Leading American men’s footwear brand, Allen Edmonds, marks 100 years of craft and time-honored designs this month. With this milestone, the luxury shoemaker joins an elite rank of authentic American legacy brands.
Allen Edmonds, the company, was founded in 1922 in a small town in Wisconsin by American inventor Elbert W. Allen. Allen envisioned creating a shoe unlike anything else on the market. It would consist of the first-ever patented nailess as well as shankless construction. Allen’s very simple brand promise, to create superior quality men’s shoes made of the best leathers and created by the best craftsmen in America, continues to drive the Allen Edmonds brand. Today, Allen Edmonds is the largest maker of men’s luxury footwear in the U.S. with consistent operations onshore for the past 100 years.
“Making it to 100 years is one thing, achieving that milestone while still holding our relevance and status position in men’s luxury footwear is a point of pride and commitment for the brand leadership and its artisans,” says Jay Schmidt, President, Caleres (Allen Edmonds’ parent company). “From one generation to the next we believe that possessions made to last will always reign supreme. There is no expiration to that logic.” He continued, “We have proven our ability to grow and strengthen the business.”
Allen Edmonds continues to champion the artisan craft of shoemaking. Their apprenticeship program includes 135 craftspeople, many of whom began their careers at the company and are now 2nd and 3rd-generation skilled makers who train the next generation about the craft. The company continues to make the majority of its shoes, rooted where they started in Wisconsin, celebrating a cumulative of over 12-million pairs made over the course of the past 100 years.
Inherent sustainability has always been part of the brand DNA. An Allen Edmonds shoe lifespan exceeds its competitors with classic design intention and quality standards that go the distance. The lifespan of their shoes is further enhanced through the company’s proprietary recrafting initiative (which restores the shoes to near new condition, while using original manufacturing materials and techniques), and keeping shoes from going to landfills. To date, the company has restored over a million pairs.
“What defines an Allen Edmonds shoe is the pride that goes into making each pair,” said Enrique Gallegos, Allen Edmonds’ Senior Manager of Recraft Production and Sustainability and a 3rd-generation craftsman. “Allen Edmonds shoes are in a category unto themselves as no other brand is built with such integrity that the shoes can be restored to near new condition. We also take pride in offering personal customization of each of our hand-crafted shoes for our customers that require it. I learned the highly detailed craft of shoemaking from my mother who has been working for over 24-years right here in the same factory where the Allen Edmonds story began.”
“Our Wisconsin-based factory embodies our spirit and passion and that is what inspires our future,” said David Law, Senior Vice President, General Manager, of Allen Edmonds. “We have a firm and ongoing commitment to keep delivering the same hand-made high-quality shoes, service, and value that Allen Edmonds has consistently symbolized with the quality our customers have come to know and expect. For us, authenticity, durability, and quality are finite values that never expire. This makes us genuine.”
The Allen Edmonds’ Park Avenue cap-toe oxford dress shoe, created in 1982, is still the company’s most beloved, best-selling style. With over two million pairs made, each touched by 48 pairs of hands in its making, it is one of the most widely owned shoes that is handcrafted in America using only the finest imported materials in the luxury shoe category. The Park Avenue franchise has expanded in recent years to include sneakers and hybrid shoes to meet the diverse and changing needs of customers.
“Classic status needs to be achieved authentically, you can’t force it,” said Editor, Stylist, and Allen Edmonds enthusiast, Matthew Marden. “Something becomes iconic only by proving itself over time through form and function. There is no better example of this than the Allen Edmonds Cap-toe Oxford Park Avenue.”
To commemorate their 100th Anniversary milestone, Allen Edmonds commissioned legendary photographer Billy Kidd to document 100 people, each wearing the iconic Park Avenue. Designed to be a study in style and culture, a curated group of 100 creators, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, activists, dancers, mothers, fathers (and the occasional canine) were photographed over three days in New York City as part of a portrait series designed to recognize a century of fashion in America. Symbolic to Allen Edmonds heritage and the legacy they chose to carry forward, the dynamic cast in the campaign spanned multiple generations, genders, ethnicities, and sizes, each passionate for their life’s work and personal legacy, united in culture through Kidd’s lens – an American heritage brand celebrating the foundation to which this country was built on.
“We owe this honor to every Allen Edmonds customer over the past 100 years,” said Schmidt. “No one builds and maintains a legacy by standing still – This is our life’s work, and we are just getting started.”