I knew it. Starting a tumblr blog would mean I would get lazy with the original Weejun blog. It’s just one of those things. Blogging with Tumblr is super fast and great for those images or vintage adverts that don’t need an explanation.
Some things however need to be on here. A long time search for a deadstock pair of Walk-Over dirty bucks finally ended today in a BIN on US Ebay, courtesy of course of Fred the proxy.
What is about these old trad guys that have the best vintage shoes that they don’t recognise the rest of the world? I guess that comes from the good ‘ol days of Nixon and Ford. Or just George W.
Anyway, it probably meant that other eagle-eyed johnny foreigners like me couldn’t buy them. You can’t even send a begging question to US Ebay sellers these days – communication is blocked. I mean, I know I also won’t ship stuff to Armenia or somewhere, but not shipping these trad items back to the old country is heretic really.
To the item in hand. You can forget the resurgent Walk Over. St Louis based HH Brown may have bought the name and history but some joker decided that instead of the classically short fronted, almost straight lasted classic buck shoe shape, that the world would be better served by giant bulbous clown shoes.
Now, anyone who’s ever worn saddle bucks outside of the US or Japan will know only too well the jibes and taunts from friends and strangers alike – “Oi, Coco! Which way to the Circus?” being a common interjection.
If you were to wear one of these latest Walk-Over bucks you may as well just get a pair of those trousers with a hoop waist and a car that falls to bits when you climb in. (Any Detroit made vehicle presumably).
After many years of there being a dearth of vintage Walk Over shoes on eBay, the reissues have created a new ‘false positive’ when searching the ‘bay. The one thing that HH Brown have done which is to be commended is to maintain their manufacture in the USA. No one bothers to do that, and the price is pretty reasonable considering the modern cost of labour and getting rid of stuff like drums of glue in the world’s most litigious country. RRP is around $245.00. The problem here is that every old codger with a pair of vintage dirty bucks now quotes this RRP as a justifcation for a BIN price for his trashed, sweat stained lined, 1980s pair of $100+.
These reissues were ‘designed’ (read made uglier) by that annoying McNairy fellow. It’s easy enough to tell whether you’re looking at a proper Maine made Walkover saddle oxford simply by looking at where the saddle joins the sole edge. They should be almost as wide as the saddle itself. In the McNairy clown versions, the saddle is exaggeratedly waisted to a narrow band where it hits the welt.
Now, I could care less what fashionistas get up to in the quest for ever more hideous items. But, this is an insidious trend, selling redesigned fashion crap, not alongside the original (we all need to make money, that’s fine) but as if it were the original version.
Walk Over are by now means alone in this, but almost everything McNairy touches suffers this dread curse. A poster on FNB recently said this of Baracuta, another brand who can’t stand still for fear of being left out of something – ‘It’s as if they have no confidence in themselves and their product. They champion the history and heritage and then totally fuck with it.’
Well, it was words to that effect.
Look at LL Bean Signature – all low rise waist, rolled up chinos and made in China brogues, mini collars, and ‘from our 1935 catalogue reshaped for a modern fit’ (my italics). Real soapbox stuff, I know, but it drives me nuts. I suppose we have to respect Clarks for more or less keeping the desert boot the same shape after moving it offshore.
Today though, I finally found a deadstock pair for $120.00. This is not far off the price that I paid in the 80s from John Simons when the dollar was bad and import duties sky high. Ideally I’d have liked an E fit – the vintage saddles I got recently being a revelation, but deadstockers can’t be choosers as we all know. 10.5 D/B should hopefully do the job.
The Walk-Over brand (along with it’s holding company George Keith of Keith Highlanders fame) is one of the oldest and most venerable in the history of American shoe making. By the end of the 80s the quality was dropping to keep the prices keen but over their history they innovated, were early advocates of the low cut oxford and blucher (over high boots) and in their heyday they even had a store in London’s Piccadilly. The 1980s preppy explosion was probably the last hurrah of the Walk-Over brand, the dirty buck gibson and the saddle oxford being ubiquitous.
Like the Wilton made Weejun, these vintage Walk-Over are well constructed basic daily footwear, comfortable old friends that you don’t need to think about when putting them on in the morning. Well worth seeking out.
My family sold Walkover shoes in our shoe store for over 30-years. I grew up in Walkover Bucks ‘n Saddles. Over the years I saw small changes such as the use of increasingly “airy” crepe rubber in the soles to provide more cushion and less weight. Not the worst trade-off. At one time Walkover was the undisputed “King of the Bucks” as they made everyone’s premium bucks such as Cole Hann, L.L. Bean, and countless higher grade specialty merchants “house-brand” versions. By the late 70’s they were absolutely the best made left standing as Dexter chose to use vinyl welts and heel quarter linings and, worse, Bass versions were cement constructed fake welted wannabes. It was a sad day when I found out the last invoices I owed to Walkover were to be paid to a bank as the company totally imploded and would be sold off in pieces. Enter H.H. Brown Shoe Company circa about 2009 or so – H.H. Brown resurrects Walkover Shoe Company as a high-end Buck/Saddle only Boutique Brand. Overall, good news if a bit different as for the original dirty model being noticeably rounder in toe shape and the blucher/tongue being pushed ever so slightly toward the rear (this is suppose to balance the more prominent broader toe’s appearance). The construction is even better than the ones made in the last 15-years (approx.) of the original Walkover company as those had canvas drill vamp linings while the resurrected ones are 100% leather lined. While not anywhere near the bargain all original Walkover Shoe Company, the quality-to-price ratio of the original Walkover range was generally the highest in the men’s better grade footwear category, it is welcome to have a real American Buck at any price that remains affordable.
Thanks for the story John. I think it’s a shame the new Walkover are made on clown shoe lasts as short term fashion product. I agree re the quality of Walkover (and the Keith Highlander brand) back in the day compared to Dexter, but actually cotton linings in what are effectively summer shoes with a micro sole that really heats up the foot are a welcome thing in my vintage models. I do own a pair of the new white chukkas but I find the leather lining to be unnecessarily stiff compared to the cotton vamp lined models. Churchs shoes also used to use cotton lining, but they did it in heavy British winter shoes which was definitely not a good thing as it always wore through and rubbed the feet.