Allen Edmonds. More specifically, their current version of the classic beefroll loafer, named the Kenwood. They introduced the production model, made in their Port Washington, Wisconsin factory, a few years back. Initially, I was a real fence-sitter. The burgundy and black versions were only available in gentry (aka brush-off aka plasticized) leather and the shell cordovan was a bit out of reach for me. And the tan saddle version shown above? Well, let's just say that the online catalog photo was a bit underwhelming.
But as I so often I do: I kept circling back around the Kenwood. Why? Well so often is the case a musician is involved. You see, when I was 14 (more specifically the Summer of 1985) I made a very important connection between music and clothing. I not only wanted to play music like my emerging heroes, but I wanted to dress like them as well. Of course it helped that Los Angeles (the closest metropolis to my suburban digs) was experiencing the Paisley Underground and a good friend fell in a group of kids he referred to as mods. In short, it was the first step on a lifelong path of the shoes matching the sound, as it well.
But let me get back to the Kenwood. You see, I never really dug beefroll loafers. Sure sure, I knew they had their admirers and their place - my English friends seemed particularly fond of them - but they just did not do it for me. And then I saw this...
That's West Coast jazz and pop master guitarist Howard Roberts circa 1955 or so in the recording studio in Los Angeles. For my eyes this shot (photographer, unfortunately, unknown) matches Francis Wolff's later celebrated Blue Note photographs in every way. It is just plain cool. But don't smoke, kids. Seriously. Most importantly with regards to this post, let's take a cue from my pal, Mod Male, and focus in on a detail...
Yes a beefroll loafer, probably black, replete with a rear seam detail that I had only seldom seen on examples of these shoes. OK, so maybe these shoes were alright after all. Fast forward to when I first saw the Kenwood, some of the details of the shoe appealed to me thanks to Mr. Roberts, namely the rear seam. But the Kenwood had another detail that appealed to me: the pinked edge of the tongue. And there was something about it that reminded me of another photo I had seen.
Miles Davis, photographed by the aforementioned Francis Wolff at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in Hackensack, New Jersey on March 6, 1954. Again, we can take a look at a detail up close...
While not as pronounced as the Allen Edmonds model, there is the pinked edge that had caught my eye. Very likely a tan saddle pair as well. And while we are at it, nice sock/trouser contrasts both in terms of color tone and fabrics. And while 1954 marked the beginning of Davis's adoption of Ivy League as part of his sartorial style (something I have written about a greater length elsewhere on this very same weblog), he was photographed 6 months earlier wearing what is most likely the same pair of shoes...
Chet Baker, Miles Davis, and Rolf Ericson photographed on September 13, 1953 at The Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach, California. Miles had kicked his habit and took a road trip to the Coast where he jammed with Baker and Ericson alongside his bandmate from the Charlie Parker Quintet days, Max Roach. By the way, a recording of this session was released decades later by Fantasy/OJC as At Last! And Miles's tan beefrolls were there...
So when I happened into the Allen Edmonds shop in Union Square last year during one of their semi-annual sales and saw the Kenwoods up close and personal, my perception had shifted enough to encourage me to try on a pair of the tan saddles. No gentry leather, decent looking, USA-made. Perhaps I could warm to these. Admittedly the slightly burnished look still left me a bit cold, but I was in the mood for something different and the price was right so I gave them a shot.
The verdict? Well, I've had a uneasy 8 month relationship with the shoes. On the plus side, they are sharp as a tack. The color was much more versatile than I had suspected. In fact, a couple of trips to A Shine & Co. (don't tell my tailor that I get my shoes shined - it's a long story) and several coats of Meltonian goldenrod shoe cream and the richness of the leather has really come to life. On the flip side, I broke a heel within a few weeks of owning the shoes. A simple repair for sure, but not terribly encouraging for my first Allen Edmonds experience. I should also say that they stretched rather quickly resulting in a not too pleasant fit for my 10.5 E feet. I've since solved that issue by wearing a pair of thick Wigwams or a cotton liner sock, but again somewhat rough seas for my maiden voyage with the shoemaker. Still, my Father swears by Allen Edmonds, so I will give them some more time. As for a recommendation? Well, I can only give a highly qualified one and I would love to hear about your Allen Edmonds experiences in the comments section below.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Allen Edmonds Kenwood (2011)
Posted by Nick Rossi at 7:07 AM
Labels: Charlie Parker, guitar, howard roberts, jazz, Made in USA, Max Roach, miles davis, shoes, style
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I have several pair of Aldens, some Red Wings, and Mark McNarry. My one pair of Allen Edmonds are very painful to wear (tassle loafers) and taking a long time to break in. Every pair of Aldens that I own are very comfortable to wear.
Similarly Chuck, my Aldens are the most comfortable pairs of shoes I own. I have discovered that my wider feet stretch out loafers though, which makes nearly any brand uncomfortable after a while. I did stop into the San Francisco Alden shop this past week to discuss the issue with them. Not only did they give me some inserts for my Allen Edmonds but they spent a good deal of time with me talking about my options. Customer service that can't be beat!
Iv been wearing Allen Edmonds for the past 10 years and will not wear any other brand of footwear. I use to be a huge Florsheim fan (the USA made) but nothing beats the footwear manufacturer from Wisconsin,USA.
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