For decades, Brooks Brothers has been one of the best places to buy shoes, even for people who don’t care for Ivy style. Their shell cordovan boots go well with workwear, tassel loafers with Italian tailoring, and their longwings with nearly everything. Plus, with their frequent sales — mid-season, end-of-season, Black Friday, and Christmas — it’s not hard to pick up something at a significant discount.
It looks like that may be coming to an end. For the last few weeks, rumors have swirled around the trad community that Brooks Brothers is severing their relationship with Alden and Edward Green, two top-tier suppliers who make some of their footwear. For one, the company has been holding some unusually good sales that have included their Alden-made shoes. Second, at a recent warehouse sale, the writer behind Uptown Dandy noted that Edward Green and Alden-made shoes were priced spectacularly low, up 90% off (“Alden shell cordovan loafers were priced to move at $140 per pair,” he wrote). Brooks Brothers’ also doesn’t seem to offer Edward Green or Alden shoes on their website anymore, although a couple of stores we called said they have some left in their backrooms.
We reached out to Brooks Brothers for comment, but haven’t been able to get confirmation. If, in fact, they’ve dropped their collection of Edward Green and Alden shoes, it would be a shame. Their Edward Green shoes were standard-makes that you can get through Edward Green and other retailers — and, besides, few people can afford $1,500, so it may be a moot issue. But their Alden shoes were special. Made by one of the greatest American shoe manufacturers, for one of the greatest American clothiers, they the tradiest of trady footwear.
Some of the designs were also exclusive to Brooks Brothers, which means if the company has indeed dropped the line, these styles may be discontinued forever. Their tassel loafers, for example, have a bit of stitching in the back (known as foxing), which to my eye makes the style look a bit more casual and stylish than Alden’s plain-back varieties. Brooks Brothers also carried an unlined version of Alden’s shell cordovan leisure handsewns, a stubby penny loafer and one of my favorite shoes. They were soft, comfortable, and distinctively Brooks Brothers.
Browsing Brooks Brothers’ website, it looks like their Edward Green and Alden-made shoes have been replaced with two new collections: the 1818 and Golden Fleece lines, both now made in Italy. The lasts are a little sleeker and more contemporary, but I admit I also find the styles to be a little more generic. I think there was something special about having unapologetically American shoes — those bulbous and orthopedic, but somehow oh-so-cool Alden lasts — at a trad clothier, but the market presumably doesn’t agree.
The two new lines have details that are … questionable. Among the 1818 collection, the shoes feature a stamped Golden Fleece logo (the sheep suspended in a ribbon, which British merchants used as a symbol to advertise woolen goods to a largely illiterate public. Brooks Brothers adopted the design as their logo in 1850). For the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone thought this would be a good idea. Who wants an RL-styled sheep logo on a pair of their dress shoes? This is the kind of gateway design that ends with Allen Edmonds’ tattooed boots.
A little higher up on the price scale is Brooks Brother’s newly revamped Golden Fleece collection, which oddly doesn’t have a Golden Fleece logo, but features a leather-and-rubber combination sole. These soles have been popular on the lower end of the market for decades because they’re more flexible and comfortable out-of-the-box. But in the last few years, they’ve made their way upmarket as sales associates find it’s easier to sell men on a pair of dress shoes when they feel more like sneakers. The downside? Well, they’re ugly. But in terms of performance, you also don’t get the comfort that comes with a traditional shoe since these are made with a foam-padded insole (which doesn’t form a footbed over time like a traditional leather insole).
On the upside, their Peal collection is still made in England by Crockett & Jones (and the designs are still very handsome). I also like their newly introduced BB#1 rep striped shoe bags, although it looks like those aren’t currently being sold separately. For people who have been on the fence about purchasing a pair of Brooks Brothers’ two most famous slip-on styles — their tassel loafer and unlined shell penny — call your local Brooks Brothers store before these disappear forever. They may have some in the back.