If you’re looking to cut corners on shoe spending, this is exactly where you can do it. The suede in casual shoes like these serves the same purpose as corrected-grain leather – it helps cover up imperfections in hides, allowing the shoemaker to save money on cheap leather. Unlike corrected-grain leather, though, it still looks perfectly decent. Maybe not quite as lustrous as fine-quality suede, but plenty good enough.
Similarly, the rubber soles on these casual shoes save the manufacturer money, but they’re also appropriate for the shoe style. Since you’re unlikely to re-sole a rubber-soled buck anyway, the advantages of quality construction, like ease of re-soling, are greatly reduced. These are knock-around shoes, and you should pay knock-around prices.
If you buy a wingtip at full retail and pay $125, you’ll get something that is very obviously of poor quality. The leather will be visibly cheap – shiny and plasticky. The shoe won’t be resolable, and will be unlikely to last. It’s simply not a good decision.
Buy a suede buck for $125, and it’s a different story. When it comes to suede casual shoes, $125 buys you a shoe that’s pretty darn close to what you’d get for $300, at least in practical terms. There will be a difference: the construction of the expensive shoe will be better, the materials better, the styling perhaps more elegant, but the performance gap is much, much smaller than with a dress shoe. And when you consider that shoes by mid-range companies like Cole Haan and Johnston & Murphy can often be found on deep discount, there’s no reason you have to spend more than $75 or $80 for a pair of bucks or suede saddles.