close button

It is curious to see just how different some shoe brands were nearly 100 years ago to what they are today. Being that the world has changed vastly it is no surprise that not one brand is making the same quality as before. The closest would be Crockett & Jones/Edward Green etc, but even they were completely handmade (or at least close to it) back then as opposed to the bench/hand grade production now done by machines with skilled workers stationed at each machine. Times have changed. Being that we are all shoe nerds that like good quality, the question must spring to mind: why do they not make shoes like this anymore? And the answer is simple. It is because there is no real money in high-quality shoes and honesty. Making them really just gets you praise and respect. But it does not allow you to become a colossal brand like Nike. And being that Cole Haan was bought by Nike some 20 years ago, it is no surprise either that since then, Cole Haan has dropped even further.

People must understand that good quality shoes have very low-profit margins. Even with their high-end ticket prices, one might think that they have a 10x margin but sadly, in the shoe industry (of quality shoes) a shoemaker is lucky to get a 3x margin. That means, if they cost $200 to make, they sell for $600. And that is for a brand that does not have VAT built into its price. A shoemaker in Europe, for example, that sells for ?1200 is paying ?200 per pair in taxes alone out of that ?1200 so you can thank the tax man for that extra 20% you have to pay.

But the reality is that the standard in the welted industry is more like 2.5x-2.8x which is even harder to stay going. There is a reason why big brands to go China or to India, raise prices while lowering quality, cut corners and the like. In order to be a big brand, you need those high margins. It is extremely hard to become a multi-million dollar brand with a 3x margin unless you are selling 1 million shoes a year. But now you have to ask yourself, who can do that? The largest factories in Europe, maybe can make 400K shoes a year. So where do you get the other 600K? Most of the ‘large’ brands of the welted industry are maybe pumping out 50K-150K shoes/year while the top, top ones are closer to 200K-250K shoes/year.

People often do not realize the value of a good quality shoe. They complain about the price but are happy to buy an iPhone for $1000 or a TV for $3000. And the more that people do not appreciate the good quality and cry about price and free shipping, the more that good quality will slowly disappear as people outsource, go for higher profit margins, more volume and mass production. It is the natural way of business, which is why not one factory today makes like they did 100 years ago. They still could, of course, but a Handmade C&J shoe might run ?3K so it really doesn’t make sense does it?

But nice to at least see these vintage Cole Haan’s and reminisce on what used to be when quality was valued above all. And if you value good quality too, make sure you support the brands actually offering it rather than the ones that sell you on a brand name or country of origin.

Photos courtesy of David Rogers on Facebook’s The Shoe Forum

13 thoughts on “Vintage Cole Haan’s – Circa 1930”

  1. Bought a pair of Cole Haan moccasin, two tone loafers back in the 70’s, in a small store in St John’s, Newfoundland (of all places). They were so well made and comfortable I wore them ragged, and miss them to this day.

  2. I had no idea Cole Haan has been around that long. Back in the 1980’s I had five or six pairs of their loafers, including one pair of woven leather slip-ons and one that I would describe as a moccasin flat. The lined penny loafers were well made in my opinion. Since Nike bought the company, I agree that the quality has gone down.

  3. Of course, I don’t expect hand made quality. But there has been a rise in shoe prices by established quality 1st world companies that exceeds inflation by several hundred percent. I imported a pair of Crockett and Jones Coniston’s in 2000 and I think it was about $230. I had to do a lot of searching to find them. Now that shoe is $725, roughly 300%. In the early 90’s you could get Alden loafers for ~$150 now it is $560 plus, 370%. In the early 2000’s you could get John Lobb ready to wear for under $700. Thanks to the knowledge you desseminate, the internet and manufacturer direct to consumer companies there are available more affordable shoes in more lasts and styles than ever before. I am referring to what is available to a U.S. Customer. This has also forced established old companies to expand styles, options and lasts. (I fear Crockett and Jones has gone too far.) Going back less than two decades a customer who only shopped from U. S. soil you needed to be a shoe nerd to be familiar with exotic items like double monks and whole cuts. Times have changed, for the better and you have played a major part in exposing me to brands I wasn’t aware and that has compounded because more brands have gone into business.

    1. Justin FitzPatrick

      Thanks for sharing my friend. My how times have changed. But I also imagine that the suppliers, of leather, for example have also drastically increased, as have rents. Some brands, of course, are charging for “ideas” but I think the world has simply become too expensive. When I think about my profit margins, sometimes I almost feel I have none as there are so many little costs that add up these days that I should charge at least another $100 just to keep up. 2% here, 3% there, free shipping, ink, paper etc. Its hard these days for companies. I get on both sides. Prices are crazy, quality is not the same and yet there are more makers than ever now.

      1. Justin,

        I think you should be extremely proud for having inspired lots of people who now appreciate welted footwear and great quality standards in general.
        That is I think something money could not buy, the satisfaction of knowing you have made a difference in this sector that is arguably in decade. I very much appreciate you sharing some details about this industry that I’d never had known.

        Thank you for continuing this work of supporting centenary skills and your commitment to quality

        1. Justin FitzPatrick

          Hey JRod, thank you so much for your kind words. They mean a lot to me knowing that people still appreciate what I do, what I have done. Thank you for saying so and for your continued support. I appreciate it

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *