Alden x J Crew PCT: A Darn Good Boot
Price: $890 [SOLD OUT; Check eBay for Current Prices]
The Alden x J Crew PCT might just match the Stan Smith as the most versatile piece of footwear out there.
Even on sale, the Alden x J Crew PCT will cost a lot, and the leather sole isn’t for everyone.
|Model||Cap Toe Boot|
|Materials||Shell Cordovan / Leather|
|Weight||825 g / 1 lb 14.05 oz|
|Country of Origin||United States|
The Alden x J Crew PCT – or “Perforated Cap Toe” – is one of those boots that seemingly has always been around. Or, at least has always been around for those of us under the age of 50.
In some ways, it has. In this vintage Alden catalog Stitchdown found, a boot with a somewhat similar design can be found in production more than 40 years ago. However, the PCT as we know it today – leather sole, slimmer last, finer stitching, etc. – is much more recent.
Launched in 2007, the partnership with Aldena and J Crew was based on the idea that J Crew would go back through the catalog and find older models and modify them to modern tastes. Or, at least that’s what then J Crew’s designers told Fast Company. It’s no coincidence that this boot exists with the details it has.
To say that it was a success for Alden would be an understatement. It opened the brand to countless young men getting into fashion for the first time. Alden loafers were sold next to the ubiquitous Ludlow suit and gingham shirts in major cities around the country.
This boot feels like it’s been around forever because for a lot of guys, this was one of the very first Alden models they ever saw.
Personally, it was my very first pair of Alden’s. Bought a full size too small, it was also my first (very expensive) lesson in making sure you buy the right size. I never really got to put the boot through it’s paces, so now I can finally answer: Is the Alden x J. Crew PCT worth it?
Let’s dive in.
The upper of the Alden x J Crew PCT is a fairly subdued affair. Made up solely of Horween’s Color 8 shell topped with Alden’s lacquer-like coating, the eggplant color does a great job of being non-offensive while continuing to be interesting.
The more time I spend with footwear, the more appreciation I have for this darker shade of burgundy. In fact, if you’re reading this near the initial posting, there is some really big news that I’ll be sharing soon related to that.
As you can probably guess by the name (PCT = Perforated Cap Toe), these boots do feature a cap toe with perforations (broguing) along the edge. Many of the pairs I’ve seen before can have their toe caps slightly askew, but on this pair they look great.
The other defining feature on these is the Indy-like stitching along the quarters. Unique to the J Crew model, it’s an interesting choice since their change to the Indy involved removing the square stitching. While I wish the stitching itself was a little bit more consistent for a boot of this price, it is still better than 95% of boots out there.
The eyelets are metal, and coated in paint to match the upper. Unfortunately, Alden insists on using incredibly thin speed hooks on their boots, and several came bent on this pair. Easy enough to fix with a screwdriver, but not something you expect to do on a pair this price.
The upper is mostly lined, with the tongue being the exception. Inside, a heel pad runs about 1/3rd the length of the boot, and features both J. Crew and Alden branding.
Mid- and Outsole
The Alden x J Crew PCT features a black welt and midsole. From the side it is quite chunky, not quite double leather, but much more than a typical single layer outsole. The 270-degree welt’s stitching is perfect, with nothing out of place on either pair.
Flipping the boot over, you’ll find a natural color leather outsole. This is not my favorite part of the boot – if you want to learn more about my experience with leather outsoles click here – but that is entirely subjective.
From an objective standpoint, you’ll find a very handsome design with several brass heels holding the heel in place. There is nothing to complain about from a looks standpoint here.
For a formal boot, the Alden x J Crew PCT is nearly perfect in the looks category. Its subtle without being boring. Formal without being staid. Finely crafted without being delicate.
If I really wanted to nitpick, I can. The black midsole wouldn’t be my first choice – it’s a bit formal with denim, and doesn’t go with khaki-colors well. Though, with wear the natural leather color will begin to show.
At the same time, the black outsole does allow it to be worn with more formal items. Back with my older pair, I wore them fairly regularly with wool pants and a sport coat.
The non-perfect stitching and bent speed hooks are not enough to temper my love for the look of these boots.
Fit & Comfort
There has been much ink spilled over the sizing of the Alden x J Crew PCT, and let me tell you: what you’re reading is correct. These fit at least a half size smaller than other Barrie lasted Alden shoes. I’ve read that it’s because of the toe cap stiffener or the stitching on the broguing. While neither of those make sense from a construction stand point, there is no denying the fit once on feet.
This isn’t a trick of J. Crew trying to adjust for people not being used to the Barrie sizing. They are even marked by Alden as a 12 D.
I ordered these in a size 12 D, mostly because these don’t come in a 12.5 D. This is fine with thin socks, but I definitely can’t wear boot socks with these. For comparison, I can wear an 11.5 D or 12 D in other Barrie lasted shoes.
While I wouldn’t say the Alden x J Crew PCT is an uncomfortable boot, I would definitely say they are more middle of the road in the comfort area. That isn’t a knock on the Aldens, of course. Just that if comfort is your top priority there are plenty of other boots that offer a better way to achieve that.
The best way to describe these is they feel like really well-made dress shoes. And that’s because they are effectively just that. You’re not going to get amazing arch support or great padding since that doesn’t work with this style.
One thing that I should note, these pretty much don’t breathe at all. This isn’t a fault on these boots directly, rather shell – especially lined shell – doesn’t breathe. If that is a top priority to you very similar boots can be had in cow leather and it’ll solve that issue.
These might not be the first pair I’d pick if I was going to be on my feet all day, but they are just fine for a day in the office or running to the store.
Materials & Construction
The materials on the Alden x J Crew PCT are almost entirely top notch. I’m not here to disparage any specific YouTuber (I already did that), but since so many people have almost entirely formed their opinion of Alden from one guy, I need to tackle that right here at the beginning.
There is no single “best” in materials for boots. Just like there is no “best” food. Depending on what you want to get out of the final product, it’s like saying a fine Swiss chocolate is objectively better than a fresh Maine lobster roll.
With that out of the way, let’s start with the upper. Made entirely of Horween’s Color 8 shell cordovan, this just might be the most sought-after material for a boot upper. A membrane instead of a leather, a pair like this can sometimes use all of the usable shell from an entire animal. In other words, it’s pretty rare.
It’s also amazingly tough stuff. People today tend to baby their shell since it’s so expensive, but it was originally prided for its ability to take just about anything you throw at it.
Alden does coat their Color 8 shell. This makes sure it is a consistent color out of the box, as natural shell has variations. The coating does wear off with time – something I like but you might not.
The boot is lined with a soft cow leather – both in a light tan and a burgundy along the eyelets and throat. The eyelets are painted metal, and kind of junk. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with the famous Steve of Bedo’s, and even though I was getting a pair of Vibergs fixed, all he wanted to talk about was how much he hated Alden’s speed hooks.
Mid- and Outsole
OK, let’s get to it – the midsole of the Alden x J Crew PCT is made with leather board. Would leather have been better? Sure. Is it going to impact you in any way? Almost certainly not.
Alden has been using leather board midsoles for decades. Nobody cared until last year. You can go on eBay now and buy pairs old enough to drink alcohol legally that still have their original midsoles.
Other than the midsole, the boots feature a leather welt and outsole. Inside the boot, you’ll find a steel shank and cork filler.
I know this is not going to impact everyone, but I would love if brands moved away from steel shanks. At least for products that don’t need them for ladder protection. Today’s world has too many metal detectors, but I might be the minority here.
The Alden x J Crew PCT is made with goodyear welted construction. If you want a more in-depth deep dive, click here.
The short version is that both the upper and the outsole are connected through a piece of leather that runs along the bottom edge of the boot. This piece of leather – known as a welt – is what is sewn to the actual outsole. This means that you can replace and resew the outsole without actually putting any stress on the upper.
Considered the standard way to make quality footwear, a goodyear welt benefits from being easily resoleable, and fairly weather resistant. As for drawbacks, it’s a more expensive way to make shoes – a cost that needs to be passed onto the customer – and can be a harder to break in.
Ease of Care
When taking care of shell cordovan boots like the Alden x J Crew PCT, you need to be aware you can’t treat the leather the same as cow leather. First, if you’re thinking about conditioning them, slow down. Odds are good you’ll only need to condition these around once a year. Since shell is a membrane and not skin, it doesn’t dry out at the same rate as normal leather.
The best thing to do for shell is to brush with a horsehair brush. And brush. Then brush some more. You’ll likely continue to improve the look for up to 20 minutes of brushing on a worn pair.
When it does come time to condition, you’ll want to use a special product. I suggest Saphir’s shell option. Yes, it’s expensive, but you condition share so rarely and use so little the cost becomes negligible over time. I currently own 6 pieces of shell footwear and I’m still on my original bottle from nearly 10 years ago.
Additionally, shoe trees are an absolute must. Shell does not crease like leather, but instead rolls. This is a great feature, but it also means that you can’t really control where the boot will show wear. Trees will help keep everything even – and prevent the thick leather sole from springing up.
This particular make up of the Alden x J Crew PCT with the black sole was last listed at $890, though is currently out of stock. J Crew tends to price their boots at whatever the MSRP was when Alden did that run, so I would expect any restock to run closer to the $910 range that Alden currently charges for shell cordovan boots. Or more, if it takes some time to do another run.
Comparable prices for boots are hard to find. Shell boots are all over the price. There are more affordable options – Grant Stone runs shell boots for around $800 once or twice a year. Rancourt has a pair for even less, charging $758 for theirs.
On the other hand, going with someone like Viberg or Whites will put you well into the four figures in price. That is, if you can even get your hands on a pair.
Even better it’s possible (though rare) to find pairs on sale. I actually picked this one up for a shocking 60 percent off. That isn’t the norm, it was a mistake by J Crew, but finding 10 to 20% off isn’t unheard of, placing these Aldens at the bottom of the price range.
For a brand like Alden who are known for typically coming in as one of the most expensive options, I’m as surprised as anyone to say that (at least as much as you can say for a boot costing this much), you might even be able to call them a good value.
If you’ve gotten this far, you can probably tell I can strongly recommend the Alden x J. Crew PCT boot.
Yes, it’s expensive. And, yes, not everyone is going to love the leather sole. If this is going to be your only pair, or will make you miss rent this month to get it, you can definitely live without this boot.
At the same time, I continue to marvel at just how versatile this pair is. I genuinely think that you could wear these with jeans and a t shirt and with a flannel suit. Even better, due to the materials and build quality, you’ll probably still be wearing these two decades from now. Even with the (extremely) high price, on a cost per wear basis these are among the best choices out there.
Add on that you can often find these on sale, and it’s easy to see why I recommend picking up a pair. Just make sure you get your right size.