1960s Deadstock Keith Highlanders Long Wing Brogues

| 3 Feb ’11 | 16 Comments

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.

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Category: Americana, Deadstock, Ivy League, Ivy Look, Shoes, vintage

Comments (16)

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  1. David says:

    Forgive me fopr being naive, but what is the function of the v-cleat? Apart from ensuring broken bones whenever it’s wet outside

    • The Weejun says:

      Hi David, the V cleat was simply to stop the leather heel wearing down in a couple of days which it otherwise would. Then someone worked out that rubber compounds could be used as a top piece. It helps the age the shoes if they’re all leather heels…

  2. They are quite beautiful. Another lovely story/bit of history from the Weejun.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Rather glad these worked out. Best hopes that these exceed expectations.

  4. patrick says:

    these are simply gorgeous! and another amazing blog entry. keep going!

  5. mark isaacs says:

    Fantastic shoes! Could you tell me what (If any) preparation or leather conditioner you’d apply to them prior to wearing? I ask because I picked up a pair of NOS Florsheim Imperials a few years back that I simply gave a light polish to and wore possibly once a week. Before too long horrendous cracks appeared along the newly formed creases in the uppers that got to a stage that made the shoes unwearable. They sit at the back of my wardrobe as I am unable to bring myself to bin them no matter how useless they are now! Any guidance would be greatly appreciated – should I be lucky enough to find some similar dead stock beauties in the future. Thanks

    • The Weejun says:

      Hi Mark, Sorry to hear the Imperials cracked up. There are various remedies for really old and dry shoes. It really depends where they were kept during their lifetime. If they’re from a hot dry zone like Phoenix then you’re in trouble. I have heard of people smothering the shoes in Nivea hand creme and putting them in plastic bags for a few days. That might be a bit extreme and I usually use creme leather food and smother that on and leave them for a few hours. It helps but won’t necessarily stop them from cracking if the fibres in the leather have broken down too much.

      I’ve got a pair of late 60s 2 eyelet lace up Weejuns that I bought in California 12 years ago – they dry out a lot but the leather food seems to stop them from cracking completely.

      These Highlanders though look fine and the only thing I’ll do if put metal tips on them and the first few days out they’ll not bend much and scrape off the front of the soles.

  6. ParticalColonial says:

    You are wasting your money on those Keith Highlanders – do you think Lee Marvin nambied around in expensive American made shoes? You can get much better longwings at Geox, lovely PVC finish with a proper plastic sole. Cost $15.

    • The Weejun says:

      Ah, I wondered how long it would be before Dan showed up again. Go get those Geox babies, Dan!

  7. C.Moshe Good Creary says:

    I have always admired Walkover shoes. I am from Panama living now in Spain. There were 2 types of shoes Florsheim and Walkover. The
    Florsheim are the known Black and White, and Brown and white shoes. I would like to get information of these shoes.
    Thanking you in advance.
    I remain,
    Yours faithfully
    Cornelius Moshe Good Creary

  8. Keith says:

    Beautiful Shoe! Geox?!?! Come on now, be for real.

  9. Raymond says:

    I just picked one pair old new stock in the original box size 8. It wasn’t tried on….
    They are exactly the color as the ones you have here.
    I will be trying them soon.
    Thanks
    Ray

    • The Weejun says:

      Nice one Raymond. I finally starting wearing mine this autumn and they broke in after one wearing, despite the weight and age, the leather is super supple.

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