Here’s a little secret. I’ve saved thousands of dollars on footwear from some of the world’s top shoemakers and I spend less than most people over the shoes’ lifetime.
In this post, I am going to reveal two rules and four hacks that will save you a fortune in shoes and have you wearing some of the best ready-to-wear leather footwear available.
RULE #1. BUY QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
"Buy the best and you only cry once." - Chinese proverb
Investing in quality shoes is just that, an investment. Well-made shoes will last for years, decades even. Unfortunately, most of what you will find in Australia, including in our major department stores, is essentially commodity footwear (see 'Deal-Breaker' below).
When I look for shoes I make sure the following 'deal-maker' criteria is present before I hand over my hard-earnt cash:
Higher Grade Full-Grain Leather - highest grade leather free from imperfections
Corrected grain leather - the top layer is sanded away and replaced with an artificial grain to hide visible defects.
Welted or stitched - The sole is stitched to the leather upper. Can be re-soled. Goodyear welt method or variation preferable.
The sole is glued to the leather upper. Lifespan 12-18 months.
The shoes are made in small batches by expert shoemakers or respected manufactures.
Commodity footwear made on scale.
RRP is set above $300, indicating (but not always) a better-quality shoe
RRP set below $300, indicating a lower-quality shoe (see above).
I'm no bare-foot investor - I'm figuratively the complete opposite - but I know that investing in a pair of shoes that lasts longer, compared to one that needs replacing every 12-months or so, will save you a lot of money over time.
RULE #2. FIGURE OUT COST PER WEAR (CPW)
This simple rule keeps my purchasing habits focussed and stops me from making impulse buys – remember, buying something you don’t really need is never saving you money.
The first thing I calculate when considering a new pair of shoes is Cost Per Wear. It’s a simple idea related to the value of the item divided by how much you use it.
Disclaimer: The lifespan of a leather sole will depend on many factors, such as the gait of the wearer, weather conditions, surface conditions, and frequency of use.
HACK #1. SET UP MARKET PLACE NOTIFICATIONS
I’ve had a ton of success with this simple trick. One of my favourite pairs of Oxfords, my Crockett and Jones Draycott II’s, was snatched up - brand new - on Gumtree for $235 – RRP over $700aud.
I received notification these (unworn) Crockett & Jones Oxfords were being offered on Gumtree for $235. They were sold 5min later. Saving = $465.
How did I do it?
- The owner was looking for a quick sale and I was simply quicker than anyone else.
- I set up search notifications across marketplaces, so I was notified as soon as this pair - and similar pairs - become available.
- I kept my search result focussed, drilling down to brand and style - too broad and the alerts will become relentless.
Market Places I Use
Links to set up notifications
|Facebook mobile set up - Yours truly|
|Gumtree||CreatingAlerts - Gumtree Help Desk|
|eBay||Saved Searches - eBay Customer Service|
HACK #2. BUY R.M. WILLIAMS FACTORY SECONDS
R.M. Williams has pretty stringent quality control, meaning it pumps out some really good factory seconds. My favourite pair of RMs was bought from a factory outlet for only $275; a saving of $320 from full RRP.
I picked up a pair of Comfort Turnouts for $275. One boot was ever so darker than the other, which I quickly fixed with a blowdryer (roughed-out leather hack).
I've written about this before, but how did I find my RMs?
- I was once told by an RM insider that their outlet stores receive stock at the end of each week - or every other week depending on availability.
- A well-timed phone call and a few questions around size and style ensured I knew what I was looking for and saved me a wasted trip.*
*Be sparing with your calls - they are a retailer ;-).
HACK #3. USE WELTED SHOES AUSTRALIA
What happens if you buy a pair of shoes and they don't fit? Return them, right! But what if you've bought your shoes from overseas?
At the time of writing, these (new) handgrade Alfred Sargent Benson II's, valued at $1,200, were being offered on WSA for $350. That's a massive $850 saving!
Due to a lack of availability, many Australian men still by quality welted shoes from overseas.
Before I established Facebook group Welted Shoes Australia, if your overseas purchase didn't fit, you either put them in the back corner of your wardrobe or you paid exorbitant return international shipping.
WSA is a Facebook group set up largely as a result of this problem.
This is how WSA can help you:
- WSA is a platform where you can buy, sell and discuss quality welted footwear.
- Members will often post shoes purchased from overseas that don't quite fit, often below RRP (factoring shipping etc. this is not insignificant).
- You can ask questions about sizing, fit and shoe quality - I set it up so newbies to the game would feel welcome and able to ask questions.
- It's also free, member-driven, friendly and a great place to learn all about welted footwear.
HACK 4. Stockists, not shoemakers, for juicy deals
As an 80/90s kid I was fed on movies like Indiana Jones. Surprising to no one, when a pair of JCrew 405 Indy boots by Alden went on sale at 40% off (yes, the same ones worn by Harrison Ford in the movies) it was like I'd just stumbled upon the Ark of the Covenant.
These Indy boots were picked online at a JCrew stockist at 40% off. I simply subscribed and waited until end-of-season. Remember to always factor in Int. shipping and GST
How I found and purchased my Indy's:
- While others were waiting to see what the shoemakers would offer during sales periods, I was solely focussed on what the stockists would do.
- I paid attention to the best time to buy boots in the U.S.A
- January (end-of-season on winter wear - boot sale time).
- The first quarter is when retailers 'balance the books,' which means annual stocktakes and stock liquidation.
- I subscribed to several stockists' mailing list and discount aggregate websites overstock.com, smartbargains.com, and drop.com.
When a particular stockist emailed me about their 40% offer, I ended up calling them to confirm international shipping arrangements, then made the purchase.
- The end-of-Financial year (June) seems to yield the juiciest deals.
- Look for stockists carrying RMs.
- For other international brands, check out what DJs or the Iconic.
- To help keep tabs, I subscribe to OzBargain.com.au am also kept informed via WSA.
The Best Value Shoes In Australia + Offer