07 December 2011

Probable Maximum Loss: Cole Haan

Esquire Gentleman Magazine, Spring / Summer 1993

Probable Maximum Loss or PML is an insurance term I always called the "Ka-Boom" factor. PML is a basic underwriting strategy where an insurance company figures it's total maximum loss in a building, location, region or... shoe maker.

Cole Haan started in Chicago in 1928 and were, by the time I knew them in the '80s, the classic shoe choice. Whether a simple calf tassel loafer (my first post college shoe) or their perfect correspondent in buck and tan calf -- Cole Haan was classic. You didn't wear tassel loafers -- you wore Cole Haan tassel loafers.

In 1993, Cole Haan introduced the venetian loafer you see in the advertisement above. It was a clean looking shoe made in their Maine factory. In 1988, Cole Haan was bought by Nike and shortly afterwards closed their Maine plant and moved all manufacture off shore. How odd that Cole Haan became, if not the first, one of the earliest shoe companies to embrace off shore while leaving pricing the same.

Today, pricing remains high for what you get but design has really suffered as seen here. The plastic injected shoe so commonly associated with Donald Pliner is seen across the Cole Haan line. This may have more to do with the small world of shoe design talent but I think it stems more from what Asian factories are comfortable making. Who knows. I don't pretend to know a lot about making shoes. I do understand Probable Maximum Loss. You know? Ka-Boom!


Anonymous said...

I thought it was just me, getting old, but I'm glad to see someone else thinks Cole Haan has become a junky, not-so-nice-looking, expensive shoe,

Paul said...

Quality suffers all around with their off shore made products. One pair of their tassel slip on only last a few months and then the tassel falls off and the sole are so thin - the rain seeps in. I won't buy their products anymore.

Anonymous said...

Fred Castleberry lives and dies by cole haan and that about sums him up.

Richard M said...

Cole Haan is awful.

Anthony Paranzino said...

I sold Cole-Haan in my shop in it's hey day, the Maine handsewns, the English made Brogues, the Italian made loafers, it was the greatest shoe line. AFter Nike purchased it, 1 year later Ka-Boom!


Suburban Princess said...

I was in their store in Toronto with a friend who was trying to buy a pair of boots. I say trying, simply because out of the 20 or so black clad staff working there, none seemed interested in selling any of the product.

Yankee-Whisky-Papa said...

I had a pair or two in the late 90's/early 00's. The sole was not stitched to the shoe, rather it was glued with an epoxy. I took them to get repaired, because I had (foolishly) paid over $100 for them in Freeport, Maine. The shoe expert told me that he would not work on them, and if I wanted help I "should buy a pair of real shoes" and bring them in. They really are a turd of a shoe these days.

Anonymous said...

YWP: "The shoe expert told me that he would not work on them, and if I wanted help I 'should buy a pair of real shoes' and bring them in."

So true. Shoes de-laminate on a regular basis now. Or the rubbery plasticky sole splits. It's very frustrating. Shoe repair people must hate that. But women's shoes, with so little room for actual stitching, are always glued together. Little wonder men's are these days.

But Tintin, you erroneously pointed out my owning Donald Pliners in another post. Never heard of them. My dress casual shoes are in fact lowly but uber-comfortable Danish designed Eccos. Bought in an actual shoe store. Made, I was told, for walking on endless European cobble stone streets. Can't kill 'em. Won't de-laminate, won't split. What can I say? They're not very pretty, but they're certainly not Birkenstocks.


No Hype said...

I just stick with Allen Edmonds. Made in USA and built like a tank.

Makaga said...

@ No Hype

I am just now wearing my first pair of Allen Edmonds.
How long does the breaking-in process take? These shoes look great (and receive lots of compliments) but sure are not becoming the great shoe that everyone else says they are.
Any tips?

tintin said...

Anon- Yep. It's pretty bad stuff. It wouldn't be so bad if they hadn't taken a quantum drop, dive, leap, whatever, to the bottom of the shoe pile.

Paul- As companies look to increase revenue, market through sales and discounts and force cheap product on a public that's, for the most part clueless, Cole Haan is no longer a shoe company with a president who started his career as a cutter but it's a marketing company pushing product through cheap pricing.

A wise man in the biz told me CH's margins are a lot higher than Hermes. That is, Hermes recognizes less profit due to the quality of sourced materials and top labor. You pay more, a lot more, for an Hermes alligator belt but the skin and workmanship are the best and, for what you pay, amazingly good value.

Anon- There are a lot of bloggers out there with Cole Haan ads. If Cole Haan gave me $10,000 a month, I'm pretty sure I could find something nice to say about them.

Jointly design a boot. Have a short film trooping thru the Maine woods with a banjo soundtrack and some 19 year old hottie blonde with no make and a nose ring narrowing her eyes at my co-branded paratrooper boot.

Actually, I don't think I could do that and shave every morning.

Richard M- Try not to be so verbose.

Anthony P- Thanks for the insight. I look through old M Magazines and CH was just amazing. The tri color boat shoes, the driving moccs, the spectators with that perfect wing. What do you sell now?

Suburban Princess- I think that's retail everywhere.

YWP- Hey, that's a great name for my joint venture boot. The Trad Turd Boot. The Nike air sole gives one the feeling of walking barefoot through cow poop. I better trademark this.

DB - I had you pegged for a Birkenstock with socks kind'a guy.

No Hype- I'll say this about AE. If you don't like their shoes, they will make it right. I complained about a pr of Graysons that were a year old and they gave me a new pair. This was back in 2001 or two. I was hugely impressed when they admitted the old shoe they sold me was too narrow.

Makaga- Let them know. And let me know what they say.

Anonymous said...

Birkenstocks, with socks, yes. But only on the beach...


longwing said...

I was a Pinch Penny man for about 5 years. Late '90s. They were decent back then. Mostly I wore them because the Wejuns weren't working for me anymore and I hadn't gotten my head around the Alden penny loafer yet. I also wore their brown saddle leather loafer. Can't remember what they called it.

Anonymous said...


I must beg to differ on the subject of the Nike-Cole Haan merger. As a wearer of AE/NB for several decades, I chanced upon a pair of “Air Emersons” at a Saks Outlet and tried them on. I almost had a footgasm. At the time, I was recovering from a long disability involving my lower back. The Nike Air in the heel enabled me to increase my walking distance from 300 yards to 3 miles over a period of a year. I not only went back and bought another pair of Emersons; I have bought six other pairs with “Air”, in the last three years. For some reason, the Air feature provided far better cushioning for my back than NB trainers did. The first pair lasted through a year of heavy use and was only discarded when the heel had worn down more than my back could stand. The Emersons were made in China. The three dress shoes that I bought were from their Italian Collection, various Air Neroli. The casual models made in India have held up well, but their finish is lacking.

I have to recommend Cole Haan with Nike Air for anyone with a back problem or that spends a lot of time on their feet in a dress shoe.

Pithy enough for you,

Prep West

Anonymous said...

Their utility as orthopedic devices aside, is it my imagination, or does it look like you could land an F-18 on the vamp of some of these shoes?

Anonymous said...

Me thinks "West Prep" doth protest too much. Maybe onn the NIke payroll. Either way bad form to defend the companies that destroy brands by making their (inreasingly cheapened) stuff in China (insert Brooks Brothers reference here).

Anonymous said...

My aircraft carrier comment above refers to the new and vastly unimproved CH line, not the Venetian loafer seen in the 1993 ads. (I recall that The Trad is a fan of the Venetian.)

Linus412 said...

The ad reminds of the late Britches of Georgetown, where you could step up the style ladder but still look Washington enough to avoid scrutiny on your next background check. Wool tabs with a deep pleat and serious cuff break over a pair of CH tassels.

Hoss said...

Rip out the factory insole and they are great for orthotics. I am trying to keep my last pair(suede chukkas) going. Soles are falling apart. I had at least ten pairs of these loafers in the late 90's to early 2000's. All discounted models from an outlet store in Williamsburg, VA.