Alden Tanker Boots: The thinking man’s Indy boot? They’re not nearly as iconic as cinema’s most famous work boot, but I’d like to think they’re what Junior might favour for a Marshall College Ball if he were to put a little more thought into it. I certainly thought long and hard enough about them. I saw a few restocks come and go at Context and Leffot, always feeling annoyed that I’d missed out. So when I paid a visit to NYC’s classiest shoe store last May – the aforementioned Leffot – I decided to put my name down for a pair already in production. Almost ten agonising months to the day I ordered them (a year since Leffot placed the production order) and after an egregious shafting from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, they arrived at my desk. I opened the box to a gloriously muscular Cordovan boot in that deepest and richest of colours; Horween’s Color 8.
Here’s some info about them lifted from Context’s website…
“The Tanker Boot is made on the Barrie last which was supplied to the US military from WWI through WWII. The Mock and Norwegian skin stitch toe detail is done completely by hand (Alden is the only American shoemaker skin stitching by hand) using two needles and two threads- no more than 6 boots are completed per day.”
Quite how they managed to keep up with War demands at a completion rate of six per day I don’t know, but what it does mean is a lengthy wait for those keen enough to purchase a pair these days. They’re by far and away the nicest shoe/boot I own so I can certainly say they were worth the wait. I can also say they were worth the cost… *just* (minus Her Majesty’s sneaky cut). Would I do it all again? Maybe not. But then that’s what makes them so special…
Autumn tipped up this year in a wonderful mood. Plenty of colour, mild temperatures, some crispy mornings, and a bit of rain to remind you Winter will soon be kicking in to action. Winter is a no-brainer clothing wise. As is Summer. But Autumn and Spring provide good measure of a gent’s wardrobe. Fluctuating temperatures and weather conditions require a versatile approach. With that in mind I fancied adding a bit of suede to proceedings this season, but something a bit lighter and more streamlined than my typical choice. The majority of my shoe collection consists of chunky English derbies and American moccasins. I was after something a little easier going with a colour that would work across a number of outfits.
My search brought me to Alden’s Snuff Suede Chukkas, one of Alden’s most renowned styles. I’ve best seen the suede on these described as ‘buttery’ and I don’t think I can find a better adjective to suit the hand of this material. It’s so soft and supple, it’s like sticking your feet in a pair of Rabbit’s ears. And as these things are unlined they are comfier than slippers.
Based on that description they don’t sound too suitable for Autumn, but the thing that attracted me most to this model was Alden’s special Water-lock Flex-Welt sole. Despite the low profile of the sole, it’s made for wet weather as the leather is specially treated – all the water and moisture is removed and replaced with oils, making it not only very supple, but incredibly water resistant. The oils also give the sole a much better grip than a traditional leather sole, meaning no more impromptu ice skating when out in the rain. All this combined with a stunning colour that seems to change between a chocolate milkshake and a red setter in different lights makes for an extremely versatile shoe for Autumn. You can find this style at a number of places, but I picked mine up at Sweden’s finest: Tres Bien Shop.
I’m a big fan of the blog A Suitable Wardrobe. Although my own sartorial interests lie on the casual side of menswear, I find Will Boehlke’s musings about classic and bespoke tailoring very inspiring. Many of his ideas and principals regarding colour, pattern and texture are applicable across every gentleman’s wardrobe.
One of my favourite regular posts from Will has been his Suit & Sock installments. I start pretty much everyday with an idea to wear one thing in particular and then dress the rest of the outfit around it. More often than not, that item is either shoes or socks. Socks often dictate an outfit as it can depend on what’s available on that day (i.e. not stuck in the laundry). I never don a pair to coordinate with anything else I’m wearing, but rather to compliment another garment (co-ordination being one of Will’s biggest no-nos. A man should look like he took care to look good, but didn’t try too hard).
You’ll notice there is a lot of Fair Isle in this particular collection of shots. It’s obviously a great winter pattern, adds a flash of visual interest to the ankle (make sure what’s going on up top isn’t too brash as well – don’t want to over cook your ‘look’!) and it often has plenty of colour to work with for the rest of the outfit.
So with this post – rather than a total rip of an idea – please think of it more as ‘Stitched & Stitched after A Suitable Wardrobe’. A casual man’s whimsical and light hearted homage to the serious business of classical menswear and colour matching. There’s more to come down the line – I’m already looking forward to Summer so I can break out some socks and sandals combos. Regardless of my missus wincing every time I mention it, I’m convinced they’re going to be the way forward.
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.