Frequently, when I mention that I like menswear-style shoes, someone will suggest that I try Johnston & Murphy womens shoes. After all, each fall, J&M does indeed make a few ladies’ styles with a distinct masculine vibe.
This season, for example, they have a double monkstrap and a wingtip in addition to their more traditional women’s styles.
So I was very excited recently to have the opportunity to try on a few pairs in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. (That’s the official name although most people I know simply call it “Atlanta” or “hell.”)
After trying on several different styles of Johnston & Murphy womens shoes, I can honestly say I won’t become a customer anytime soon. Here’s why:
Sigh. Every single pair simply slipped off my heels when I started walking. If my feet were any narrower, they would be called “skis.”
But I’m far from unique in that regard; according to one article I found, the National Shoe Retailers Association estimates nearly 33 percent of all women have narrow feet. And even women with normal-width feet often have a narrow heel. I wish more manufacturers understood this and accommodated us.
I have a strong preference for American-made. That’s why most of the shoes I’ve bought in the past couple of years have been USA-made Allen Edmonds (which I special order in my size) or USA-made Munro American. I simply won’t wear imported, mass produced shoes, which these were. Sure, they were leather lined and had leather soles – and were priced accordingly – but the fact is, they’re much, much poorer quality than their men’s shoes in a similar price range.
J&M does manufacture its Crown Aristocrat and Custom Select styles for men in the U.S. But no Johnston & Murphy womens shoes are made domestically.
There are two basic ways of attaching a sole to a shoe: by sewing it on, a process known as “welting,” or by gluing it, known as “cementing.” With a welted shoe, you can re-sole the shoe over and over until the top portion – the “upper” – wears out. It’s more expensive to make, but a welted shoe can last years, decades even.
With a cemented shoe, when the sole wears down, you throw the shoe away. Johnston & Murphy womens shoes are all glued. What a waste.
Limited special orders
I regularly visit my local J&M just to see the newest men’s styles. My husband is a customer, and if I could special order one of J&M’s USA-made men’s styles in my size, I would be, too. (I wear 8.5 in women’s; equivalent to 6.5 in men’s.)
But J&M doesn’t make 6.5 in a B width. To add insult to injury, when I requested the store clerk doublecheck, she asked if I’d “actually want to spend that much money to special order a pair of shoes.”
Had she bothered to glance at my feet, she might have noticed I was wearing a pair of custom made shoes at the time.
Perhaps one day, Johnston & Murphy womens shoes will be as good as their mens.
Until then, I’ll just wait.
Please excuse the lack of apostrophes in this post. I know better, but must sacrifice them to appease the search engine optimization gods.