Part of being a classic menswear guy for me is the ability to have products that last a long time. We oftentimes rationalize higher priced purchases because of the quality that goes into them. Suits with full canvassing, tailors cutting a pattern with extra seam allowance so the suit can still be modified fit when we gain or lose weight, or shoes welted instead of glued so that they can be resoled, thereby having a longer lifespan. While for many this is a justification, it also serves as a deciding economic factor or a philosophical factor when purchasing a product.
In the case of Standard Fair, they have designed a product around quality and lifespan. Whereas most other sneakers are not designed to be resoled, Standard Fair bucked that concept and designed a piece of footwear from the sole up, building it to be resolable. The shoes are made in the United States in Maine, sourced with quality leathers from Italian leather mills that work with historic, labor intensive methods to produce vegetable-tanned full grain leather. They have selected leathers from two members of the Italian True Vegetable Tanned Leather Consortium, Conceria Walpier (for white vegetable tanned leather), and Conceria Tempesti (for the other colors). Created on top of camp soles (more on that in a bit), the shoes are stitched using blake methods to allow the sole to be replaced. And while it is difficult to find individuals to resole blake shoes in the USA (not as difficult in countries like Italy), Standard Fair offers a resoling and refinishing service, to help keep your shoes nice and functional. Overall, the company is aiming to provide you with a product that will last a long time with proper care.
When asked to provide a review as a Styleforum user–more so lurker–I decided to let Standard Fair send me whichever color pathway of the Sport Camp they wanted. It didn’t matter so much to me because I own a pair similar to them from another small footwear manufacturer Collegium, also from a similar leather mill, and I own Buttero in both black and white color pathways. In the end, Mike, the well informed, friendly proprietor and creator of Standard Fair, opted to send me black. While they wouldn’t have been my first choice, I had decided that I would go into this review focusing on the quality and design, not on trying to make sure I am overly biased based on choosing a preferred color pathway (which would have been the white for me, seeing as how veg-tanned white leather sounds utterly strange and exciting to me). I’d like to think that this helped make me a touch more objective when considering the shoe.
So you understand, I’m not unfamiliar with “stitched construction” sneakers, especially margom soles. I have bought several pairs of margom cup stitched sneakers thinking that I could get them to be resoled. In the end, I am incredibly disappointed with the longetivity of the margom cup soles, seeing as how I feel the soles wear through rather quickly. After a little under two years of semi-regular wear (with rotation), a pair of shoes from Buttero has horrible soft spots on the rubber. I had reached out to Buttero to inquire as to if they were resoleable, seeing as how they are stitched, and the Italian company confirmed with me and their factory that they cannot be resoled because they are glued, that the stitching is superficial.
As I wrote earlier, part of what separates Standard Fair from other makers, besides the construction, is the transparency in sourcing and material design. Mike is willing to let you know exactly where materials are being sourced, and they have a space on their website showing you from where each component, down to the most minute like the insole or laces, are being manufactured or originated. Their openness is refreshing, seeing as how few other brands are willing to discuss their manufacturers or sourcing. In addition, the choice of manufacturing the products in places such as the USA speaks to their commitment to quality manufacturing. Mike acknowledges that just because a product says its made in a certain country (England, USA, Italy) does not mean that the product is going to be of good quality. However, his careful sourcing of suppliers and manufacturers has put Standard Fair at the top of the game in terms of quality. I feel that the quality of the materials that went into this shoe are better than those that went into Buttero. To me, having felt the two sneakers side by side, Buttero feels more like a fashion brand, while Mike’s Standard Fair feels truly like a quality focused brand.
Aesthetically, Standard Fair opted for a few little stylistic choices to set them off from more minimalistic competitors. The shoes have heel and tongue patches of the same leather, flesh out. In theory, this leather should continue to develop a patina through wear as well. The soles are tone on tone, matched against the leather upper color. There is also a loop on the tongue, to run the laces through and keep the tongue up. Overall they are fairly streamlined, and I can picture the white pair being a staple in my wardrobe. The black works well especially in winter since it doesn’t attract too much attention, especially as the leather has gained a matte patina through the few weeks of pretty intense wear, giving the shoes a more lived-in look.
The camp soles are something that you don’t really see on sneakers. For those of you that are not aware, they are found on a lot of preppier, New England styled, casual footwear, including moccasins from makers Quoddy, Rancourt, and Yuketen. The concept behind the camp sole was to have a lightweight, sturdy yet comfortable rubber sole that would allow comfort based footwear, like a moccasin, to be worn when lounging around outside–during a weekend getaway for instance at your local New England summer lake. Prior to Standard Fair, it would be only common to see a camp sole on a moccasin, oftentimes handsewn. Because the soles have a nice grain to them, they provide good traction, and the wedge cutout found on many of them keep the sole nice and light. It makes a lot of sense to pair this sole with sneakers for that reason and thinking about it, I can imagine we will some other manufacturers emulating this in the future.
Because they are Blake stitched, the sole breaks in a bit more rapidly, seeing as how it features a thick, rubber sole sourced from Sao Paulo. The sole material feels comfortable. I don’t feel any stress standing on my feet since the support on the arch especially is incredibly nice for a sneaker.
While they are true to size, for individuals with a higher instep or a wider foot, I would suggest a half size up. Having gone TTS based on the suggestion of Mike, I found that my feet, especially when laced tightly, by the end of the day wanted a little bit more breathing room. The leather, while it has broken in, is still a stiffer leather (its a feature of the specific leather mill), and so it probably would have been beneficial to have extra space at the beginning, especially seeing as how with thicker socks, my feet feel rather tight in the shoe. Going forward into warmer seasons, the shoes will work nicely with thinner socks.
Would I buy these shoes? Yes. Because of the resolability, the quality materials and the ability to gain a patina, through wear, especially on the Chestnut and Honey colorways, you have a pair of shoes that can last you a very, very long time with upkeep and wear. If you are someone who truly respects quality and craftsmanship, these are for you. They also have a design that many may find that they like, even if it is a touch less minimalist because of the flesh out patches on the heel and tongue. Don’t let those patches deter you from considering the shoes since they are less distracting when on the foot than it appears in photos. Personally, my pick would be the white or Honey color pathways. You really aren’t going to find other sneakers that will last you a lifetime with proper care with good support that will gain a nice patina over time.
Join the discussion on the forum on the Standard Fair Official Affiliate Thread.
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There are a lot of shoe brands out there. Many of the foreign favorites are heritage brands with a strong history in manufacturing; some brands are start-ups, created by shoe lovers, with an emphasize on leaving their mark on the shoe world. Jonathan Abel is a young brand from Singapore, developed and designed by shoe fans, striving to produce something functional and of good quality that would appeal to both a mass market audience as well as shoe fans. The shoes are made in Portugal, a region less known than Spain or England or the US for Goodyear welted designs, but with a few manufacturers that specialize in them, including Carlos Santos. Jonathan Abel’s designs–especially among the Goodyear welted models–are not loud, evoking a classic aesthetic while flourishing a hint of contemporary style in the silhouette.
When I was asked by one of the employees at Styleforum if I would be willing to write a review of my impressions of a pair of shoes from Jonathan Abel, I said sure. Before saying yes, I made sure there were some shoes that I would like, and a few of their styles appealed to me. Because the brand writes that they make Goodyear welted shoes (though you can find Blake welted shoes), I opted to select a Goodyear welted pair, going for their Noah longwing derby model in tan. Normally I like neither longwings nor derbies, but the aesthetic with the last seemed to be more flattering and elegant, somewhat less clunky than normal on account of a good balance between each dimension on the last. I thought I might as well take more of a risk with something that I normally avoid. And I’m pleasantly surprised, having found that the design and aesthetic of the shoe is so well balanced, it’s quickly become a shoe I can imagine using for a variety of occasions. In addition, they have received quite a few positive comments on the street, something which just doesn’t happen with most of my more conservative shoes (like Crockett and Jones).
On their site and in their affiliate thread, Jonathan Abel writes that their shoes are made with leathers from higher-end tanneries including du Puy and Annonay. For this pair, they used leather from Weinheimer Tannery, which, albeit not as famous as du Puy and Annonay (employed for other models), produces some exquisite leather used by other top-end manufacturers. Historically, one of the best German tanneries was Freudenberg Tannery, which moved from Germany to Poland on account of environmental legislation and changes; Weinheimer Leder split off from Freudenberg group and produces leather for footwear following the rigorous methods and techniques originally used by the Freudenberg tannery. Such leather is used by other, more established menswear favorites including Crockett and Jones, Gaziano and Girling, J. Fitzpatrick.
The biggest complaint that I have for the company regarding their site and product descriptions is that they do not list the correct corresponding leather on the site for each model, and I only found out which leather was used by reaching out to them. Many consumers may only be familiar with more well-known tanneries like du Puy or Annonay, let alone be familiar with any tanneries at all, but for sake of transparency and accuracy, I wish they updated the site with better listings.
The leather for my shoe is on the softer side for break-in. One of the creators of Jonathan Abel remarked they selected a softer leather from Weinheimer that is much softer than those from du Puy in order to decrease the break-in period for their clients. This is quite true in my experience; the shoe was rather comfortable from the first few wears. If you are looking for a goodyear-welted shoe that has a quick break in period, go for these. I sometimes feel like I’m wearing something Blake welted, rather than Goodyear welted on account of how comfortable the sole and shoe is. However, in contrast to Blake welted shoes, the soles appear to have much more resiliency for water and heavy use based on running around in them through wet grass, puddles, and other moist terrain.
The leather is nothing to discount either. Over time, the shoes will look amazing with proper care. I think that with a mirror shine and some antiquing on the toe they would look exquisite. As they continue to be used and taken care of, I’ll aim to polish them in that style.
Concerning construction: the stitching is clean, the broguing is clean, and the leather laces don’t feel like they are going to fall apart. To be honest, I’ve gotten shoes from Peal and Co. (Crockett and Jones make) with more asymmetries and little finishing problems then the pair from Jonathan Abel. I do wish the shoes featured closed channel soles. But based on my experience wearing these ones through grass (wet and dry), dirt, rocks, sidewalk, concrete, through puddles, among other venues, the soles have held up exceedingly well, with minimal wear. I also chose not to rotate them with other shoes as I normally would, using only a shoe tree at night, and am still amazed by how little wear the soles show. They didn’t skimp on the leather soles quality.
Packaging wise, the shoes had an interesting box that folds upon itself, with two ribbons that loop through to create handles. I’m sure they could also be tied to make a bow, but during shipping, the courier opened the box to take a look at the shoes.
For fit, I would suggest staying to your normal size. I’m a US 8 or 8.5, depending on the last. However, I oftentimes have problems with certain lasts on account of my foot volume and width. With European lasts, I usually have less of a problem because oftentimes there is more space for the arch of the foot. Looking at their lasts, I decided that the best for my foot would likely be a rounder last, so I opted for something with their R385 (soft round last). Because of my fitting difficulties, when reaching out to them to coordinate the shoe pair for review, they suggested I take size 42 based on my measured foot width, but that actually ended up being a disaster, and I had to send the shoes back because they were oversized with too much volume on the instep. In this case, I overemphasized my difficulties in fitting a pair of shoes, and so they had erred on the side of caution based on foot measurements. Based on my experiences, I would once again suggest sticking with your normal size, because the lasts are fairly traditional. I do wish they made half sizes since I might even consider sizing down half a size on account of the extra room found in a derby.
Overall, in terms of quality, these are quite the pair of shoes. In terms of price to quality ratio, these are a great option for those of your looking for simple, clean shoes that are made with quality leathers and construction. I would recommend them and choose them over Allen Edmonds in most cases since I prefer the slightly more elegant and European styled lasts. The welting is on par with Carmina or Cobbler Union (even though it lacks the closed channel soles you would find on each of them). I quite like the pair I received and would consider ordering from them in the future, especially if another model pops up that I like. I think that should you find a pair that you like and appreciate quality shoes at a good price, or you are looking to start your dress shoe collection, Jonathan Abel is an excellent option to consider.
Please note, once again, that these shoes were given to me to provide a fair, honest review. They provided no input on what sort of content they wanted in the review, so everything I am saying is of my own choice.
Join the discussion on the forum on the Jonathan Abel Official Affiliate Thread.
This is not a sponsored article; to read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.
“The way it supports, you’ve never felt anything like it.”
Frank and I were chatting during l’ora dell’ aperitivo in Florence at the StyleForum Maker Space. It was the final evening before the final day, when vendors leave the Pitti booths after the sun sets and talk shop with those they’ve met throughout the day over a cup of something viscous. Frank’s company, Giin, is perhaps better known for their lapel hole object d’arte flowers, but his side gig – men’s underwear and undershirts – intrigued me, since I’ve never given either one more than a passing thought.
“Sell it to me,” I challenged, to which he said the opening line. “You see how I’m cupping this glass of chardonnay? That’s the kind of support I’m talking about. It’s there, but natural.” I was a little incredulous – natural wouldn’t describe anything I’ve tried that’s made for down there. Frank must have read my face because he immediately responded with another angle: “You can wash and wear them the next day.”
Now that was something that struck a chord with me. The practical usefulness of something that could withstand a sweaty, pick-and-shovel day in the field and be ready for tomorrow might prove applicable for vacation as well. “All right,” I nodded. “I’ll take a pair and put them to the test at work. Then I’ll take them on my next vacation in Turkey. We’ll see how they perform.”
He chuckled. “I’ve already tested them in Singapore. If they can handle those summers, Turkey will be a cakewalk.”
Frank ended up sending me a week’s worth, “just in case,” he writes, which I tell my wife in the event that she refuses to touch a person who hasn’t changed their underwear after a day. The fabric is fantastically soft, made from a mix of high twist cotton, polyester, and Lycra that Frank says took extensive trial and error to perfect. I put them on in preparation for running power in the crawl space in the Tenderloin’s Salerno Hotel lobby – a sweatbox if there ever was one – and the first thing I notice is the second-skin snugness. Boxers, these ain’t, but after a few minutes, they stretched to the point where I didn’t notice any snugness, and – perhaps disconcertingly – I didn’t notice them at all, meaning I had to remind myself that I’m actually wearing underwear. Part of the reason is the fabric, some magical hybrid of high-twist cotton, polyester, and lycra that is featherweight and silky smooth that was developed in-house. Also, there is a not a single stitch anywhere; instead, the seams are bonded with a thermoplastic film called Bemis that Frank swears by. “Throw them in the dryer if you want,” he challenged. “The fabric will wear out before the adhesive does.” The result is a low-profile non-abrasive pair of chonies that you forget about almost as soon as you put them on.
Up in the stuffy 100-year-old crawlspace, I twisted, contorted, and twisted my day pulling MC home runs over ductwork, underwater pipes, and carefully stepping on black iron supports, and not once did the underwear bind, ride up, or fall down. At home, I finished the daylight with a perspire pool of a Shawn T workout, hopped in the shower and per Frank’s instructions, washed with soap and water, hung to dry overnight, and put on a new pair.
The next day I did the exact same thing – work and workout – except instead of grabbing a new pair, I reached for yesterday’s and did the sniff test. To my amazement, they smelled not just clean, but laundered. No trace of yesterday’s funk at all. Nonetheless, since my olfactory senses have been dulled from years of construction inhalation, I handed them to my bloodhound-nosed wife for confirmation. She took a pair of tongs, held them six inches from her face, and took a deep breath. Her eyes widened.
“Impressive. If anything…” she pursed her lips. “I smell a hint of EO body wash.” And with her blessing, they were green-lit for Turkey.
Bringing underwear on vacation is always a gamble: what if you’re nowhere near a place to do your laundry? You’re better off throwing them in a nuclear waste disposal and buying a new pair than risk repacking them and spreading the odor to the rest of your luggage. But if Giin underwear is truly wash-and-wear…
In short, the underwear wasn’t compatible with the whirlwind ten-day Turkey tour. We did have a shower every night, but since we departed for a different city every morning, there wasn’t enough time for the underwear to completely dry in the hotel before repacking them. However, we bookended our trip with several days before and after in Istanbul, and had three straight days on a boat; in these instances, the every-other-day rotation worked fine. Not surprisingly, the fabric handled the Turkish heat with aplomb, never once feeling clammy or uncomfortable. Additionally, they come in mid-grey and nude, giving them ninja levels of invisibility underneath white pants or shorts. Because even if your aloha shirt is shamelessly crass, at least your unmentionables are modest.
I don’t know of any other real-life stress test to put Giin underwear under, but I’ll bet that they can take whatever can be thrown at them. More than that, they are easily the most there-yet-not-there pair I own, equally comfortable and imperceptible. Just wash, allow to dry for 24 hours, and you’re good to go.
And if you’re wondering about support, just think of Frank holding a glass of chardonnay.
This is not a sponsored article; to read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.