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

by Barron Cuadro  |  in Smart Casual

A while back, I found this post on Bergdorf Goodman’s editorial site called A Gentleman’s Guide to Definitive Shoes.

Sadly, that article isn’t around anymore, but luckily, I still have the shoes they featured and am using them as examples in this article.

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 Goodman’s suggestions

If you check out their suggestions and like what you see, but can’t stomach the steep prices, here are some alternatives.

The Rugged Wingtip Brogue

brogue Six Affordable Alternatives to “Definitive” Shoes

Bergdorf Goodman house brand, left ($525, unavailable, other options)
Vince Camuto Corten, right ($225)

Aesthetically, the major differences are the brogue styling and the soles.

The Bergdorf version has that really heavy broguing and lug rubber sole. The pair from Vince Camuto also has a rubber sole, though they’re not lugged. Tricker’s is another brand to consider for their heavy broguing style.

The Suede Chukka

chukka Six Affordable Alternatives to “Definitive” Shoes

Brunello Cucinelli Aged Leather Chukka, left ($890, unavailable, other options)
Clarks Desert Boot[/earnist_link link_id="78555"], right ($100)

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

The Bushacre II from Clarks is the everyman’s alternative. The main difference between the Bushacre model and the original Clarks Desert Boot is that the Bushacre has a rubber outsole instead of the crepe sole.

Not quite the nice lug sole the Cucinelli model has. But as of this writing, I didn’t see any affordable alternatives with a lug sole.

The Black Leather Cap-Toe

black cap toe Six Affordable Alternatives to “Definitive” Shoes

Church’s Consul Cap-Toe Oxford, left ($650, unavailable, other options)
Johnston & Murphy Melton Cap Toe, right ($179)

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 Johnston & Murphy version, for a fraction of the price. They can’t compare in quality, but aesthetically, they’re very similar.

Both of these are considered oxfords, while bluchers are similar, yet different. More about the differences here.

The Double Monk-Strap

double monkstrap Six Affordable Alternatives to “Definitive” Shoes

John Lobb Chapel, left ($1685, unavailable, other options)
Massimo Matteo Double Monk PT, right ($159)

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 have had a few successful exits as a venture capitalist.

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

The Zip Boot

black zip boot Six Affordable Alternatives to “Definitive” Shoes

Tom Ford Edward, left ($1790, unavailable, other options)
Florsheim Midtown Plain Toe Zip Boot, right ($120)

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, check out the version Florsheim has for $120.

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

work boot Six Affordable Alternatives to “Definitive” Shoes

Red Wing Beckman, left ($320, unavailable, other options)
Ben Sherman Great End Chukka, right ($120, unavailable, similar)

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 Ben Sherman model is a decent alternative (stylistically), however.

Another boot I really like is the Alden Indy, a more refined moc toe boot with a leather sole, which happen to be more expensive than the Red Wings.

On a budget? Looks > Quality

In Smart Sharp Style, 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 (around $200) is probably the Florsheim Kenmoor or the Heritage Wingtip Oxford. After that, you’ll be venturing into Allen Edmonds territory ($300+).

So basically, if you’re still building your initial shoe collection, find shoes that look good. Don’t fret too much about quality or brand. You can always upgrade later.

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:

Which pair is your favorite?

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 our course, Smart Sharp Style and our guide to matching, Match Clothes Like A Pro.