Dear Readers,

If you are reading this text, that means that you are on the old version of my blog. I have changed platforms and am now using Wordpress. You can find the updated version of my site at:

www.theshoesnobblog.com

Sincerely,

Justin, "The Shoe Snob"

Monday, June 11, 2012

Why Is America Still So Far Behind

Goodyear welted Santoni - retailed at $975 5 years ago


I used to think that I knew so much about shoes, back when I was just a salesman at Nordstrom and had yet to embark on my European adventures. I won't hesitate to say though that due to my passion for shoes, I did know more than my co-workers, which ultimately is quite sad when I think about it because looking back it at now I realize that I honestly did not know crap! And yet, I still feel today that this is the case for many salesmen, and men in general in America. Now don't me wrong, in no way is this an attack towards my countrymen, but more just a concerned observation that I made when I was back home. And this observation affects me, because part of my goal in starting this blog was to help open up men's eyes to the world of shoes outside of what they see in the shoe store and style magazines, as well as what salesmen tell them to be "the best". I feel as if men in America are far more gullible (or maybe just less informed?) than your average European man, when it comes to purchasing clothes. I have heard with my own ears (in America) another salesmen telling some couple that a blake-stitched Magnanni shoe was 'handmade' and then win over the sale because of it. It baffles me to witness such things, knowing that people are constantly being fooled and will then think that their shoes are better than they really are. And I am sure that this happens everywhere....not just the States.

Current selling Santoni (blake-stitched, rubbish leather), retailing circa $550 (£370) - The problem with America


But why is America so far behind? This is what I wonder. Several factors come to mind when pondering this question. Does the currency conversion make it far too expensive to stock European made goodyear welted shoes or good blake-stitched shoes (such as Gravati)? Is it because American men generally tend to care less about their appearance in respects to their European counterparts? Is is because many salesmen in America work on a commission based structure and will therefore tell you anything to close the deal? I don't know, but it bothers me because I want America and American men to be seen as equals when it comes to the intelligence of sartorial execution, yet I know that currently they are not and are not even close for that matter. In my opinion, I blame the department stores. In America, this is where the majority of people go to shop and look to be educated. Yet if you go to one, you will see ill fitting suits (on salesmen and for sale) with minimal alterations being offered, poorly constructed shoes being held in high regard (think glued-sole Ferragamos) and coincidentally high prices attached to it all. It's very backwards, yet it seems to not ever change. Prices inevitably go up, quality is clearly going down, and all of the consumers seem to think that their purchases were worth every penny.

Alden, good leather, better construction (goodyear welted), selling at $475 (£300) at Leather Soul - The solution to the problem


I was so happy when Leffot and Leather Soul opened their doors and started offering great shoes to American consumers. It paved the way for others to follow suit, especially since they have both been doing so well. I thought that it would mark a time for change, yet I don't see it. Maybe I am just being impatient. But Nordstrom's prize possession is still a blake-stitched Santoni that retails at $700 and uses very mediocre leather. Consumers see this as the holy grail of shoes there. But once, they actually took a chance and purchased some of their (Santoni) goodyear welted range that retailed over $1000. They sold quite well but then never restocked that range again. It was an introduction and then subsequently a termination of good shoes in one fell swoop. And this makes me realize that we will be very lucky to ever see new goodyear welted shoes in the department stores in America, unless another American factory opens up and starts making them (which keeps the currency conversion nonexistent) or that the chain from production cost to retail price somehow becomes less greedy with its high mark-ups....

Allen Edmonds, Goodyear welted, retail price $325 (£210) - The ideal shoe in America for the price


It's all very troubling for me as I do have a genuine concern, but hopefully as I continue to write more and more eyes will continue to be opened. Question the salesmen and don't believe everything you hear. Where commission is involved, lies will be too....

Update: June 13th, 2012. Based on some of the commentary for this post, I feel that I need to reiterate what I was trying to get across. First off, I AM AMERICAN, just in case that you were confused. I was raised in America and then moved to Europe, therefore I have seen both sides with my own eyes, not just on TV or in magazines. The reason that I write this, is not to attack my fellow Americans, but to assess a situation that is prevalent and concerning to me. I have not become some European snob who looks down on Americans. I am still the same guy as I used to be in America, but am a whole lot more knowledgeable now (in sartorial terms) due to my time in Europe, where YES, MEN HERE DO KNOW MORE! This is not a critique or an offense, but rather just a simple matter of fact, one that I wish were not true, but one that is. This post is more a question, as to why Americans are not progressing as fast as I had hoped, and a reader named Darren so eloquently explained why he felt why in the comments section, which I believe was bang on. Now, saying that, please remember the title of the blog. I have opinions, and one might not always like them, and this is life....just like the guy who attacked me. It happens. So, if you happened to be offended by this post, then you were missing completely the point of it, of which I am sorry.....

9 comments:

  1. Justin,

    I think all the reasons you have put forward are valid, but in addition don't forget we English have hundreds of years of history using shoe and clothing companies that have themselves been around for generations. Our royal families have patronised these companies and set standards which have been emulated by us lower class mortals. If you buy shoes from a firm that has been making them since (say) 1800 and is still in business you have got to assume they are doing something right.

    Unfortunately in this day and age celebrities, and so called style icons, simply do not know how to dress correctly and you see them at black tie events, weddings, funerals etc in polychromatic trainers. Youngsters think this is 'cool' and 'fashionable' and copy them. Shoe shops therefore stock up with this rubbish and sell to the masses.

    You must feel like a voice crying in the wilderness but please don't give up.

    Best regards Snapper

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  2. I think that you give to much credit to European men. While there are a few of us who are interested in quality clothes and shoes, the majority havne't got a clue, are happy to remain ignorant, and follow the latest fad.

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  3. @Anon believe me compared to the US the European man's taste is shoes is in another stratospehere. I'm always surprised to see decent suits destroyed by horrendous Cole Haan shoes or similar

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  4. I happen to be wearing today the exact AE shoe pictured above, and I learned about AE from your blog, so you're doing something right for your countrymen. Keep it up!

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  5. I work at a smaller shoe store at the heart of Union Square and I do really try to stay educated so that I know what I'm talking about when I'm with a customer, which is why I'm a regular reader of your blog. It is funny to me how marked up the Ferragamos are, especially compared to the nicer Gravatis and Santonis that we carry here, but when it comes down to it, I think a good percentage of the clientele here are looking for brand before anything else. The US market is so focused on brand recognition that it is very difficult to steer clients towards a better direction. And the thing is, for the department stores especially, salespeople have pretty much no say in what their departments end up carrying, so they are stuck using the tried and true techniques of a used car salesman. With my store though, we have a more mature and generally more knowledgeable clientele, so I feel like have to expand my own education beyond what the brand reps tell me. So keep doing what you're doing, Justin, and know that your efforts are not only appreciated, but are being put to practice as well!

    -Alex

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  6. Hi All,

    I rarely post comments but this subject interests me a little. I am english and have lived in Manhattan for a few years. I going to make generalizations here, from my own personal experience.

    Although there are many reasons behind the difference in treatment to fashion, they all stem from the same source: USA is a much younger country. There is less tradition in fashion and manufacturing. The relative youth of the country combined with the money oriented and competitive psyche is reflected in the manufacturers, retailers and buyers. Manufacturers/buyers are solely focused on the bottom line and sales /sqft, less interested in bespoke-type personalized service and high end product.

    The materialism of the country, means the perception of having money is imperative. The consumer desires a product that is easily associated with wealth and success i.e. big named brands; so an expensive aesthetic is more important than quality - Louboutin mens shoes is great example of this, a goodyear sole will NEVER trump a red blake sole. Quality is not that important: Expensive, new, recognisable, exclusivity rules. Generally, the male US customer's 'utility' in clothing/shoes, is predominantly external: What other people think of the product dominates their experience rather than their personal enjoyment.This is why celebrity endorsement is vital in the US. (Elaborating on what Snapper said).

    This is why the latest Jordans are like golddust. I doubt people would have be shooting each other for Lazlo Vass monks?


    The competitive retailers know this, so finding great niche brands is close to impossible. Leather soul and Leffot are REAL niche players, addressing a miniscule portion of the consumer.

    USA is the land of jeans, t-shirts and 'sneakers' which they do extremely well, and it fits in perfectly with what i said above. With this all being said, it is a great place, and in terms of fashion things are getting much better.

    God Bless America!

    DArren

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  7. i have to tell you, ive been reading your blog for a long time. This time, i find a bit offensive. what ALL Americans are behind? and ALL Englishmen have amazing shoes (and style)? EVERY single show sold in department stores in the UK is high quality? common?
    If you are going to compare the two countries make it more about facts and substantiate your argument. Don't just give anecdotal evidence...
    like i said, ive been a loyal reader but especially after that post you wrote about the letter you got i was expecting you to not engage in silly comparison that is just full of negativity...

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  8. Snapper - Very valid points you make indeed. Yes, many of us Americans do tend to emulate those whom we see in the magazines and on TV instead of trusting in our own abilities to come up with a unique style of self.

    Anon - There are definitely many European men that are exactly like the way you describe, I can't disagree. But I do believe that European men "in general" have a better clue when it comes to the quality of clothing and putting together an outfit. Not saying that all European men dress great, that surely would not be true, nor am I saying that all American men dress bad....that would definitely be a lie....just saying that I believe that Americans have a lot to learn, just as I did....

    AlexG - indeed, or worse like New Balance with their suits....always blows my mind when I see that.

    Brandt - Nice one!! It's a great model.

    Alex - Well said sir...it's such a shame, but I do feel that we will get there eventually....slowly but surely! Thanks for commenting.

    Darren - Probably one of the best comments to date. Everything that you said was bang on!! Glad to see you on here, do comment more often please. Still hoping to see you rockin' those grey EG's in the flesh. Stop by the next time that you are wearing them!

    Igael - Firstly I am sorry that you seemed to take offense to what I said. But after reading your comments, I can see that you completely misinterpreted what I said, and even put words into my mouth. I never used the word, "ALL," as in all American men dress bad or all European men dress well. Believe me, there are lots of shit shoes (and dressers) out here....but this does not change the fact that I still believe that Europeans are more knowledgeable when it comes to their sartorial choices. And I don't say this with spite or negativity. I say this with concern. Part of the reason I started this blog was to educate my fellow Americans (I am American you know), as I used to be a lot more ignorant too. And just because I received a nasty email does not mean that I am going to stop being controversial myself. I posted that email because I found it amazing how someone could be so spiteful, but I am not being spiteful, I am being concerned from what I witnessed with my own two eyes. And considering I have lived in 2 different countries in Europe and also America, I believe that I have a valid idea of the differences. I have opinions too, and not everyone is going to like them....I hope that you continue reading.

    -Justin

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  9. HI All again,

    i would like to add something else to this.

    On the other end of the sartorial spectrum, that is even more perplexing than USA, is Japan. Their attention to detail, quality and product knowledge is astounding. As an example, see what they did with their denim industry; when denim production got modernized, they reverted to buying up all the old less efficient shuttle style looms that american producers no longer used. Why? To produce the best selvedge natural indigo denim there is. They did the same thing with whisky other examples.

    Not exactly sure what the reason for this is, possibly their culture, tradition, intense perfectionism, class structure, culture void after WWII, and subsequent adoption of western culture.

    It would be nicer to see this all over the world, but alas i don't think passion always translates to profit. Thoughts?

    Darren

    "All generalizations are false; especially this one"

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