Allen Edmonds Bought by Caleres

Allen Edmonds, one of the most popular and most beloved of the brands discussed on Styleforum, has just been purchased by Caleres for $255 million. Caleres, the parent company of Famous Footwear, also owns several handfuls of not-quite-fantastic women’s footwear brands such as Vince, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Franco Sarto. This puts Allen Edmonds in an interesting place in the Caleres portfolio – or rather, at the top of it, from a very Styleforum-y perspective. Allen Edmonds may have retail storefronts  at numerous malls across the country, but it is an undeniably higher-quality product than those with which it now shares a room.

Of course, you’re probably wondering what this means for your beloved shoe company, and whether you ought to be panicking. Well, maybe not quite yet. Paul Grangaard, the well-regarded CEO of Allen Edmonds, will stay on in the same role, which indicates that Caleres is less interested in re-structuring Allen Edmonds than on capitalizing on the brand’s solid growth and Grangaard’s leadership. Additionally, their portfolio skews heavily towards womenswear, meaning that Allen Edmonds is something of a feather in the cap.

Here’s the one potential source of worry – the statement from Diane Sullivan, president and CEO, reads as follows:

“The addition of Allen Edmonds to the Caleres brand portfolio allows us to rapidly increase our exposure in men’s footwear, solidifying a new revenue stream to drive overall growth…Over the next several months we will work together to identify ways to benefit from each other, including brand and product development, materials sourcing and design capabilities, to name a few.”

For a paranoid fashion hobbyist such as myself, “materials sourcing” sounds a bit like trying to use Caleres’ larger network of producers to lower one element of production costs. And of course, “growth” is a dubious buzzword for the Styleforum member, since we generally don’t want our favorite brands to grow – and modern perceptions of American business have trained us not to trust anything that sounds like, well, business. However, in some cases the concerns have been founded – many well-regarded brands have lost some of their luster following an acquisition, and many hobbyists expect the worst when a beloved brand changes hands.

Mr. Grangaard took to the Ask Andy About Clothes forum to allay some of the concerns shared there. A selection of his response is below:

“Our strategies will stay the same but grow, and the team is all staying in place. Caleres bought us because of what we could do with them, not what they could do to us…So the changes you’ll see will be those of intensifying who we are and what we do in good ways — more marketing and customer development because of their longer term time horizon.

Manufacturing in Port Washington is our core commitment. It’s not going away. Period. Count on that one. The “materials sourcing assistance” they can give us is in componentry. They know European tanneries, sole makers and last manufacturers that we don’t really know but who could be helpful.” (Full response here)

Despite Caleres’ retail success, the brands sharing the stable with Allen Edmonds are not brands that I would associate inspiration or production quality, which is, I think, a fair source of concern. Mr. Grangaard’s qualified statement that access to material providers could be helpful is, well…pretty qualified.  However, Allen Edmonds has traded hands several times over the last decade, and has remained a go-to source in its particular corner of the market while seeing growth in reach and name recognition.

Based on the last decade of progress, I’ll choose to assume that Allen Edmonds’ very successful leadership will continue to find success, and that five years from now I’ll still be recommending Allen Edmonds to friends searching for affordable, quality footwear.

For further reading, check out this 2013 Styleforum interview with Mr. Grangaard

Community Design: The Massdrop Chukka

If you spend time on Styleforum, you understand what it’s like to be part of an enthusiast community. You know the archetypes – from noob to tastemaker – and the abbreviations, from BB, ESF, and OCBD, to C&J and GMTO. You’ve also probably seen users band together to get the products they wanted – this is a core piece of any enthusiast community, and it’s why we created Massdrop. I’ve been a Styleforum member since 2011, and I’ve often been a part of those groups that are looking to put together something unique.

massdrop styleforum allen edmonds unlined suede chukka boot

That’s me, wearing the Massdrop x Styleforum x Allen Edmonds chukkas we put together.

Here at Massdrop, our job is to work with community members and help them engage with each other to find the products they want. You may recognize us from our affiliate thread on Styleforum, where we share some of our community-driven creations. By getting the community to work together (like they often do already), we’ve been able to get them the quality products they want for a better price. We’ve also found that if we work directly with brands to create new products, we can do even more to get the community what they want. If you’ve spent any time on Styleforum, you know that the people here are quite discerning. Almost any product, no matter how great, will inevitably be met with “if only this aspect were different, this would be perfect.” With our collaborative projects, our goal is to work with the manufacturers of these products to “tune” them to the desires of the community and offer them at a great price, resulting in an exclusive product that caters to what the community’s wants.

When we decided to kick off collaborations in the Massdrop Men’s Style community, the biggest question was who to partner with. We wanted to work with a brand with a strong forum following, as well as in-house manufacturing. Allen Edmonds quickly came out as a ideal choice – they have a huge fanbase on forums and beyond, and are a great go-to for those just getting into fine footwear. And while the quality of their products is quite high, many of the designs are less catered to the hardcore shoe enthusiast. Which led us to the question: what if they made a shoe specifically for us, the community?

The next step was landing on a style to pursue for the Massdrop x Styleforum project. We decided on the unlined suede chukka due to its popularity, as well as the fact that Allen Edmonds had released a few models that were ripe for tweaking (you can find many threads on the forum discussing the pros and cons of Allen Edmonds models like the Amok and Mojave). I reached out to Fok and pitched the idea to him. He has a long history of partnering with Allen Edmonds on the forum, and was able to perform the critical step of getting Massdrop in touch with Paul, the CEO of Allen Edmonds, which got the ball rolling.

I worked with Allen Edmonds production and the Massdrop team to learn about what the community’s options were in terms of materials, design, and so forth. We started working on prototypes, and once I had some samples to look at I reached out to respected members on Styleforum. With their help, we were able to hone in on what exactly a forumite would want in these shoes. After a couple months of prototyping, we landed on a style we all felt was a winner, and from there it was pretty easy.

massdrop styleforum allen edmonds unlined suede chukka boot

As you can tell, a lot of thought and a lot of details went into making these.

The most important aspects that we worked on were the material and the last. For the the suede, we sampled a few materials from CF Stead’s Janus line, and quickly agreed that Janus calf was the right call, even with the increased cost. For last shape, we wanted to shoot for the middle ground and offer something with a comfortable round shape for casual wear, without being too shapeless. Allen Edmonds’ 511 last was the natural choice, and the fact that it fits most people well was the icing on the cake.


From there, it was simple – introduce the shoes to the Massdrop and Styleforum communities. The project went live last week, and we’ve since sold over 700 pairs. The best part, however, is that it’s just the beginning. With this powerful example of what happens when a brand partners directly with the community they serve, we’ll be able to continue bringing projects like this to fruition. Styleforum members are full of good project ideas, and we’re going to do our best to keep up.

The Massdrop Allen Edmonds unlined chukka is available for purchase here.

The Styleforum Journal is supported by retailers such as Massdrop. This article is sponsored content.

Sunday Styles: Knit ‘n Easy


Speaking of knit ties, let’s take a look at an easy way to embrace some color and texture for fall. Tweed sport coats pair wonderfully with knit neckwear, and a simple oxford stripe shirt with easy-wearing trousers and shoes is a simple way to look great. In this case, the green of the knit tie is subdued without being boring, and picks up the texture of the jacket.

1. Grey Tweed Sport Coat, Kent Wang

2. Drake’s Knit Tie, Gentlemen’s Footwear

3. Oxford Stripe Shirt, Epaulet

4. Rota Trousers, No Man Walks Alone

5. Warwick Single Monk, Allen Edmonds

6. Robert Jensen Pocket Square, Khaki’s of Carmel