The latest addition to my collection is this work boot – another custom that I helped design and I’m extremely pleased with how it turned out. When Todd and I were planning the Fall assortment for Unionmade, we knew that a true work boot had to be in the mix and nothing says work more than the wedge sole. Flipping through the leather swatches, we all kept landing on the pebbled bison for it’s texture and supple feel. We decided on the Trubalance last for a great fit and perfect toe shape and flat, all-around welt completes the package with a clean line and just a bit of contrast.
As with every pair of custom Aldens, opening the box can be a surprise. The way all the components come together is sometimes different than what you may have been expecting. We originally specified brass eyelets on the boot and it came back with painted ones. I don’t know if that was due to communication error or Alden making an executive decision, but I am actually glad they are the way they are. Looking at the boot as a whole, I think brass would have been too much.
This is my first pair of boots with the Goodyear wedge sole so I was not sure what to expect in the comfort department. I had them on all day at the shop yesterday and I had a smile on my face the whole time. My co-worker Alex also bought a pair (his first Aldens!) and wore them all day and he too was quite impressed with the comfort.
I think we nailed it with this one.
Available in limited quantities at Unionmade
Ryan from you_have_broken_the_internet posted a great comparison shot of Horween’s natural chromexcel. On the right is a new swatch and on the left is a similar piece that he kept in his back pocket for a year. This shows that the leather darkens significantly with handling, heat, time, and perhaps a bit of indigo. While Alden shoes made with this leather won’t endure the exact same conditions, I believe they will darken up and gain a nice patina through normal use and maintenance. I can’t wait to find out!
The day has finally arrived. I have on my feet a pair of Aldens of my design.
Working for Unionmade in San Francisico for the last year has been a wonderful experience. I have gotten to be a part of some amazing things with Todd and Carl and the fellas, but none as exciting to me as opening up the first box of Aldens that I helped design. Working with Todd and Nate Humble back in February in our first big brainstorm was a blast. So many details to go over and so many steps to complete. Now with the first shipments arriving, It’s really cool to be able to finally see the ideas come to life.
The Natural Chromexcel Indy:
When those early pictures of the plain toe blucher in Horween’s mythical new leather starting going around the internet, everybody wanted to get a piece of the action. The sales reps brought their swatches around and the retailers started making up their orders. I wanted in.
I had known for a while that I wanted to do an Indy shoe of some sort. I guess I’m just a sucker for the stitching. I had been inspired by Tom Park’s Hawaiian Stomper but I knew I couldn’t do anything that was too close to that so I was stuck about what leather to use. When I saw that picture I knew. Natural.
Perfect for wearing with jeans, Natural Chromexcel really has that substantial weight and texture that lends itself to a heavy looking shoe or boot. I felt a hefty work-shoe could sit nicely in the mix of Aldens we have at the shop and ultimately one that I would want to own. I love the color too. Nobody really knows how the Natural Chromexcel will look as it ages but I sure am looking forward to finding out.
Seeing them now and how all the details work together, I really wouldn’t change a thing. The heel unit is a little different than what I expected. I was hoping for one of those vintage looking Goodyear numbers or the rare starburst version, but this new one will do just fine. It’s a Vibram slab, so I imagine the quality is there. I asked Alden VP Bob Clark about it and he described how sources of specialty parts for shoes sometimes dry up. The demand for them here in America just isn’t there anymore.
I’ve had a hand in many more designs since then and I’m looking forward to many more, but this pair will always be special. Available now at Unionmade
To shed a little more light on the differences in the shape of various lasts, I have compiled an image of the Barrie, Trubalance, and Modified lasts from the Shoemart website. These lasts are known to be more roomy than some of the other Alden lasts and I think this overhead shot gives you an idea of the differences in shape.
There is much discussion to be found on the various shoe forums about sizing and fit and there are many opinions. My experience with my own shoes and my professional experience with sizing people in the Barrie and Trubalance lasts is that they fit about a half size larger than what they think their shoe size is. Someone comes up to me and says “I wear a 9” and there is a good chance that they will be comfortable in an 8 1/2. This is just what seems to be common for most people.
There is no perfect formula for figuring out what size shoe you need without trying it on. I would not recommend buying an expensive pair of Aldens without having ever tried them on unless you don’t mind sending them back. That said, with some research on the shoe forums and asking around, you can probably make a decent guess. I am always reluctant to tell someone what size shoe to get if they haven’t tried it on.
My sizing info: I wear 9E in Barrie and Trubalance. I wear the E (wide) fitting because I have a high instep. My foot is tall – not so much wide. I tried on a pair of Alden plain toe boots on the Modified last and a 9 1/2D fit me perfectly. In many sneakers I wear a 10D. I have a pair of Johnston & Murphy suede wingtips in 9 1/2D. I had an old pair of Florsheim longwings in 9 1/2D.
I do not know if the shoes in the photo are all the same size. The plain toe shoe shows size 8D in one picture and I would assume the others are close to that size but am not certain. Also the different welts give the look of different widths, especially from the bottom, so keep that in mind.
Here is a nice overhead shot illustrating the difference between the Plaza last and the Grant last. Grant in #8 on the left, Plaza in black on the right. Both of these boots are made using the same pattern.
Both have a sleek and tapered toe box but the Plaza is more angular and chiseled. I have not tried either last myself so I can’t comment on the fit, but I sure do like the Plaza for its looks. Very handsome.