It's a chilly November night in the Empire City and I'm walking into a hotel bar in midtown...Lex bar, I think. The heads of Allen Edmonds have set up shop on the pool table—an impressive spread of their 2012 spring collection of chukkas, brogues, and loafers in new color ways, burnished leathers, and refined silhouettes. I take a couple BBQ sliders in hand. They're good. I don't recall eating lunch—or breakfast for that matter—so they're better than good. They're on the verge of great.
Allen Edmonds Williams Long Wingtip (brown burnished calf, $445)
Allen Edmonds call themselves The Great American Shoe Company. Perhaps that is fitting for the 90 year old shoe manufacturer out of Belgium, Wisconsin that was, until 1978, run solely by family. Elbert W. Allen built the company on his innovative manufacturing techniques that relied on Goodyear welting to make fashionable and durable shoes that were nail-less and shankless (meaning they had no uncomfortable metal bar under the instep). Before you've taken your first step, Allen Edmonds has already taken 212 in each handcrafted pair. That, along with strong and steady leadership, set the precedent for long term success despite the hard times of the Great Depression, the rationing years of World War II, and the mounting pressures of foreign competition in the 1960s and '70s.
Mark McNeill, Allen Edmonds' head designer, is walking me through his latest designs. We stop at The Independence Collection, a new line of higher-end shoes priced at $445. I finger the reworked long wingtip (named after Declaration of Independence signer William Williams)* for a solid five minutes before McNeill's discourse snaps back into my consciousness just in time to learn about wheeling, a sole detail that has been reintroduced for the first time in 30 years. Supple yet durable, the brown burnished leather is the finest Allen Edmonds can get their hands on. In fact, over 70% of the skins are rejected for The Independence Collection. As I polish off my last BBQ slider, I realize these longwings aren't just good, they're on the verge of great.
*courtesy of Allen Edmonds