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Dress Shoe Prices Explained: Are better dress shoes worth it?

Step into a mall and you’ll find Aldo and Clark’s shoes selling for $50 to $100.  Cheap materials, glued outsoles, and terrible designs are bountiful. They are all probably made in China. You might ask why you should pay any more than that for dress shoes. Well, that’s what this is for. Dress shoe prices will be explained and you’ll find out whether the more expensive shoes are worth it. Are shoes worth what they are supposed to?

Move up the ranks and you’ll find Direct-to-Consumer shoes like Ace Marks, Paul Evans, Thursday Boots, IBEX, and J.L. Rocha. These shoes include quality leathers, superior construction, and unique designs for anywhere between $150 and a few hundred dollars. Some call this the sweet spot.

Dress Shoes Leather Burgundy black brown oxfords wingtips derby loafer



Further up, we find shoes like Allen Edmonds. They are made in the USA and use premium materials. You are buying tradition and classic designs that sell for a few hundred to several hundred dollars. Beyond this, you have designer shoes like Gucci that sell for $1,000 or more. You are paying for the ability to tell people your shoes are Gucci. At the top, you have bespoke shoes selling for a few thousands. They are custom made to your feet’s dimensions and any of your aesthetic desires.


Shoe Pricing

So, where do shoe prices come from? Shoe companies have costs for labor, materials, and administrative expenses. You are paying for all of that and then some; they have to make a profit. In other words, the more expensive the material and the more handwork involved and the more a brand pumps into marketing, the more you have to pay. What’s important is not paying for the marketing which produces no value to you.

Bad Value

Mall shoes are cheap because their material and construction performs poorly. The uppers do not look as elegant. The uppers will crack and be damaged easily. Their linings don’t allow the upper to breathe, leaving your feet humid and smelly. The moisture is stuck inside and causes the shoes to deteriorate. Mall shoes come with glued outsoles which fail and can’t be fixed.


diagram shoes breathability synthetic vs natural uppers

The Sweet Spot

Moving on, Direct-to-Consumer shoes are called the sweet spot because they offer the most value. Because these companies have little administrative expenses, you are paying for materials and construction only. They carry high-quality leathers and Goodyear welted construction. They may also include Blake stitched construction. In other words, shoes from here-up can be repaired and will last years.

Good Value

Then, with premium shoes like Allen Edmonds you are paying for the best materials, and attention to details in their shoemaking. Everything is at a premium. Their reputation is their marketing, so they are usually a good value.

Worst Value and Bespoke Shoes

Next, you have designer shoes. They are usually shoes from one of the lower tiers but with intense marketing. In other words, they are a rip-off! Finally, bespoke shoes are the cream of the crop. You are paying to be able to get your shoes to be however you want them to be. The color, design, and any other details are chosen by you. You choose the material and they are made for your feet. These are truly the best if you can afford them.


For more on dress shoe quality:

The Ultimate Guide to Quality Dress Shoes

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