Keith Highlander is one of the lesser known names in the great pantheon of classic American shoemakers. Once a household name, these days it hardly warrants a mention on the tradly forums where Alden is God (and Allen Edmonds a mere disciple).
But if you look back in time and see the advertisements in the newspapers and magazines of the past brands like Keith Highlanders and Nettleton were serious players and made some of the shoes that today are classified as American classics. Nettleton patented the style and name The Loafer in 1937 and George Keith produced the legendary shoes with brick red soles called Walk Over.
Even before Walk Over was a name synonymous with saddle shoes and dirty bucks, the Geo E Keith Walk Over company was producing some of the finest boots and shoes in American history. Sales in 1910 were over $12,000,000 with a payroll of $3,000,000. That’s a concern of enormous size.
George Keith was one of the US industrialists at the heart of modernising methods of production and factory experience for his workers, the realisation of which allowed the US to overtake Great Britain in the dominance for global reach of its goods in the early 20th Century. Hard to believe now but Walkover even had a store in London in the early 1900s!
Amongst the American makers of the long wing brogue, Keith Highlanders heold their own. More substantial and ‘blunt’ looking than the Florsheim Kenwood Imperial the Highlanders are similar to the Alden LWB. This particular pair is a deadstock model dating from 1960s, although possibly earlier. Late 70s and 80s Keith Highlanders brogues had inferior pigskin linings and sprayed colour antiquing along with rubber heels.
The heels on this pair feature a leather top piece with a plastic plug to perform the same function as Florsheim’s famous ‘V-cleat’. The original laces were tied in the eyelets in bunches and had never even been laced. The shoe in the photo was laced by me in order to try them on.
This particular pair I managed to find online from a very friendly seller who was happy to ship to England and I think quite pleased they’d gone to a good home. It’s also hard to find deadstock shoes in decent width sizes, for obvious reasons. These are an E fit (more or less an F un UK sizes) and so nice an wide.
Although vintage deadstock, I will be putting metal toe plates on the front of these and start wearing them in. It’s going to take some time, but they will probably last my lifetime having lasted nearly as long as me in their virgin state.
The pebble grain in so called ‘British Tan’, a colour that only Americans have ever heard of, and the deep ‘wheeling’ impression around the welt just add the to overall effect of these superb shoes. No wonder Americans sometimes call the LWB ‘gunboats’.
Special Thanks to Jonathan for selling them to me in the first place.