Crockett & Jones Clifford, Courtesy of Rugged Old Salt
A reader recently asked me a question that I found to be quite pertinent to the interest of the average shoe purchaser who may not have unlimited funds. Please see question below:
â€śI wanted to get your opinion on quality/worth since I am not knowledgeable to the same extent as someone in your position.
I need a pair of black cap toe dress shoe and have managed to narrow it down to two options:
1. C&J Belgrave Black Calf Handgrade. (I have the Belgrave in chestnut and its a very nice shoe relative to my budget)
2. EG Chelsea Black Calf in the 202 last.
I guess the real question is do you feel the price difference between the C&J ($750 USD at the C&J NYC store) versus EGâ€™s ($1150 USD at Leffot) is justified by purchasing the EG over the C&Jâ€™s. In essence, is the EG $400 better constructed, better sourced leather, going to last longer, etc? It must be said that I canâ€™t casually spend an additional $400 on the EGâ€™s so its really a question of saving a little longer and paying some additional $$$ for a better overall product. Or should I be considering the JL City II or G&Gâ€™s Oxford? It seems to become very difficult to judge quality/worth once shoes reach the $1k mark.â€ť
Crockett & Jones Belgrave
Edward Green Chelsea, Courtesy of Leffot
While the instinct in me would be to say, â€śyes, the G&G or EG is definitely a better shoe,â€ť the side of me that tells myself that I need to answer the question, not truly as a Snob but more so as an understanding and practical individual that puts things into true perspective. I thought about it for a second, collected an answer and was about to answer it via email but rather decided that it would be something that I am sure that many of you could also benefit from hearing. That being, allow me to elaborate on the upper echelons of the shoe industry, what separates these products and how things are either justified or unjustified.
Gaziano & Girling Oxford, Courtesy of Leffot
John Lobb City II
There are typically three things that you pay for in a shoe: 1. Quality of materials (i.e. leather grades, and how much leather is used), 2. The cost of labor (i.e. construction), 3. Finishing (i.e. handwork done on shoe to make look more finessed/elegant). After a certain point, when the shoe is being used only by 1st grade leathers/materials and the shoes are of goodyear welted construction or even hand-welted, the only thing left to pay for is the difference between handwork put in to the finishing/detailing of the shoe. From a practicality standpoint, the detailing does not make the shoe last longer, but it does make the shoe look a whole lot nicer and possibly feel more comfortable (in the instance of arch stiffeners and hand lasting). That being, if money is not an issue, then one would most likely go for what is not only of the best quality but also of the best attention to detail, i.e. a John Lobb, Edward Green or Gaziano & Girling, and Aubercy etc. But when one does not have unlimited funds but wants to get a top quality shoe, then the best thing would be to get a shoe that doesnâ€™t necessarily have all of that fancy finishing but rather, is well-made, using high quality materials.
So, to answer the readersâ€™ question, in reference to his statement, â€śbetter constructed, better sourced leather, going to last longer,â€ť I will say that no, it is not worth (to a gentleman that is on a budget) to save up an extra $400 to go up to the next level. A Handgrade C&J, if treated properly should last just as long as EG or G&G or John Lobb etcâ€¦Would I do it however? Well, that is another story, as I have a sickness for shoes, but as I said, answering from a practical standpoint, I can say that a Handgrade Crockett & Jones is going to hold up just like an EG or G&G will, it just wonâ€™t have as much fancy detailing.