Florsheim got its start over a hundred years ago in the Windy City (Chicago). Surprise! An American luxury shoe brand does exist in this market flooded with Italian companies. Founded in 1892 by a father-son team, it is one of the oldest American shoe brands still in business. For any company that lasts over a century, there must be a market draw that keeps business ever improving and expanding. Some companies find their niche in exclusivity, while others expand into the mainstream. Florsheim went with the latter, expanding into a name brand giant throughout the middle twentieth century. Now a household name, Florsheim is an established American brand with as much heritage to tout as many English and Italian brands. I got my hands on the Marlton Wingtip, a traditional offering from the Limited Collection.
The fit is initially a little tight, and a bit awkward to step into at first. Breaking in tight shoes with as rigid heels as the Marlton has, my gait must have looked a little strange for one or two days as the leather adjusted to my stride and heel roll. In order to keep a tight oxford-style shoe from warping at the heel, make sure to use a shoehorn. Although they can immediately seem like a superfluous accessory, a simple shoehorn can add years to the life of your shoes. They eventually settled in quite well after the initial discomfort. In fact, these wingtips are now among the best fitting shoes I own, being on the level of my classic Vans skate shoes. However, for some with more dramatic heel roll the height and chunkiness of the sole might be a little dramatic to walk in comfortably. This is not to say that they lack comfort. They feel buttery and comfortable while still being firm, and the insole has a padded insert that also improves the feel.
A reasonably thick leather sole is goodyear welted with a rubber heel to provide traction. The outsole is thick and seems somewhat durable, though not recommended for rainy days without a rubber sole insert (these can be added by any cobbler for a small fee). Thin calfskin surrounds most of the upper, along with three sturdier suede contrast pieces. Suede around the top of the vamp allows for flexibility where the foot normally bends and warps a completely calfskin or cordovan shoe. Though the calfskin portions seemed at first questionable in thickness, they are resilient and thick enough to maintain the facade of the shoe. Still, I would question the integrity of the upper after a couple years of use. This level quality is well yoked with the price point even if a far cry from twenty year use material, which is nearly the maximum lifespan of any pair of oft-used shoes.
Undoubtedly the strongpoint of the shoe, a beautiful design, lends itself to a great reception from anybody who sees them. From a lineup of my personal collection, my family picked them out as either the best or second best looking. They are clean and slim, so as to remain modern and classic at the same time. The wingtip detailing and suede accents are definitively classical elements; you might see them on a Kentucky Derby attendee or Wall Street city slicker in the early twenties. The thin sole and thin profile keep them from looking like an outright anachronism though, and the balance is quite nice.
At $170 the Florsheim Marlton Wingtip is a well priced shoe. Not a steal, but a well priced investment that would likely last its wearer many years if properly maintained (use shoe trees, invest in a shoehorn, keep the leather polished and conditioned with a balm or lube, and avoid wearing them in the rain or snow). With a classic look and attractive detailing, this comfortable wingtip is a good choice for anyone looking to attend a derby – or Monday at the office – in style.