Alden Shoes and the Birth of American Traditional

Today we revisit this 2010 Japanese interview with Arthur Tarlow, then president of Alden. In it Tarlow talks about how immigrant craftsmen from various European countries brought their own styles and techniques to the US, the confluence of which became a distinct style of shoemaking he calls “American Traditional.” — CC

19 Comments on "Alden Shoes and the Birth of American Traditional"

  1. Most Alden shoes have a serious style flaw: the sole protrudes too far out from the shoe. The sole should only protrude one eighth of an inch. Ask Sherman McCoy of THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES.

  2. Just a slight correction: Beams is a pretty diverse retail chain. Beams+ (beams plus) is the one that focuses on trad and Americana. (Although this season they have moved out of straight trad with the industry and moved into American worker chic.)

  3. As is typical for all but the very best Japanese subtitles, there are several mistranslations in the translations. (The funniest ones are when they translator gets the literal meaning, but fails to understand that the intonation makes it the opposite meaning–not seen here, but in quite a few movies).

    The subtitles also use numerous loan words that are, in general, harder for normal readers to process, but allegedly make the writer seem more erudite. Can you really call it erudition if it impedes communication?

    Anyway, it’s a nice video, and I hope Alden continues to be successful for many, many generations to come.

  4. Vern Trotter, that’s a welt. That’s how welted shoes are made, it’s not a flaw.

  5. Well Vern, we all know how things turned out for the “Master of the Universe,” so why should we listen to the penniless fool?

    As a side note, I wish someone had disabled Wolfe’s ! key.

  6. Charlottesville | November 26, 2019 at 1:13 pm | Reply

    Just out of curiosity, does anyone know whether the tassel loafers, penny loafers and other shell cordovan shoes Alden made for Brooks Brothers differed from the standard Alden “color 8” cordovan offerings? I have several pairs of the BB versions and they look the same to me, but I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison. Not that it matters, I suppose. I am very satisfied with what I have.

  7. @Charlottesville I’ve often wondered the same thing. I remember reading something Heavy Tweed Jacket had written years ago, where he said the models for BB vs. the standard line were the same, save the fact that the BB models were ever so slightly “tighter.” I always assumed he meant the BB versions were just a little bit smaller than the standard ones. Otherwise, they were identical in construction. The distinguishing details were, of course, the addition of the foxing on the heel cup of the tassel loafers and the removal of the lining in the LHS cordovan penny loafers. In my opinion, both are nice touches, and improve the respective models which they grace.

  8. Charlottesville | November 26, 2019 at 2:55 pm | Reply

    RWK — Thanks for the information. Yes, I see the difference on the heel of the tassel loafer and, like you, I rather like the additional detail. The Brooks cordovan penny loafers I have are lined (they seem identical to the Alden “Leisure Handsewn” or LHS model), but of course I have seen the unlined version. I think BB has discontinued them, although they still have a few sizes left, and they are on sale for nearly $200 off if anyone is so inclined. I am tempted, but don’t think I can justify a “shelling out” for second pair of cordovan penny loafers. https://www.brooksbrothers.com/Cordovan-Unlined-Penny-Loafers/034H,default,pd.html

  9. Charlottesville, I can appreciate your “shelling out” comment. I have the tassel, cap toe oxford, and full strap penny, all in color 8 shell cordovan. However, the tassels and cap toe are probably 30 years old and did not cost nearly as much as they do today. Btw, I purchased my first pair of shells in approx. 1966. I believe I paid somewhere around $35 for them.

  10. Charlottesville | November 26, 2019 at 4:38 pm | Reply

    John Carlos – I also bought my Alden-for-Brooks cordovans some time back, probably around 20 years ago or so. They were expensive, but not nearly what they cost now. I have 3 pairs from BB, as well as a pair of English plain-toe derbies from Burberry (can’t recall the name of the maker) and a pair of long wings from AE, both also in burgundy similar to color 8, and both double soled. They all have held up quite well and I expect will outlast me.

  11. Charlottesville-the tassels and cap toes have been resoled several times. Granted, I don’t wear them as often as I used to, but they have held up well also. The full strap penny loafers are a more recent purchase. Really like shell cordovan, except when it rains.

  12. Anyone have any insight as to why Alden and Brooks Brothers split? One more change that makes BB less than it was.

  13. Charlottesville

    I felt as you that at my age I could not justify in my mind another pair of shell cordovan shoes. My son thought otherwise and gifted me a pair of Rancourt shell cordovan color 8 pinch penny loafers. Excellent shoes. I suggest you get a pair before they vanish forever. Have a nice holiday.

  14. H. Korn, you have a very thoughtful son with excellent taste. I just turned 70 years young and I’m thinking about another pair. I’ll check out Rancourt.

  15. The difference between the Alden standard stock and the Alden X Brooks Brothers is the lining. Alden made the BB’s shell cordovans unlined for them.

  16. Charlottesville | November 27, 2019 at 8:59 am | Reply

    Thanks, H. Korn. Lucky you! Hope all have a lovely Thanksgiving.

  17. Today I’m wearing my Alden tassels I bought forty years ago. Never been resoled, although the little rubber thingy on the heel had to be replaced twenty years ago.

    Everyone have a great Thanksgiving, count your blessings and if you are traveling stay safe.

  18. There is no comparing to Alden, but I actually think Cole Haan is pretty decent looking as well.

  19. I think American Goodyear shoes have a slightly wider welt than British ones. It is one of the reasons they are considered more casual.

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