Looks Over Quality: Six Affordable Alternatives to “Definitive” Shoes

July 3, 2013 · 17 comments

in Look Good For Less, Shoes

Hey Gents,

A while back, I found this post on Bergdorf Goodman’s blog: Gentleman’s Guide to Definitive Shoes. While I do agree with their selections, I wanted to come up with some alternatives to the shoes they presented.

Why? Because while the individual shoe styles they present are great, they feature really, really expensive versions. Naturally, of course, since it’s Bergdorf. I don’t blame ‘em.

Alternatives to Bergdorf’s suggestions

If you read through their article and like what you see, but can’t stomach the steep prices, here are some alternatives.

The Rugged Wingtip Brogue


Bergdorf Goodman house brand, left: ($525 originally, now $262, unavailable)
Dr. Martens brogue, right: ($135 on sale)

Aesthetically, the major difference is the brogue styling, and the soles. The Bergdorf version has that really obvious lugged rubber sole. Quite similar though.

The Suede Chukka


Brunello Cucinelli Aged Leather Chukka, left: ($890 originally, now $445, unavailable)
Clarks Desert Boot, right: ($120)

Brunello is like the Lamborghini of casual luxury clothing. The materials are top notch, and it’s reflected in the price.

I’m happy with my Clarks. I have a few pairs, and they’ve never let me down. These have a crepe sole, vs. the lugged sole on the Cucinelli shoes, in case you didn’t notice that.

The Black Leather Cap-Toe


Church’s Consul Cap-Toe Oxford, left: ($650)
Bostonian Dennison Black Cap-Toe, right: ($100)

The Church’s brand has to be one of the oldest shoemakers in the world. They’re known for using top quality materials and the best craftsmanship. Again, it’s reflected in the price.

You’d be just fine wearing the Bostonian version, for a fraction of the price. They can’t compare in quality, but aesthetically, they’re very similar.

Notice that the Bostonians on the right are bluchers, while the Church’s are oxfords. More about the difference here.

The Double Monk-Strap


John Lobb Chapel, left: ($1685)
To Boot New York Langley, right: ($279)

You may not have even heard of John Lobb. That’s because you can’t afford him. If you regularly wear and buy John Lobb shoes, you probably manage a couple hedge funds, sell human organs on the black market, or had a few successful exits as a venture capitalist.

If you like the double monk-strap style, check out To Boot New York’s slightly more affordable version. If you hunt regularly enough, especially on the flash sale sites I’ve told you about, you can find other dub monks for a really good price.

The Zip Boot


Tom Ford Edward, left: ($1790)
Johnston & Murphy Larsey, right: ($150)

I think Tom Ford is a bad ass. I’ve always been a big fan, and maybe one day, I’ll be able to afford his $5000 suits, or in this case, his $1800 zip boots.

Until then, however, check out the version Johnston & Murphy has for $150.

They’re probably not hand-polished in Italy with unicorn tears like Tom Ford’s are (maybe), but they also have one less zero at the end of their price tag.

The Work Boot


Red Wing Beckman, left: ($320 originally, now $160, unavailable)
Wolverine 1883 Shindell, right: ($104 on sale)

The Red Wings actually aren’t that much, relatively speaking. They’re a great shoe, made in the USA, and super quality for the price. The Wolverine is a decent alternative, however.

Another boot I really like is the Alden Indy, which happen to be more expensive than the Red Wings.

On a budget? Looks > Quality

In Dressing Like a Grownup, I explain the importance of the Fit > Quality > Brand hierarchy, especially when shopping on a budget.

When it comes to shoes—again, if you’re on a budget—focus on how a shoe looks before you worry about its quality.

To be honest, it’s hard to find top notch quality in a sub-$200 retail shoe. The best value (sub-$200) is probably the Florsheim Veblen. After that, you’ll be venturing into Allen Edmonds territory ($300+).

So basically, for now, find shoes that look good. Don’t fret too much about quality or brand.

And if it’s not already clear, you don’t even have to choose the alternatives I found for you. I’m just showing you what’s possible.

Oh, and are you not sure what looks good? Check out these articles:


Consider yourself even more knowledge-equipped.

Of the above, which pair is your favorite? Let’s hear it in the comments below.

Want to get to the nitty gritty of personal style? Check out Graduating Your Style and Dressing Like a Grownup.


[photos via Zappos and Bergdorf Goodman]


Barron is the founder and editor of Effortless Gent, a site dedicated to helping guys figure out what looks best on them. He's based in San Francisco. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

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