Buying pre-owned dress shoes online, a small guide

Guides

Article estimated reading time 9 min. read
Article date Sep 22nd, 2018
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Introduction

As far as I can remember, I always have been attracted to quality dress shoes. Even when I was a kid I asked my mom to stop in front of shoe shops to watch them, I'm not even kidding.

Truth is, they were probably not from Edward Green, John Lobb and the like but the spark never really left me. And now that I have the financial situation to go buy new pairs regularly... Well, I am not. Because I do not buy leather anymore, and because that wouldn't be responsible of me to do. I had a few pairs from Meermin, a pair of sneakers from Buttero and a pair of boots from Yanko.

Meanwhile, at the back of my head, the thought of having out a great pair of English made shoes was still there, so I decided to go on a quest: Finding pre-owned quality dress shoes — in my size — online. And surprisingly enough I will say the quest was a total success!

Searching

I started my this quest in May of 2018 when I randomly decided to check the dress shoe section of eBay. It is important to filter your search heavily to prevent the mass of random "Italian made" from cluttering your results and make you miss a good deal.

I personally filter by size with a +1 / -1 range. Brands sometimes have very different lasts, this can really affect the way the shoes feel. Quick example: My two pairs from Meermin are in size 6.5UK. One, on the Elton last, is a bit too tight while the other, on the Hiro last, is a bit too large. Considering as well that my Crockett & Jones are on the 341 last, supposedly fitting true to size, are a bit too big and my Carmina, on the Inca last, are a bit tight in the same size... Well, it can get confusing very quickly and therefore you shouldn't filter down to your exact size.

I also filter by brands, I have no interested in brands retailing under 350€ neither do I have interest in brands I have never heard of. I'm looking for quality dress shoes here, with a good value even at full price.

The latest way I filter down the results is by condition. You have the choice between New with box, new without box, new with defects and Pre-owned. The most ethical thing to do is, to me, giving a second life to a pair of shoes someone lost its love for.

With my filters, the results already went down from an overwhelming number of 189500 to a more digestible 165. The last thing to do is sorting by newest first and bookmark the search to quickly and regularly check new auctions.

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My first pre-owned pair of shoes, made by JM Weston — probably a while back. Do not mind the bunny ears, I need to replace the laces...

What should you look for

Once you find a pair you like you should take a look at a few points. Don't worry, if the brand is reputable and the style doesn't look too outdated chances are the rest will follow.

The size is pretty much impossible to pinpoint perfectly without having a first-hand experience with the same brand and last. The only thing you can do is going on Styleforum and read about everyone's experience and make the most educated choice possible.
If you are not confident about the size, always ask the seller for measurements and see if there is a return policy available in case it doesn't work out in the end.

The price... It depends a lot on the age, condition and retail price of the shoes but as a good rule of thumb, I look for shoes that are a third of their original price or less.
For example, my latest pair still retails for 475€ but I got them for 160€ + shipping. I'm right there on the one-third mark, the shoes were only tried on a few times so they were pretty much new.
A second example is my two pairs of double monks from Carmina. Currently retailing at 400€ each I got them shipped for 110€ and 75€. This might look like a better value at first but the leather sole on the first pair is roughly at half of its life while the suede leather on the second pair has seen better days; I suspect a lack of effort from the previous owner. And finally, I also won an auction for a pair of double monks — again — from SuitSupply. Obviously, I do not know which life they had previously but the cork should be replaced, the heels' top lift was quite used and the overlook was too flattering either. I bought them for a mere 10€ though I do not feel like I've made a good deal.

The sole, especially if leather, must be in good condition: It doesn't make much sense to buy a pair to have resoled two weeks after unless you really make a bargain a know a good cobbler.

The inners must be in good condition. Look out for holes, the lining of the heel counter and the part where the vamp meet the cuneiform bones (located at the start of your toes) of the foot are good places to start.

The heels' rubber top lift shouldn't be hitting the heel base. You can easily spot that by checking the back of the shoes if the rubber is looking thin be careful!

Replacing the rubber top lifts will cost you about 25€ while replacing the entire heel will be 65€ or more. You might also need to replace the first layer of leather to flatten the heel back to its original shape. Expect to pay 20€ or less for that.

The uppers must be in good condition as well. Usually, it just means the leather shouldn't be cracked. If it is don't bother unless it is under 25€...

A good polishing should give a new life to your shoes. Cleaning them deeply will also help to remove some of the previous owner mistakes. Please check this guide from Shoegazing to learn more about that.

You might need to replace the laces as well depending on the shoes' age; no worries there, you can find good laces under 10€ and basic laces around 5€.

Where can you find pre-owned dress shoes online

Depending on the languages you feel comfortable ordering in, of your skills using Google Translate, some websites might be easier to use than others.
I will talk about websites I had experience here, or I know are reputable.

eBay

Let's start with the most obvious one. You will find a lot of dress shoes on eBay, preowned or not.
The one element you should keep in mind — outside filtering the results correctly — is your shipping preferences. Depending on your country of choice the results will vary, a lot.
The seller might not add mark every country as shippable to, which means it will be hidden to you unless you are in the countries he selected. Sellers usually do not care about the shipping destination as long as you are paying for it.
I would, therefore, recommend you to use the marketplace's country you are in as your default destination then contact the seller to see what's possible.

Reddit - r/goodyearwelt

Reddit is a vote based social website separated into subs. You can think of it like a huge forum where each section has it's own rules and moderators. Everyone votes on the posts he or she enjoys and it translates into the ordering algorithm.
With a community of over 70 000 members, r/goodyearwelt is probably one of the biggest community dedicated to quality footwear for men. Every three days the moderators create a new Buy/Sell/Trade topic where you can find used shoes from other members.
You will easily find great pairs, especially if you are a size 8UK or 9UK and you might even get a discount from the eBay price as a member!

Styleforum

Though I have never bought anything yet from Styleforum's Buy&Sell section rest assured, you are in the right place to find classic menswear, including footwear of course.
The website only acts as a way to display what you are selling, no payment will be done through it so please use PayPal Buyer Protection to stay safe and sound.

Leffot

Leffot is a well-known shop selling high-end shoes in the likes of Edward Green, John Lobb, Gaziano & Girling and more.
The shoes sold in the pre-owned section are no exceptions, the big difference here is that Leffot buys shoes from the customer either for money or store credit.
They also inspect the shoes carefully to make sure they are genuine and, I believe, they also clean them to make them as good looking as possible.

Grailed

Think of it as eBay but for clothes and shoes only. Grailed provides a better shopping experience than eBay but bare in mind the fee asked for is roughly 10% of the total price.
It might be interesting to see if the same item is available on eBay or somewhere else or to contact the user directly to have a small discount.

Consignment websites (Vestiaire Collective, TheRealReal...)

There are a few consignment websites out there allowing you to find verified designer garments.
They do offer a good shopping experience but the prices are usually quite high since they verify everything. Brands like Crockett&Jones or Carmina aren't widely available either; but if you enjoy Prada, Louis Vuitton or Hermes then check them out.

Here's what I bought

You might be wondering exactly what I got from this search over the last three months.

Conclusion

I personally enjoy finding pre-owned garments although buying online can be a hit and miss if you are not careful and some sellers are becoming pros at hiding some information.

Outside of the attractive pricing, you are truly making a difference by not buying new. The current way of consuming fashion is already way out of control and every action count.
The process taking place behind the leather industry is most likely the worst one; from huge pollution to animal cruelty — and I'm not only talking about the obvious killing an animal to wear shoe aspect.

If you plan on buying used shoes or already have I can only say thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Florian Husquinet

I am a web developer currently living in Liege, Belgium. My big resolution for 2018 was to have a more ethical wardrobe.

I will explore different options throughout my posts ranging from regular brands to second hand going into the details of what makes a garment ethical or not.

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