Monday, October 1, 2007

Today's Shoes


Alden long wing bluchers in Color #8 shell cordovan with an extended split reverse welt on double leather soles (model 975, Barrie last). Back in the '50s and '60s, if an American man wore a suit with any regularity, he probably had a pair of wingtips; and if he had a pair of wingtips, chances are that they were long wings of a design very similar to these. They're called long wings because instead of the wings curving down to the welt about halfway down the shoe, they continue all the way to the heel. You'll notice that these are derivative of the wholecut blucher with the facings laid on and, like the wings, extended all the way to the heel. I don't know if this design originated in the United States, but I have never seen any European maker produce something like it. But every American maker, current, defunct, or otherwise, has it in their catalogue. The most commonly-seen incarnation of it from its heyday forty or fifty years ago was made by Florsheim. It was part of Florsheim's Imperial line of shoes, which for many Americans represented the ne plus ultra of men's shoes. The soles were all leather, of course, stained to look like wood. There were nails at the waist of the shoe and in double rows all around the all-leather heels. There was no rubber tip in the heel; instead, there was a triangular steel cleat on the outside edge. Shell cordovan was used, but so were grained calfs, in particular black and tan. I don't remember anything else about the shoes that my father wore when I was a kid except that he had a pair of Florsheim long wings in black grained calf (they called it cashmere calf). Those were some shoes.

So are these. They have rubber dovetails instead of the triangular steel cleat; but otherwise, they are the same: big and thick and heavy, and they could double as home defense devices when not on your feet. It's not an accident that they're made on the Barrie last, which is Alden's biggest, clunkiest last. They just wouldn't look right on anything more shapely. In a fit of nostalgia for my father's shoes, I bought these last week from Tom Park at LeatherSoul Hawaii. Nostalgia aside, these are growing on me. Not every shoe needs to be super-sleek.

Incidentally, this shoe is experiencing something of a renaissance recently. You may know that Brooks Brothers hired Thom Browne to design their new Black Fleece line. Browne likes '60s throw-back garments (shrunk to minuscule proportions), and nothing is more appropriate to wear with a '60s throwback gray flannel suit than long wings in shell cordovan. And Browne offers those in the Black Fleece line, too -- made by Alden, exactly like my 975s only with a signature cloth pull tab at the heel. Oh, and Brooks Brothers wants $280 more per pair than Tom Park charges for regular old 975s. Thom Browne can keep his stupid pull tab.


Alden saddle oxford in Color #8 shell cordovan with single leather soles (model 994, Barrie last). Yet another classic American shoe. You sometimes also see this with a burgundy vamp and quarter and a black saddle.

1 comment:

Fashion said...

nice black shoes....It's always great with formal wears...i have a pair of black nike shoes and i love them....