The most distinguishing feature of the iconic ‘Indy’ boot is the toe-stitching. To me this is what gives the boot its personality and vintage look. Originally produced in brown calf, many leather variations of this boot can be found today, including a number of makeups in shell cordovan.
Until recently, Alden applied the toe-stitch to cordovan Indies using a sewing machine. The machine stitch is a double row of threads which are very flat and even, giving the toe a gentle curving shape. Unlike true moccasins, the toe-stitch on the Indy boot is not a seam, it is a purely decorative top stitch. While not functionally necessary, it really makes all the difference. A plain-toed boot is not an Indy.
Usually found on the ‘Leisure’ hand sewn moccasins and the ‘Norwegian’ front shoes and boots, the hand sewn toe-stitch gives these models a strong sense of character and a rugged elegance – Qualities that would seem right at home on the Indy. The hand sewn stitching is distinguished by its raised and bumpy ridge between the two rows of stitches. Hand sewn is indeed hand sewn – it is far more labor intensive and time consuming and requires a talented worker to sew each toe box. On paper, this would seem like the superior type of stitch for any quality-minded shopper. In the Alden world, buzz words like “hand sewn”, “labor intensive”, and “time consuming” usually add value to the product and are ultimately desirable to the customer. In the case of the cordovan Indy, I’m not so sure.
Having seen a number of versions of the cordovan Indy appear with the new and “improved” hand sewn fronts, I started to realize that this minor detail was a deal breaker for me. After searching for a pair of Cigar Indies for 2 years, I finally came across a pair in my size (an E width which is not usually stocked by many retailers). With the funds in hand for a pair of cordovan boots, I ended up choosing something else because of the stitching. While some may say that it’s not a big deal or even very noticeable, I say that sometimes even the smallest detail can break a shoe. To me, it ruined the boot.
Some prefer this stitching: I asked Bob Clark, Vice President of Alden, about this while I was in the factory last month. I inquired whether or not this detail was dealer specified, functionally necessary, or just an aesthetic choice. He told me he saw a pair of cordovan Indies with machine stitching at a store and decided that it cheapened the shoe and no longer would Alden make an Indy in cordovan with the machine stitch. So, I guess it’s here to stay. Every Alden fan decides for themselves how important these details are. It is part of the joy of it! There are so many versions, each made up of all the little details and differences, and that is what makes Alden so special.
These pictures illustrate the difference between machine stitched vs. hand sewn.