Interview | Nate Humble of Alden

Tuesday May 21, 2013

Nate Humble | Alden of New England

Alden New England | Nate Humble

The Alden Shoe Company has been making hand crafted, quality footwear since 1884, representing an American tradition of old-school shoemaking at its finest for over a century. Creating smart shoes of great comfort and excellent craftsmanship, Alden unites traditional styles with modern sensibilities, resulting in long-lasting footwear with a timeless aesthetic.

Nate Humble is a busy man. As a long-time representative of Alden for the West Coast and Asia, Nate makes tracks around the Pacific Rim on a regular basis and is recognized by retailers and diehard Alden fans across the globe. With more knowledge about the label and its products than almost anyone else around, he’s the go-to guy for obscure information and special requests. He recently paid a visit to Roden Gray to give us a crash course in all things Alden, and we took the opportunity to find out a little bit more about the man behind the shoe.

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RG: How long have you been working for Alden?
NH: I started with Alden in December 1990.

RG: Could you tell us a bit about what your history before working for Alden?
NH: My shoe career began in 1972 as a sales representative for U.S. Keds, a famous American canvas shoe company, that started before Nike was even around. Next I worked for an upstate New York company that manufactured Women's and Men's house slippers called Daniel Green. My last stop before Alden was with E.T. Wright Men's dress shoes, also made in USA. I began as a representative and eventually became Sales Manager. When I began my career in 1972 90% of the shoes at retail in the U.S. were made in the U.S.A. Now it's probably less than 5%.

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RG: How has the company changed with the influx of younger, more fashion conscious retailers and customers?
NH: The company hasn't changed a great deal. We still make shoes the way we did 30 - 40 years ago with the major difference being we're producing more make-ups (collaboration shoes — Ed.) than before, I would guess about 40% of production versus 10 - 12% 20 years ago.

RG: What were the very first Alden shoes you wore?
NH: Ravello De Rosa Norwegian Front Blucher Oxford. They have been rebuilt three times and I still wear them after nearly 23 years!

RG: What are your all-time favourite Alden shoes?
NH: Mahogany Leisure Loafers produced in 2004. Mahogany Cordovan is no longer available so they are special. I try and rotate my Aldens, wearing models with Crepe soles for winter and Flex Suede's for Spring. Long Wings and 990's go with everything so I wear them pretty much year round.

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RG: Has working with Alden changed the way you dress?
NH: I'm wearing fewer suits these days and like everyone dressing down a bit. Fortunately Alden "Classics" are perfect for jeans, khaki's, or wool slacks with a sport coat or Blazer.

RG: What do you think differentiates Alden from other shoe companies?
NH: Several features separate Alden from other shoe makers. Lasts* that are generous and comfortable, a time honored construction that allows maximum durability, and a quality and comfort first philosophy. Our shoes are designed for everyday walking reliability. They are just as comfortable 5 or 10 years after purchase and that can't be said for most shoes.

*the form the shoe is built on

RG: What's your secret for extending the lifetimes of your Alden shoes (especially suede ones)?
NH: Several secrets. Rotate, wear a pair every other day so they can dry naturally. Shoe trees — a cedar shoe tree wicks the natural foot perspiration from your shoe. Basic polishing is helpful, cream for calfskin and wax for cordovan to prevent the leather upper from drying out or cracking. Suede spray is available at any shoe repair shop, usually the silicon variety and works very well.

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RG: What are the most exciting collaborations you have ever seen?
NH: The Tanker Boot designed by our Japanese Distributor, Yoshi Chiwaki in about 1995 comes to mind. The first "Vintage" Long Wing in Walnut Calf and double oiled sole developed by Winn Perry in 2009. I believe the Long Wing as seen today in a multitude of leather and suede uppers is a result of Jordan Saylor's (of Winn Perry) early effort. Lastly, the "Obscura" designs in 2011. Art Tarlow, our President produced a few out of production samples more than 15 years ago that were the prototypes for the collaboration. They were unique because of the pattern mix, and new leather introduction (at the time).

RG: Is there anything new form Alden that you're most excited about for the up-coming season? and what is it?
NH: Fall/Winter is all about Suede's and Chrome XL leathers. Hunting Green Suede will be new and offered initially as a make up leather. We will stock an unlined Brown CXL Dover for fall 2013 and offer unlined Navy and Natural CXL for make up. Boots of every variety still dominate fall/winter season with oiled uppers and Commando soles perfect for those rainy wintry days.

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