A Brief History Of Alden

Editor’s Note: Special thank you to James Taylor of Waterhollow Tweed, a site you should check out.


Alden was founded in Middleborough, Mass. in 1884.

Like most shoe companies at the time Alden made shoes using the Goodyear welt method. This was a machine process for making shoes, which was supplanting the hand-made process that was traditional. A Goodyear welted shoe has a welt–a synthetic or rubber strip–stitched to the bottom edge of the upper and the insole. The height of the welt forms a cavity that is filled with cork or a similar material. This is then stitched to the sole.

Goodyear welted shoes can be resoled fairly easily; they are also highly waterproof and long-lasting.

When Alden started this method of constructon was standard. But now it has supplanted by shoes that are mass-produced with moulded soles…. except at places like Alden, who still use the same C19th equipment to make their shoes. They also offer a re-crafting service, where they will repair your shoes–including re-soling if necessary.

Alden also source their leathers from traditional tannies–such as Horween in Chicago.

Alden is still owned by the original family–and many of its workers are second or third generation Alden show makers.

Known primarily for being one of the oldest traditional shoemakers in America, they also have fame for supplying Indiana Jones with his books–the model 405 chukka.

  • James Taylor

11 Comments on "A Brief History Of Alden"

  1. stephenweser | May 9, 2023 at 8:24 am |

    great article.

  2. This is a great primer on a great company. I had a pair of dark brown Alden cap toe dress shoes that I adored, but I made the (expensive) mistake of not fully understanding my shoe size and width when I ordered online. I assumed the discomfort of wearing these marvelously crafted shoes would resolve after a break-in period, not realizing I simply had the wrong size. They were shoes I imagined I’d be able to keep forever. I’d certainly still be wearing them now, 15 years later, had I gone to the trouble of getting a proper Brannock device foot measurement.
    …So the moral of the story is, …obvious.

  3. Reynolds | May 9, 2023 at 4:40 pm |

    Last paragraph. Reads books, when I think author meant boots. Good read.

  4. Alden makes the best shell cordovan shoes that last ( no pun intended) forever. They are not inexpensive both wroth it. They made the BB cordovan tassel loafer.

  5. Outstanding article

  6. In addition to several typos, there are also some factual errors in this article. You won’t find rubber or synthetic welts on good quality footwear like Alden. Only leather welts. Also, “highly waterproof” is misleading. They are fairly water resistant, at least compared to a cheaper cemented shoe or a Blake stitch. Leather itself isn’t waterproof without a synthetic liner such as Goretex. If they are out in the rain long enough, water will eventually find its way through the sole (if it’s leather), and it will seep between the edge of the welt and upper.

  7. The prices now seem ridiculous, but that’s because I can still easily recall buying a pair of Alden shell cordovan handsewn mocs (penny loafers) in the 90s for less than $300 full retail. Handsewers are rare (and thus expensive labor), shell cordovan prices have skyrocketed, and the market for them expanded/grew. I’ve sent that pair back to Alden for seven — yes, seven– restorations. A restoration now runs about $200. So, worth the $.

  8. Interesting that Brooks dropped Alden as J. Crew added them to their stock. I’d like to see Rancourt attempt a pair of the Goodyear welt

    Aside: I’d like to see Rancourt attempt a penny loafer using their “Blake Welt” (Stitch).

  9. Charlottesville | May 10, 2023 at 12:09 pm |

    Excellent post on a great company. As noted above by Malcom, Alden made Brooks shell cordovan shoes. I have 3 pairs from Brooks, including tassel loafers and penny loafers, and all are really first rate and going strong after 20+ years.

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