Shell Cordovan Long Wing SmackDown

The full solar eclipse is occurring tomorrow. I am going to be in Salem, Oregon to watch (witness?) it. Wearing long wings of course. I have heard the traffic is going to be terrible because thousands of people will be coming into the area. And what could go wrong when you get a big group of Americans together? I have been training for the event by looking at the sun daily. Acclimating my eyes. Actually, have some eclipse glasses. They are made of cardboard and plastic. High quality obviously. Hopefully the glasses work and I don’t suffer the same fate as McBain.

Recently I had a shoe buddy ask me on StyleForum to do a comparison between a pair of Alden 975 and Florsheim Imperial Kenmoor 93605. Luckily, I have both pairs. And luckily, I wasn’t asked to compare vintage disco platform shoes. Lucky, lucky me.

Alden Florsheim compare Shell Cordovan

The guy was looking to buy the Alden pair and wanted some information on sizing. He definitely doesn’t need another pair of shoes. I have seen his Instagram feed. But I understand the need for one more pair. The men most obsessed with shoes are the men that are least satisfied with the shoes they own. The prospect that a better pair exists drives them. So we keep looking.

Alden 975 Color 8

According to the Alden of San Diego site, the 975 was introduced in 1958. If you live near an Alden store, you can still walk into the store and plunk down $750 and buy a new 975 pair. Or two pairs (I won’t tell). The model style and construction does not appear to have changed over the years but I haven’t handled a vintage pair. The Alden 975 has a Horween color 8 Shell Cordovan upper and a Goodyear welted double leather sole. It has a leather heel with leather and rubber combo toplift. The shoe is fully leather lined.

Florsheim 93605

Coincidentally, Florsheim introduced the 93605 in 1958 as well. Florsheim manufactured the model for 30 years until it was replaced by the nearly identical Royal Imperial Kenmoor 97626. The 97626 was made until about 2000. Since its no longer made, buying a Florsheim 93605 is tough. Pairs are commonly for sale on eBay but this requires patience to find a new or nearly new pair (see my buying guide). The model has similar construction to the Alden 975: Horween shell cordovan upper; Goodyear welted double leather sole; and full leather lining. The Alden and Florsheim have identical medallions which is something I hadn’t noticed before. A couple differences: Florsheim used a long wearing leather/steel heel with v-cleat; and according to research by Ashland Leather, Florsheim used Horween color 4 and treated it to appear darker.

Alden 975 Florsheim 93605 comparison

The 975 uses the Alden Barrie last which runs about a half size larger. I normally wear a 11.5 D and wear a 11 D in the Barrie last. When adjusted for the last sizing, the two shoes have nearly identical measurements:

Alden Florsheim
Insole Length 11 7/8″ 11 7/8″
Outsole Length 13″ 13″
Outsole Width 4 3/4″ 4 5/8″
Heel Height 1″ 1 1/8″
Sole thickness 3/8″ 1/2″
Weight 25oz 28oz

I wore both pairs a couple times in the past two weeks. They are both comfortable shoes. The Alden has better traction than the Florsheim due to the superior traction of rubber but I didn’t have any issue with the Florsheim v-cleat other than on smooth surfaces. You notice gravity. Or gravity notices you. I change the way I walk on a surface like marble. I … am … much … slower. But I still was able to run to catch a bus one afternoon in the Florsheim. I wouldn’t recommend that though.

The color of the shell is obviously the most noticeable difference between these shoes. My 93605 is on the lighter range for Florsheim shell pairs. Eggplant or burgundy/brown is a more common color for the 93605. Below I have included a late model Florsheim 97626 and Hanover LB Sheppard 2351 for color comparison.

Florsheim Alden Hanover Shell comparison

The Florsheim stitching is much better than the Alden stitching. Florsheim used two rows of stitches on each line of stitching. Alden uses a single row of stitching. The Florsheim stitching is denser than Alden. My Alden stitching is fraying in a few areas while the much older Florsheim has no issues.

Alden shoe quality

Florsheim Imperial Kenmoor 93605

The Alden 975 measures about the same as the Florsheim but when wearing the 975, it looks more substantial than the Florsheim. The Alden toe box has a bulging, rounded shape while the Florsheim is more pointed and symmetrical. This makes the Florsheim look sleeker (if it is possible to describe a long wing as sleek (I just did)).

So which pair is better? I would give the slight edge to the Alden. When I travel for business and feel the need to bring a Shell Cordovan long wing, I generally take the Alden. The darker Alden is less flashy and the enhanced traction is preferable when you are going to a new, unfamiliar location. But both shoes are great and you can see why they are popular. So buy both.

Below are a few more photos. I included a few more photos of the Hanover and Florsheim Royal Imperial as well. Now I need some bourbon.

POSTSCRIPT: Based on a recommendation from a reader below, I sent the Alden shoes to the Alden factory for repair. Alden fixed the stitching in about two weeks. Alden didn’t charge me for the repair. Excellent service.

Alden 975 Barrie

Florsheim Shell Cordovan

Florsheim Alden Hanover Long Wing

Florsheim Alden Hanover Medallion

Florsheim Alden Hanover Heel




8 thoughts on “Shell Cordovan Long Wing SmackDown”

  1. Hi David:

    Thanks for the new installment.
    Can I suggest the same “smackdown” with PTBs?
    Enjoy the eclipse.

    Best Regards:

    Pete.

  2. Another great article. (And your shoe buddy sounds like a very wise and wonderful man.) I love that Alden introduced the 975 and Florsheim introduced the 93605 in 1958.

  3. “The men most obsessed with shoes are the men that are least satisfied with the shoes they own. The prospect that a better pair exists drives them. So we keep looking.”
    Yes, that pretty much sums it up!

    Great write up, as always. The colors of the Florsheims and the Hanover are great. I guess time has to do its trick on the Aldens.

  4. When I got some Grant Stone longwings a few months back, I dragged out three of my other four makers to compare (I left the modern and mediocre J&M’s in their time-out corner of the closet). Comparing the Allen Edmonds MacNeil, the Alden longwing, the Florsheim Imperial and the Grant Stone was pretty interesting.

    The AE and the Florsheim both use double rows of stitching extensively through out, though the stitch-count is higher on the Florsheim.

    The Alden and the Grant Stone are lower stitch count and single rows.

    Nettleton splits the difference, I’m guessing for visual weight.

    All of these are really nice and well-made shoes – interesting to see evolution and choices made.

    Pix of the four I compared are here:
    https://imgur.com/KN4Z4gA (didn’t realize how fuzzy that was until now…)
    Toes:
    https://imgur.com/OUCoRKd

    Oldest and newest:
    https://imgur.com/QVzfPgD

    1. Thanks for the photos. Its like picking your favorite characteristics from your children.

      When Grant Stone came out, I thought they were the same shoes as J Crew Ludlow. Looking at worn Grant Stone and worn Ludlow on Ebay, you can tell that Grant Stone uses higher quality leather. I have been thinking about buying a pair. I do buy new shoes BTW.

      I checked out your shoe collection off your StyleForum profile. So many great shoes.

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