March 4, 2020 by Ville Raivio
Over the rolling years, I must have owned more than 150 pairs of welted leather shoes, most of them now sold to new homes. My goal with this silly project has been to find out which things lead to quality in men’s footwear; that is, which leathers look and age best, what last shapes are both pleasing and comfortable, which details are helpful as well as stylish. The ultimate end has been to find out who makes the best damn shoes on the planet. I’ve done the same with collar shirts, neckties and other clothes too, but see the shoe list at the end of this post. Today, after more than 10 years of searching, I feel I’m ready to tip my hat to Edward Green. It’s true, of course, that EG’s pairs don’t have the most handwork (like Vass) nor the closest-fitting lasts (like G&G), they cost more than some artisanal pairs (any from Hungary), and so on. I still feel that their RTW shoes are the best damn things available. How do I love them? Let me count the ways.
Edward Green uses similar oak bark leather soles and heels as most high-end makers, and their finishing is not conspicuous. They do last a very long time in my use like other oaken pieces, the rubber heel piece as well. Most of Green’s models have a 270-degree welt which leaves the heel hidden under the shoe, and this makes the pairs look delicate. The welt is cut close to the uppers, which makes another notch on the list of delicacy. The welt stitching is always tight and clean, the welt is finished with tight, decorative fudging. The leathers Edward Green uses are simply superb, among the best in RTW-shoemaking. They have a clean, smooth grain with beautiful aniline dyes and burnished finishing. The amount of colours and antique shades EG offers is the widest I know of. The same goes for made to order-selection as the factory keeps stock of discontinued patterns and lasts as well. The leathers are easy to care for, polish up well, and crease little. The upper stitching is always tight, accurate, a joy.
The lining leather is soft and clean, though always in the boring sandy colour which nearly all factories go for. The heel stiffener gives a strong support and keeps its shape. Apart from the leathers and finishing, what endears me to EG are the lasts. They both look smart and feel great, there is no exaggeration in shapes or lines. They have a sort of look that forgoes time. I have seen Green pairs from 30 or 40 or 50 years ago that just look right even in the 2020s. What also look right are the upper patterns. Even the finest lasts lead to stupid shoes if the patterns laid on them have odd proportions. The designers at Edward Green have an immense sense of proportion, the patterns just look right. Finally, the factory’s pairs are extremely comfortable. I don’t know how they achieve this as the leathers and structures they use are no different from other high-end British makers. They just feel right when walking.
To sum up the points, Edward Greens are the best damn RTW-shoes because they have developed a tradition of doing many things so well. The leathers, the lasts, the finishing, the comfort, the looks — Green pairs have them all. Several shoemakers I’ve tried have some great things, some do certain parts better than EG, some fail comfort. It really is the combination that does it. What’s more, I have EG shoes made in different times, from the 1990s to this decade, and all have the same level of quality. The standard has been high and enforced, the results consistent. The sad thing is that Green’s shoes are dearly expensive. Their prices have risen several times over the 2000s, the pound is strong, and with Brexit looming in the near distance, the pairs are set to become even more expensive.
The quality is there but behind a gilt door. I, of course, urge the reader to try them out. My tip for the student and prudent man is to buy Edward Green shoes from non-retail sources. There are always dozens of pairs on eBay at any moment, and some of them are unused. The lot includes sample pairs, unwanted gifts, slight seconds, emptied stock, and so on. Another source are European web stores which don’t use English as the default language. I’ve seen Italian retailers, for example, offer Green shoes for 40% discounts from time to time. The gilt door can be passed with cunning and great treasures await.
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To date, I have owned and used American shoes made by Allen-Edmonds, Alden, Johnston&Murphy (vintage), Florsheim, Rider Boot, White’s, Red Wing, Edwin Clapp.
From Hungary: László Vass, Heinrich Dinkelacker, Roznyai, Buday, Saint Crispin’s.
From Italy: Silvano Lattanzi, Borgioli, Buttero, Stefanobi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Romano Martegani, Luigi Borrelli, Italigente, Cortina.
The following from Spain: Meermin, Carmina, Crownhill, and from Portugal Carlos Santos.
From Great Britain: John Lobb, Gaziano&Girling, Cheaney, Edward Green, Loake, Crockett&Jones, Church’s, Tricker’s, Alfred Sargent, Sanders, Grenson.
Finally, from the French I’ve tried Bexley and Bally from Switzerland. I don’t count private label shoes on this list, such as the pairs Crockett&Jones makes for Brooks Brothers under the name Peal&Co. Whatever the label might read, they are still C&J shoes.
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