Welcome To The Jungle
I spent yesterday watching the rebooted Jumanji movie. The movie was so bad it was actually funny at times. What does this have to do with the article you say? Well it made me think how something so bad can generate so much interest and money so that people continue watching it. Pretty much like the latest Star Wars movies. Afterwards my thoughts shifted to shoes of course and how many horrendous brands are out there imitating Jumanji. Please welcome the “Worst Dress Shoe Brands Guide“!
Laughable constructions, fake welts, pathetic leather out of scraps and appalling designs are the name of the game here. Educating ourselves about the Best Shoes is not enough. We should definitely talk about the bottom of the barrel as well.
Bring some air freshener, because some of these are real stinkers.
Behold The Worst Dress Shoe Brands
So before we get to the actual list it is worth writing a small disclaimer. Most (if not all) of the shoes make this list due to the quality/value ratio. Essentially what you pay and what you get. The materials are simply inferior and they will not last long. You can do so much better with your money and some of them have really atrocious designs.
While it is also my opinion, I did a lot of research reading people’s reviews on certain brands to make a conclusion.
1. Aldo – Cheap Fast Fashion
We begin with the stuff of nightmares. Aldo is a Canadian retailer that is one of the kings of fast-fashion shoes. They produce tons of shoes by copying popular designs or luxury brands for dirt cheap prices.
If you buy one of their shoes it probably comes from China where 60% of their production lies. The rest come from various Asian Countries as well as cheaper labor in Eastern Europe and Brazil. Let’s look at a quick review feedback from one customer.
“They suck and were absolutely disgusting after 3 months”.
So what is the problem with Aldo? First of all anything produced in such large quantities is bound to have low standards. The leather they use is very low quality made of scraps and corrected grain and it will show very quickly. Even after a few wears you will notice extreme creasing and stretch and they also lose shape. Quality control is terrible and you will not be holding these more than a year before the sole splits in two. Since they use a cemented construction you cannot resole them (nor you should anyways).
You get nothing for your money and we are talking about close to Meermin’s ballpark prices. I advise you to never step foot in an Aldo store. Did I mention they paid less than minimum wage in the US?
2. Henri Lloyd – Terribad For The Price
I have a personal gripe with this one. This was the first ever real dress shoe I bought in an Ecco Boutique in Stockholm. After buying my first suit, I thought it was a good idea to get a nice pair of shoes too. Of course I knew little about shoes at the time so I found something looking ok and voila.
Henri Lloyd is a German Shoemaker that makes cheap, cemented horrendous shoes. Of course, some of them will look ok just like my pair did but most are ugly with totally square toes and unflattering curves.
My pair showed incredible amounts of creasing right after a couple of wears, while the leather was dull and did not take a shine. This is the hallmark of very low quality leather and corrected grain. It began peeling and it was obviously not going to last long. If I can give it a plus, is that my pair was extremely comfortable to wear. Cemented construction means they are worthless so I ended up donating them to a young flatmate that could actually use them.
What makes it even more disturbing for me is that I spent about 1500 SEK (Swedish Crowns) which is about 170$. For a little more one can buy Meermin in Europe instead. There is no excuse to buy cemented shoes anymore.
3. Cole Haan – Don’t Trust The Internet
Alright let me begin this buy a simple google search. I googled “Cole Haan Prices” and one of the results of people’s questions was if they are expensive. Here’s the answer by Marie:
“Not only the brand ,but quality is 100% as well! Cole Haan shoes are expensive because the craftsmanship of the shoes is well made. The quality of this shoes is amazing.”
Marie, stop spreading misinformation. Cole Haan has a reputation for comfort but that’s about it. The leather quality is terrible, the construction is cemented. They are an absolute nightmare to refurbish and it is not worth your time or money. Actually there is a more expensive line around the 300$ mark but it looks to be “Bonwelted” which is a fancy term for cemented. It gives the look of a Goodyear Welt but it is not.
Add to that that they changed hands quite a few times over the past few years and you know something is fishy. Those crepe sneaker soles on dress shoes too…Bottom line: You can do better with your money. Much better.
4. Kenneth Cole – As Cheap As It Gets
I start to question why I do this. Yet another cheap quality shoemaker with the lowest standards. This time around we enter the glorious “Designer” space. Kenny seems to make some ok clothes but his shoes are a mess.
First of all, when see shoe costing 30-60$ the red flags should begin to light like Christmas. They are absolutely ghastly. Just take a look at the following.
There is not much to say here. Of course they have some better designs, but don’t fool yourself. It will just fall apart after a while due to the construction and the leather will look like a velociraptor mangled them.
5. Steve Madden – Are You Mad-den?
Keeping the list strong with a Brand that sounds like a Rugby player. Steve Madden is a convicted felon and businessman making something that resembles a shoe. High quality and Steve Madden does not go together.
What is the deal with the square toe designs even in 2020 I don’t get it. Cemented, overpriced hot garbage with the lowest quality leathers. They will crease and crack so hard you might think the tectonic plaques collided and the earth split in two. Just look at how low quality the materials look. They don’t even bother.
As soon as you enter their website they will bombard you with ads and coupons and pop ups. The pictures are very low resolution and blurry. Some designs look pretty ok but for 100-130$ you can do so much better. There is no reason for you to buy Steve Madden Shoes.
6. Calvin Klein – Designer Garbage
Let’s face it. So many of you just go to the mall and buy a pair of shoes just because you need one and it looks ok. Designer shoes are everywhere and use a famous brand name to convince and coax you into buying. Calvin Klein is of course a very famous brand for a lot of things but the shoes they make are junk.
Everything that applies for the above brands applies here too. The cheapest materials from the uppers, the sole, the heel block and the cemented construction make them worthless. Refurbishing is a waste of time and money so you are better off investing your money into something that will actually last.
Not only that but the pre-sale prices are up to 180-200$ which is once again Meermin territory. Glossy, bulky and terribly unattractive, Calvin Klein shoes will crease like there is no end and you are better off burning your money during a cold winter.
7. Stacy Adams – Plastic
That’s right, if there is one word to describe to describe Stacy Adams Shoes it is plastic. Right next to cheap, low quality, stapled and expendable. Stacy Adams makes my blood sugar rise and it is interesting that their history dates back to 1875.
The worst part of this already terrible shoe is the heel block which is a total mess. I saw a video where some cobblers were talking about how the heel block is just a piece of stapled plastic that rips the shoe apart. Not only that, but they also look distasteful.
Now, let’s quickly talk about my greatest villain which is Pierro Shoes. I don’t even want to link to his website and give him Google Juice but you need to see this with your own eyes. So this man “Reviews” bottom of the barrel shoe brands and markets them as absolutely incredible quality and comfort. Here are some of the quotes from the article:
“These shoes are well made, period.”
“Every step that you take will feel like you’re walking on clouds.”
“The overall construction of the shoe is very durable, long lasting, and comfortable.”
Let me make this clear. The leather is rubbish, the construction is not durable, the heel block is the stuff of nightmares and you will not keep these for over a year with frequent use. And do not let those argue about the fact that Florsheim owns them. They make them in India or China and Florsheim itself is coming up later on this list…
8. H&M – Now We’re Talking
Hold on to your wallets and never ever let go when you find yourselves in H&M. A Swedish Brand, H&M (Pronounced HoEm in Swedish) is the biggest culprit when it comes to fast fashion. Boy they sell everything from shoes to clothes and even house stuff.
When a new shoe costs 40-50$ you really should be thinking about how low quality it must be. Or how many corners they cut in order to drop the price so low. Or what kind of slave labor and cheap materials they use. The saying says “You get what you pay for“. Well you are paying for trash. Polyester thrash that they call sustainable and eco-friendly. Look at the heel it is hilarious.
There is absolutely no excuse to buy from H&M shoes or suits even if you are on a budget. You will end up regretting buy an unfashionable, cheap and poorly constructed thing that resembles a shoe. If you thought some of their cheap clothes are bad, their shoes are on a whole different level.
9. Zara – Sos
Zara Shoes are not worth writing more about after mentioning H&M. Everything above applies to them too. Mass quantity over any kind of quality.
One good way to describe Zara Shoes is bad software, or a glitch. Think of Zara as Bethesda, a very famous video game designer that brought us the “Epic” Fallout 76. Now picture Zara patching their shoes to make them better, only instead they introduce even more bugs and glitches.
Let’s not waste more of our time with this. One of the worst shoes money can buy, stay as far away as possible.
10. Ecco Shoes – Better, But Not By Far
You already know my disdain about Danish Ecco Shoes from my entry about Henri Lloyd. When it comes to cemented shoes they are actually not that terrible when it comes to durability. Or at least this is what people testify.
The problem is they are still cemented, the leather is not great and the prices are 130-150$. Which means for a little more you can buy something like Meermin or Herring shoes. So for the money, you should definitely not invest in Ecco Shoes.
Another thing that riles me up is the designs. While some can be fairly ok there are some true abominations out there. Like the Ecco Melbourne which is an insult to anything Australian.
The leather is much better than most of the designer stuff I mentioned before, but nothing premium enough to command such prices. Do not waste your hard-earned money on Ecco Shoes especially if they look like the one above.
11. Timberland – Poor, Poor Quality
Ah, Timberland. Once associated with money, quality and taste and very famous for their boots and light brown tan color, they are just not worth it. I bought some years ago a casual boot in some kind of nubuck/suede during clearance for 70$ and after a couple of wears with jeans the denim color leached into the boots. Never worn them again.
They don’t make them anymore exclusively in Tennessee but also China and the Dominican Republic. Now, the American made boots use leather from the Horween Tannery so that is a good sign. The biggest problem with these is the construction and the value.
Timberland Boots seem to also use a “Bonwelt” which is a fake welt as aforementioned. And for a price of 200-250$ you are better off buy a much better shoe such as Red Wings or Wolverine. If you really like the iconic yellow boot that is perfectly fine, but remember they are overpriced.
I consider them a very bad purchase and would never recommend them after my own experience and the plethora of reviews out there.
11. Dr. Martens – Better Burn Off Your Money
If you walk around a whole day in Stockholm you will see Dr. Martens everywhere. You can easily tell by the glossy leather and the fake yellow stitching around the sole. While the brand had a pretty decent reputation and enjoyed popularity during the 60’s and 70’s very few remains nowadays.
Only 2% of the shoes are made in England, the leather is thinner and you cannot actually resole them. The ones from China have rigged, low quality leather and are truly nasty. Read the response of customer service to Mark, a redditor that shared his experience:
“Dear Mark, Thank you for your inquiry. The shoes cannot be resoled, unfortunately. This is due to the air-cushion feature and unique construction of the sole. The way it is heat sealed and stitched to the leather upper to trap air inside the air pockets is hard to reproduce outside of a factory setting. We have no facilities for repairs or resoling. We have not heard of any repair shops that are able to resole Dr. Martens with the trademark soles either. Sorry to disappoint.”
That should say enough. After some quick searching I found out that people recommend Solovair much more which makes their boots in the UK and is strikingly similar to the Docs. I personally dislike the style very much but I consider these a waste of money. If you enjoy the style, I recommend looking for Docs from the UK or trying Solovair.
12. Florsheim – A Shadow
I don’t have much experience with Florsheim because they are not easily accessible in Europe. Therefore I have to rely on the opinions of experienced people and shoe aficionados.
The reason they are here is because they are nothing like they used to be. Quality wise, exporting, construction and cut corners everywhere. The only line you could consider from Florsheim would be the Imperial or Royal Imperial.
Back in the day Florsheim made some amazing impeccable shoes according to enthusiasts. You can even search for the Vintage Imperial ones on Google or Instagram and you will see how amazing they still look. Especially those from Shell and their wingtips, they are a treat.
I feel there are much better options at this price level and do not endorse such falls from grace.
13. Johnston & Murphy – You Can Do Better
Yet another slightly controversial Brand of this list is Johnston & Murphy. They are not as terrible by any means and they have a Goodyear Welted line. The problems are that they do not do recrafting any more and that 95% of their line up is cheap shoes around the 100$ mark.
One of the worst things I hear about them is the heel block which is a horrendous mess of compressed paper. Again this is one of the Brands that diminished in quality over the past few years. After inspecting them in a local shop last week I cannot say I was impressed. At least the don’t look as ghastly as the previous entries!
Again, a reminder is that we are talking about most of their cheap shoes that retail for 180-200$ and are on sale for half. Even for the premium line which costs a whooping 400$ you can get so much more value elsewhere.
14. Suitsupply – Never Buy Shoes
The last controversial entry are my former employers. So here’s the deal. Antonio Maurizi is the Italian brain behind the shoes of Suitsupply. Most are made in Italy while some loafers and sneakers in Portugal. The leather is not really bad, nor is the finishing. So why is this in the list?
Quite simple actually. First of all, the price is absurd just because it has the “Italy” stamp on it. Expect to pay 200-300$ for the basic line and up to 400-450$ for the “Premiums”. If you ask most of the employees in Stockholm they won’t be able to find good grounds to recommend you the shoes. This kind of price for a Blake Stitched Shoe is very bad value. Notice I said Blake, not Blake Rapid!
And now we get to the worst part. They use new, real shoes for you to try them on out of the box. If you don’t like them, they put it back in and sell it as new to the next person. Which means the sole is totally worn out after a while and the leather creases like a nuclear winter.
Suitsupply sells you a USED Shoe. At least in Stockholm. The idea is that they will attempt to cross-sell you a pair of shoes when you try on your suit or pants and they fix the length. Do not fall for that. Additionally, the sizing is all over the place and their boots do not even have half sizes.
Would you like to see an article on the sales techniques that they use? It could be controversial yet quite interesting. Let me know in the comments.
Technically, those are the 12 brands I wanted to talk about today. I kind of lost motivation as well since there were so many terrible brands out there. But there are some brief mentions that take the golden raspberries for the worst dress shoe brands in 2020. Here they are.
15. Joseph Abboud – Out Of Words
Here’s yet another one I have not much experience with but has the reputation of a stinky bomb. A user on Styleforum called it “Something between wearable and s***t“.
That should say enough. Do not buy everything in one shop as there is rarely a jack of all trades. That includes Suitsupply.
16. Clarks – Cheap, Cheap, Cheap
Yet another brand that you knew from their iconic Desert Boot. Clarks & Bostonian make some terrible shoes not worth your money. Search around and see that not even their Desert Boot is up to par with some of the better constructions out there. We have seen worse, but I cannot recommend you this brand.
17. Rockport – Flintstones
Garbage construction, leather and soles. I can probably stitch you a better shoe myself. Stay away.
18. Any Other Designer Shoe
Just like good ol’ Calvin, any designer shoe is the stuff of nightmares. Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Ralph Lauren and Gucci (apart from their iconic Horse Bit Loafer) is not worth the money. Cemented and overpriced as much as possible, these are not status symbols for the sartorial man.
The Worst Dress Shoe Brands Of 2020 Are Many
So there you have it! My list of the Worst Dress Shoe Brands of 2020. There are some controversial entries and the occasional people that will defend some of their choices. I can respect that, however the construction and quality of 95% of this list is awful. Others such as Suitsupply are not good enough value and try to extract the maximum amount of money from you.
So please do NOT buy your shoes from a cheap mall or a one stop shop. Do some research, spend 30 minutes research a bit more about Shoe Construction and the Types of Shoe Leather. You will save money and frustration.
I am really curious if you would like to read a guide about all the up-selling and cross-selling techniques they taught us at Suitsupply. I feel many of you often go to a store and the salesman pressures you to buy or tries to romance the product. Let me know in the comments. Next week we will be looking at a Triple Strap Monk Boot by a Vietnamese Shoemaker and I will let you know about my amazing experience in the Carlos Santos Factory! Subscribe so you don’t lose any article!
Thank you for reading,