Editor’s Note: Four months ago Dappered put the call out to you the readers, for good looking yet durable shoe suggestions for our Official Bartender, Michael Bowers. He was beating the snot out of his shoes, and continues to do so. Three pairs were chosen to be tested for comfort, durability, and looks. Four months in there are no holes in soles yet… YET. Each pair has been rotated in equally with the others. Get Michael’s take on each below.
Pair #1: Shoes for Crews “Senator” – $79.98
I had never heard of Shoes for Crews before reading the comments on the initial post in this series. Since many of you Dappered gentleman recommend them, and because the company bills its shoes as specifically designed for the service industry, we thought we had to take a pair for a spin. Browsing the website didn’t turn up many options that would fit with my usual bartending attire, but the Senator style seemed like it could work.
New out of the box, I wouldn’t call them stylish. Their proportions and shape feel old-fashioned compared with the modern feel of the Rockports and the classic feel of the Allen Edmonds. Leather looks cheap, too. The one area wear these really stand out, though, is traction. For most people, traction probably isn’t a huge concern, but for a bartender, good traction is a bonus. These are so grippy that I nearly tripped the first time I walked from the concrete floor behind the bar to the carpeted dining room. Four months in, they’re a bit scuffed and the leather is beginning to show plenty of creases, but otherwise the shoes are holding up pretty well.
Pair #2: Allen Edmonds “Hector” – $295.00
No surprise, these are great shoes. The look is classic, the construction is solid and the materials seem to be of great quality. They have some down sides, though. The cushion that the natural rubber sole provides with each step is nice, but they are not as comfortable over many hours standing as the Rockports and Shoes for Crews. And they’re relatively heavy, which doesn’t make a difference walking from the elevator to an office chair, but after 9 hours on my feet, they can feel like weights attached to already heavy legs.
As far as durability is concerned, the upper feels solid, but I’m not convinced by the sole. After only a few shifts, noticeable wear and tear began to show in the rubber. Now, after four months, the right shoe (but oddly not the left) shows significant wear in the tread. Though the upper is in relatively great shape compared to the other shoes, I’m not certain the soles are going to last an entire year.
These are a real surprise. After the age of 60, my dad would wear nothing but Rockport shoes. The few pairs he wore until he entirely gave up shoes for thick soled slippers were designed for one purpose: comfort. Those nondescript, lightweight walking shoes were all I associated with Rockport until this pair.
Of the three, these have garnered the most attention (and compliments) from customers and co-workers. They feel modern and stylish, without being loud. In short, they look great. They feel good to wear, too. They’re still comfortable after several hours on my feet. Like my dad’s shoes, though, these are lightweight–bordering on flimsy even–and off all three pairs, these are the ones I expect to give out first. After wearing them for every third shift for four months the leather is starting to look pretty rough, with significant creases in the leather of the upper.
After Four months, no clear winner yet. And since this is the “control” round, Michael hasn’t been doing much to care for the shoes, other than tree them after use. You try scrubbing down and polishing shoes after bartime. Which pair would you choose? Is it worth investing the time and money in serious leather care products, or just go inexpensive and replace as needed?
About our Bartender – Michael Bowers is the Head Bartender at the Modern Hotel and Bar in Boise, Idaho. His patrons know him for the uncanny precision with which he tends his bar. Michael’s cocktails have been noted by, among others, Food and Wine, Sunset Magazine, GQ, and the New York Times. See more in The Drink archive.