It is with great disappointment that I will soon be saying goodbye to my last two pairs of Florsheim Kenmoor Imperials, learning the hard way that it just doesn’t pay to play it cheap with shoes. What once seemed like a good, underrated value for a time-tested design has turned out to not be a good value after all.

What initially turned me on to them was the Kenmoor Imperial’s classic design, which has been around since the 1940s. Whether it’s the plain toe blucher or the long wing tip, the shoes are great looking and made with Goodyear-welted construction, which enables them to be re-soled forever. One of the best parts was the price point. At full price, they’re $225, which is beyond extremely reasonable for well-crafted shoes.

All sounds good, right? But here’s the bummer: the leather is cheap. My Kenmoor Imperials are around five years old. Around the seams at the ankles and near the laces, the leather is rubbing off, which is something that wouldn’t happen with better quality leather. I’ve already gotten rid of one pair because of this, and the two pairs I currently have are on their way out.

I don’t wear my Florsheims every day, or even every other day. (You should really give shoes a day off between wearings anyway.) And even so, there’s this leather problem. Typically, your best dress shoes are made with a grade of leather called “full grain” leather. Full grain leather has all of the grain from the hide, including the top layer. With more wear, it just gets better, developing a patina over time. The cheaper alternative, which looks okay but doesn’t wear well over time, is something called “top grain” leather. Top grain is a thinner layer that gets sanded off the remove imperfections. Again… looks okay, but not the best option for the long haul. Although it’s not explicitly stated on the website, it seems Florsheim is using top grain for the Kenmoor Imperial line.

For someone who only needs to wear dress shoes very occasionally, the Florsheim Kenmoor Imperials are probably a sufficient value. But for someone like me, who works them into rotation once or twice a week (or more), they’ve proven to not be the smart choice. Staying with Florsheims would require a re-purchase of a new pair every few years. Over the course of six or seven years with regular wear, that might mean three pairs, which would ultimately total almost $700. Instead, with regular wear and regular care, one good $750 pair from Alden, which uses the best leathers available, will last a lifetime.

In the years I’ve been writing about and experimenting with the best ways to get dressed on a budget, I’ve been repeatedly reminded that the true value of quality and craftsmanship are constants that never waver. As I said at the beginning, it just doesn’t pay to play it cheap with shoes. True, something nice from Alden, Allen Edmonds, Church’s or Crocket & Jones feels very expensive at first. But it’s a one-time expense for a lifetime investment that only hurts once.


  1. Christopher Fortunato

    Thank you, George. I like your comments. I am a fan of Allen Edmonds and Johnston & Murphy. However, it is too bad to hear about Florsheim.

    • Hi Christopher. I, like you, was an advocate for both Allen Edmonds and Johnston & Murphy. It seems to me through observation, as well as discussion with a J&M store manager, that the quality and service of Johnston & Murphy has taken a serious dip.

      When I first got my Hyde Park black cap toe oxfords from Johnston & Murphy about four years ago, their catalog was filled with nice dress shoe options, and the shoes could be sent back to their factory to have the Goodyear welted soles resoled. They have since discontinued their resoling program, and their catalog and stores have taken a dramatic step away from dress shoes. They are trying to focus more on casual shoes and clothing, and their dress shoe options seem to have been relegated to an afterthought. It is truly a disappointment to see an old brand pivot away from this realm.

      I still love my Hyde Parks, and they look great, but I won’t be looking for dress shoes from Johnston & Murphy any longer. I will stick with Allen Edmonds, and peruse some of the other offerings from well established companies of repute.

  2. Look at Meermin – very good quality and cheaper than Allen Edmonds. Meermin is probably the best value in the quality shoe game. If you are going to spend Allen Edmonds, churches or Alden money, check out Carmina – in my mind, a much nicer shoe for less money than Alden, slightly more than Allen Edmonds – but IMO a nicer shoe.

  3. Jeff Deavers

    Or you could do like I did, find a nice pair(or three) of vintage “real” Florsheims, have them redrafted by a pro, and wear them the rest of your life. I have pairs from 1965, 1987, never recrafted, that are still in near new condition, that I wear once a week. Also have a pair of Bostonian Wingtips, purchased new in 1978, that have had heels replaced once, that still wear great. I purchased a new pair of Made in India Florsheim Imperials, back in 2003. Hardly ever wear them, and agree with you on the lack of quality of those. Will likely find a needy recipient, and donate that pair. They are NOT good quality leather, as you said…JeffD

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