Horse butt and Calf skin. The benefits between colour and material are mutual as this lighter creasing means we get to see the full range of reds contained in the colour as the shoe wears. It’s the colour that keeps on giving.
I feel I must add a special mention to The Bureau for all their great customer service (especially concerning my indecisiveness regarding the welt). They have all the expertise and knowledge of a specialist shoe dealer with the added bonus of curating a great menswear store as well. Cordovan is a big purchase for any shoe lover and their open and honest opinions both in the past and recent times have been very informative and helped shape my buying decisions.
To conclude: I’m chuffed with my purchase – the comfort, style and material has quickly elevated them to one of my favourite pairs. For those thinking about it I can highly recommend a pair of Alden’s. I don’t think this will be my only pair for long.