A Fine Man Once Said:

"Part of the 10 million I spent on gambling, part of it on booze, and part of it on women. The rest I spent foolishly."

- George Raft

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A blast from the past: Cole-Haan's Werner

Cole-Haan has a checkered recent history when it comes to men's shoes. The venerable American company began making shoes in Chicago in the 1920s-1930s. If you can find a vintage example of their work,  the craftsmanship can be stunning. More recent examples of their work are less impressive, as the quality of the shoes tends to differ drastically from model to model.

In the last 20-30 years, the company has occasionally created footwear that harkened back to the company's salad days. One such example was the company's working relationship with some of the more prestigious English shoemakers, most notably Edward Green. I have written at some length about the Edward Green for Cole-Haan oxfords - you can read more here and here. Most of the Edward Green models that I've come across in the past were fairly standard versions of the Cadogan, which is to say that the collaboration was probably truer to Edward Green's storied history than Cole-Haan's. However, shortly after Cole-Haan was taken over by Nike, they dug deep into the archives to create a classic wingtip that was designed with a tip of the cap to the company's glory days.

Made in Italy by an unknown manufacturer, the Cole-Haan Trafton (polished calf) and Werner (scotch grain) models were eye-catching, to say the least. The shoes had a high vamp with 6 reinforced metal eyelets, larger than normal punching and pinking, and a wide welt - all characteristics that were featured on classic Cole-Haan shoes of the 1930s and 1940s.

Vintage 1930s Cap-Toe Brogue from Cole-Haan

Vintage 1930s-1940s spectator shoes from Cole-Haan

If all of that wasn't enough, the shoes also featured a toe-cap that was almost Hungarian in its appearance. The chiseled, narrow-waisted "fiddle-back" sole, however, was the crowning accomplishment here. Like a work of art, each pair of shoes was signed by the Italian shoemaker. Finally, if all of that didn't justify the $700-800 price tag, the heel designed by Nike using their patented "Air" technology promised a very comfortable fit for the wearer.

Initally, when the Trafton was first released, shoe aficionados raved about the classic design of the model. Equal time was also given to the head-shaking decision to create such a stunning design while using some kind of plastic-leather composite for the uppers that created the deepest creases imaginable after only a handful of wears.

Eventually, Cole Haan hit the ball out of the park with the Werner, which was essentially the Trafton but in a absolutely stunning scotch grain leather. The model that I happened to discover is in a beautiful chestnut color which, when paired with the dramatic lines, Stradivarius-like sole and aesthetically-pleasing broguing, makes for a model that Cole-Haan's Chicago forbears would certainly be proud of.

1 comment:

  1. As always, LOVE your posts. Actually, Werner came BEFORE Trafton and was available in both scotch grain & smooth calf. The maker handsigned the interior of the shoes. The Trafton was a more "mass produced" version, and also had a less "spaded sole". Still nice, but not at Werner level. Sadly, the one big problem with both models was the HORRIBLY corrected grain leather used in the smooth calf version. It creased terribly and was very plasticky. The Scotch grain models were much better. Keep up the fantastic site, my friend!