Alden Leisure Hand Sewn Color 4: Shoe or Souvenir?
Price: $880 [SOLD OUT; Unavailable]
The Alden Leisure Hand Sewn in Color 4 is an extremely versatile option that lets you stand out while blending in.
The Alden Leisure Hand Sewn in Color 4 is all but vaporware for most people, and even if you do manage to snag a pair at MSRP they are expensive.
|Model||Leisure Hand Sewn (LHS)|
|Materials||Shell Cordovan Upper / Leather Outsole|
|Weight||618 g / 1 lb 5.7 oz|
|Country of Origin||United States of America|
Walk into any Alden store, and assuming you have the money to spend, it’s easy to walk out with almost anything in Color 8 or Black shell. You can find the leisure hand sewn in stock all the time. That being said, not everyone wants a pair of eggplant or black loafers. If that sounds like you, and you want to stick with the Alden brand, you need to get into the wild world of rare shells. Among the rarest is this, the Color 4 Leisure Hand Sewn.
To be clear, I’m on record stating that false scarcity should not be celebrated. The regular “rare shells” from Alden – Ravello, Cigar, and Whiskey – are either directly available from other brands at all times, or at least a very similar color is. Knowing that you can go to Carmina or Rancourt and get Horween’s bourbon (Alden’s whiskey) shell any time you like, often times on sale, makes it hard to swallow waiting years for a pair from Alden.
Color 4 is different.
Nick Horween is on record stating that color 4 is extremely hard to produce, and they are not able to make much of it. The color is limited, yes, but not because of false scarcity. Rather, it is limited because they simply can’t produce it in the amount that is demanded.
Color 4 is actual rare shell.
Of course, that doesn’t answer if it’s worth it. Let’s dive in and find out.
On the Leisure Hand Sewn in Color 4, how could we start with anything but the leather?
At its core, Color 4 is a medium brown, but unlike almost any other material, the hue can change dramatically based on light. Inside, under florescent lamps, they are a standard mid-brown. Outside, the shade shows deep ruby undertones, and direct sunlight is an almost cognac color (the drink, the not shell).
It’s worth pointing out that this shell isn’t perfect. First, all shell has inconsistencies between panels and these are no exception. Personally, I think that is a benefit and enjoy it, but some people are going to be pretty upset their expensive loafers don’t match. Next, Alden did a bit of minor burnishing on these, and on this pair, it is a bit uneven.
That being said, you buy these for the leather. It’s the star, the supporting actor, and the comedic relief.
Apart from the leather, the Leisure Hand Sewn in Color 4 is like every other Leisure Hand Sewn. That means a handsewn faux-moc toe stitch, a strap across the vamp, and a leather piece along the throat.
Inside, the shoe features a tan lining from front to rear. The leather heel pad – made of the same material as the lining – has the Alden logo pressed in, and just the Alden logo. No co-branding here.
I’ve had several LHS pass through my hands, and the upper on pair is one of the better built ones. The stitching is fine and even, and the strap is placed correctly. Additionally, unlike a lot of other brands, there is zero puckering on the upper. You can tell that Alden makes a lot of shell cordovan shoes, it’s a hard material to work with, and they nail it.
Other than the aforementioned burnishing, the only problem on the upper is there is a bit of plastic between the upper and the welt. At the factory, the upper is covered in plastic to help protect it when putting on the outsole, and sometimes factories don’t completely remove it. This isn’t the end of the world, you just need to grab some tweezers and pull it out.
Mid- and Outsole:
Moving to the bottom half of this Leisure Hand Sewn in Color 4, Alden chose to use their classic antique edging – which goes great with this shell.
On the welt, I’d have to say that this particular pair is unfortunately a bit average. That isn’t to say there are major errors – there are not – or that these should be seconds. Rather, this pair does not really stand out from the crowd. The stitching is straight enough, but not the best Alden can do. The welt joint is just fine, but no where near what other brands can put out.
Thankfully the rest of the outsole is as good as can be expected. The single-thickness standard Alden outsole features Alden’s pattern as well as the “Genuine Shell Cordovan” stamp. Further back, the leather and dove-tailed rubber outsole looks great. My favorite might be the multiple brass nails Alden adds to the heel. It’s little things like that which separate out shoes at this level.
The Alden Leisure Hand Sewn is a classic design, and the Color 4 makes it extremely versatile. The different ways the shell acts means the shoe manages to fit in a variety of places.
In the office? The florescent lights overhead make these a fairly standard brown loafer. Perfectly acceptable in even fairly conservative offices.
Nice day out shopping with the family? The filtered natural light brings out the red undertones and makes them pop.
At your favorite vacation spot? Direct sunlight highlights the variations in tones and is about as Ivy as JFK and George H.W. Bush going sailing together.
While I’m not sure the heel lets them be quite casual enough to wear to the beach, I’m not sure there is any other piece of footwear that can cover the spectrum quite as much as these.
Fit & Comfort:
The Alden Leisure Hand Sewn is always made on the Van last, no matter the material. The Van last is a broad last for a loafer, but it is important to remember that it is a loafer last first and foremost. If you’re coming from some of the more well know lasts such as the Barrie or Trubalance, you’ll find these run both more narrow and shorter.
You should know that the Van last is notoriously wide in the heel. In laced footwear that isn’t a major issue, but in a loafer much of the grip comes from the shoe holding your ankle in place. For many people, the Van last will simply not work at all. In any size. I strongly recommend trying on a pair before buying, or ordering from a location with free returns.
My ideal fit for the Van last is an unlined pair in size 11.5 D, however, since the lining adds significant structure to the shoe, I got these in a size 12 D. For reference, I am a size 11.75 D on brannock, and take and find a size 12 Trubalance to be a great fit. I also take a size 12 in Allen Edmond’s 5 last, and a 13 in most Nike sneakers.
For a full list of sizing for all the shoes reviewed on this site, click here.
I know it is a bit of a controversial take compared to other reviews, but I’ve never found the Leisure Hand Sewn – in Color 4 or otherwise – particularly comfortable out of the box. The heel is the height of a typical oxford and, with the wide toe box and no laces, it has a tendency to push your foot forward in the shoe.
Thankfully, over time your foot will sink into the footbed and stop this from happening. The toe crunch is only temporary. It is worth noting that I typically need to wear them a dozen times or more before this is the case, though.
This sort of juxtaposition between a more formal and casual shoe is really the core of comfort here. If you go into it comparing them to a formal Oxford, you’ll come away impressed. If you go in comparing them to casual footwear (like the Indy), you might be disappointed.
In any case, while they might not be sneaker-comfortable, they are definitely fine for just about any environment where you would want to wear shell cordovan loafers.
Materials & Construction:
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the Color 4 on these Leisure Hand Sewns, so that seems like a great place to start when discussing the materials on this shoe. Shell cordovan itself is actually made up of the material just under the skin of a horse’s rear end. It is notoriously tough, and taken care of can last for many, many decades.
To get this color, Horween uses the same dye as Color 8, just with half the intensity. Side note: while Color 4 is half the intensity of Color 8, Color 2 and Color 6 are each their own thing and don’t follow the same naming scheme.
Moving down from the upper, Alden uses a full leather insole with a leather heel pad. Underneath the insole you’ll find a layer of cork and a metal shank. Finally, a single leather outsole completes the package. These mid and outsole materials are the standard for goodyear welted shoes, and should do a great job conforming to the shape of your foot – even if leather isn’t the most durable choice out there.
The Alden Leisure Hand Sewn is made using a 360-degree goodyear welted construction. If you want a deep dive on what that means, click here. However, if you want the short version, a goodyear welted shoe attaches a piece of leather along the edge of the upper (known as a welt). The outsole is then glued to the upper and sewn to the welt.
The benefits of this construction are that you’re able to replace the outsole without touching the stitching on the upper. This means your upper will be able to take more resoles before failing. The downsides are that goodyear welted shoes are often a bit heavier and harder to break in, and tend to cost more than most other options.
Many people consider the goodyear welt to be the gold standard for shoe construction.
Ease of Care:
The good news about the Alden Leisure Hand Sewn in Color 4 is that the uppers need almost no care at all.
The best way to bring them back to life after wearing is brushing with a horse hair brush. And, when I say brushing, I mean a lot of brushing. Brush until your elbow hurts, then brush that much again. I’ve seen it recommended that for the best results you need 20 minutes per shoe.
Of course, you can’t just brush them. You’ll want to condition the shoes every so often, though much less than regular cow leather. For most people two or three times a year will be more than enough. It’s also important to know you need a very small amount of conditioner. I recommend Saphir in natural, and so does Alden. Sure, it’s expensive, but it works great and since you use so little per condition, and condition so rarely, it’s entirely possible a jar could last you a decade or more.
The only other thing you’ll want to do is make sure you keep shoe trees in them. Brand isn’t particularly important, but I would recommend something in wood. Wood helps absorb the moisture from the day, and with shell not breathing as well that is especially important.
When the soles finally wear out, Alden does offer a restoration package. Currently priced at $189, this includes a new sole along with “necessary repairs” and a set of shoe trees. Alternatively, just about any cobbler should be able to put a new sole on them. With the recent supply chain issues, I’ve found cobblers are all over the board on pricing, but it should still be less than what Alden charges. Just know, I’ve heard Alden may refuse to work on them if someone else resoled them.
Pricing & Value:
These were priced at $880 from Alden’s DC store, but they are now completely sold out. Finding a current price is essentially impossible. When talking to the salesman, he told me that they were able to order around a dozen pairs in total. With such a limited run, there are many common sizes that simply don’t exist in this make up.
Of course, none of these are currently for sale. Alden will monitor sales of rare pairs and cut you off if they can trace it back to you – something nobody wants to risk. That being said, if eBay listings are anything to go by, it would likely be a lot more than $880. There is only a single Color 4 Alden for sale at the moment, a worn pair of chukkas for $2,288. I originally thought it was a seller simply swinging for the fences, but he might not be that far off. There are two recently sold pairs of boots for $1,599 and $4,347 (!).
Assuming you don’t have a cool four figures laying around to pick up a pair, the best course of action is to call your closest Alden dealer and ask to be put on their rare shell list. The wait time can be years, but they do eventually call.
Alternatively, Rancourt has previously been willing to use Color 4 without a wait if they can get their hands on it.
How do you put a value on something that doesn’t have a real price?
Do you go by a hypothetical resale price? As much as I would love to say I own a pair of $4,347 loafers, I wouldn’t recommend anyone paying that price for them. For that amount you can get someone to make you a bespoke pair in Color 4. It just doesn’t make any sense.
What about $880? That’s a much more difficult question to answer. From an objective standpoint, the shell cordovan Leisure Hand Sewn is a lot of money, and Color 4 is an up charge on that. For the average man in the street, it’s hard to justify paying an even higher premium for a less-saturated Color 8.
At the same time, little costs you don’t think about add up when you’re talking about 12 of something. For most people, that isn’t worth spending on, but to a select few that extra couple of bucks makes sense when trying to round out a collection. And that is really what these are, as much a collectable as a thing to keep your feet off the ground.
The Alden Leisure Hand Sewn in Color 4 is an extremely versatile loafer that can go from vacation hot spot to the office without breaking a sweat. The color manages to be both subtle and bold at the same time, and the style does the same.
It is fair to say their build quality is not perfect, but there are no problems that would cause any major concerns. Overall, they are better built than the typical Leisure Hand Sewn.
Here is where I would normally encourage you to go out and pick up a pair for retail, but we all know it isn’t quite that easy. At least I can answer the question from the beginning – yes, they are worth it. Please, just don’t pay $4,347.