The Alden Shoe Company is a survivor that has stayed true to its roots. Began by Charles H. Alden in Middleborough, MA, it is the last of hundreds of 1800’s New England shoe companies that still makes it shoes in the USA. It’s survived recessions, a depression, upturns and downturns, all the while resisting moving its manufacturing overseas in search of cheaper labor.
Back in the early 1800’s, a single craftsman would make one or two pairs of shoes a day. Not exactly high production. But that changed in 1850 when mechanized stitching was invented and the New England shoe industry grew. Productivity was increased by 700%, quality got better, and demand soared. But like all things, what goes up must come down.
The Depression of the 20’s and 30’s basically killed the New England shoe industry. WWII was a boom, but things again took a dive, for good, in the post-war years. ButAlden shoes were able to hold on and even prospered by not chasing the low-quality mass markets. Instead, they focused on making high-quality shoes.
According to their website, Alden is the only tannery still producing genuine shell cordovan. Deriving from the rump of a horse, it’s an expensive and difficult leather to make. The “tanning process takes a full six months to complete and produces leather that is soft, supple, and very durable.”
In other words, Alden Shoes are practicing a form of shoes making that is becoming rarer in today’s world.
Check out the Alden Shoe’s website for more information and where to buy them.
An interesting debate on their shoes here.
Note: No one paid me in anyway for this post. I just like the shoes.