A Review of Baudoin and Lange’s Sagan Loafer

You have probably seen, just as I have, innumerable photographs of Very Stylish Men wearing Baudoin and Lange’s “Sagan” loafer. In the last year, the shoe has become the shoe of the menswear cognoscenti, the shoe worn by the men at Pitti who obviously know what they are doing and know that they are doing it – the men you actually care to see photos of. If you’ve somehow managed to miss them, take a look at @baudoinlange on Instagram for an endless reel of drool-worthy shoes, and then come back and read the rest of this.

The Sagan loafer is the first RTW project from Allan Baudoin, a product he felt deserved to have its own brand to support it. It began its life as a shoe to wear in the atelier where his bespoke shoes are made, and gained its own momentum when bespoke clients – along with other shoemakers and bespoke cutters and tailors – began asking after them. Now, it’s sold both directly through the Baudoin and Lange website, and has been stocked at a handful of retailers such as BnTailor and The Armoury.

Belgian-style shoes have been experiencing (thanks in part to Rubinacci’s mainstream “Marphy” loafer, often worn by the Instagram star Luca Rubinacci) something of a resurgence across the internet’s various men’s style communities – Styleforum being no exception. It’s not that hard to see why: when you can wear a shoe that’s as comfortable as a slipper, and that is in this case as buttery and supple as anything you could imagine, it makes sense to wear it every chance you can get.

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The “classic” Sagan loafer sports an unadorned apron; it is also available in a penny, string, or tassel makeup. The pair I received is of the tassel variety, made up in dark brown suede. This makeup was suggested by Bo, whose last name contributes the “Lange” to the brand, as perhaps the definitive Sagan iteration. He also suggested I order a size 45, which I did – I generally wear a 12-12.5 US, which lines up nicely with the recommendation on their website. All that was left was to wait.

Each pair of Sagan loafers ordered from the Baudoin and Lange website is made to order. The site declares that they are working on a backlog of common sizes to reduce the waiting time, but also says to expect a wait time of up to three weeks (note: at the time of publishing, that window had been increased to four weeks). An old member-written review on Styleforum noted that the early packaging (back in 2016) was sub-par; this is certainly not the case now. The shoes arrived in a slim, handsome box, packaged with little fanfare but entirely ready for wear.

They are, in a word, gorgeous. New, the suede has a luster that connotes (if you are me) a stirring combination of Savile Row smarts alongside raw, animalistic luxury; as if the shoes should be worn with a fur cloak on the set of Game of Thrones and then to the Louvre that same evening, being of course perfectly at home on the plane that would transport you between venues. I opened the box that held them in an unlit room; I imagine that, had you seen me from the outside, my face would have been illuminated as though in a Renaissance painting.

Forgive the hyperbole.

Comfort and Style

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In addition to looking not-too-shabby, the Sagan loafer is bizarrely comfortable. I should instead say that it’s cleverly designed, because the cork-and-foam padded insole offers ample cushioning for long periods of wear, and the way that the shoes are built means that they can accommodate a range of foot widths (I am a fairly standard D width) as the suede ‘stretches’ around the foot very nicely. 

They are made of unlined suede lambskin, which Justin of The Shoe Snob called “The cashmere of suede.” Similarly, Simon Crompton called the Sagan “The best Belgian-style loafers I have ever worn.” They’ve been featured in The Rake, they’re seen on the best-dressed men on the Internet, and, well, you get the idea. So it was no surprise that the Sagan looks beautifully at home with tailored clothing. What did surprise me was the shoe’s surprising versatility. Shorts? Success. Denim? Check. Wide-legged trousers? You got it. In fact, some of the best looks I’ve seen featuring the Sagan loafer come courtesy of Styleforum member Beepbop, who wears them with a host of streetwear-friendly names.

After a series of daily experiments I decided, in the name of Styleforum and science, to wear them just about wherever I could. I didn’t expect universal success: after all, this is a shoe that is closely related to a house slipper. Besides, the Sagans are so supple and so downright beautiful that it felt more than a little sacrilegious to treat them like just another pair of shoes, and I was reluctant to see them brought to harm – but for your sake, dear reader, I carried on. The following is a short list of activities for which I can fully recommend the Sagan loafer:

  1. Driving a car with an automatic transition (sadly, a standard transmission was not available for testing by the time of publication – I suspect these would not be ideal for heel-toe shifts, although since Bo van Langeveld is a former competitive driver, perhaps he can chime in)
  2. Riding a bicycle (with toe clips) to the coffee shop; working all day
  3. Strolling through the botanic gardens
  4. Picnicking in said gardens
  5. Grilling dinner for visiting family members (managed to avoid splattering oil on them somehow)
  6. Walking the dogs (on pavement) for 1+ hour
  7. Standing for long periods of time
  8. General puttering, both inside and out, and lounging around looking cool all day long

And the following are activities for which I do not recommend wearing the Sagan loafer:

  1. Juggling a soccer ball (I couldn’t bring myself to do it)
  2. Walking on dirt roads (the stones get in, though not so much as you’d think – what really got to me was the rising panic I felt as I watched them grow dustier and dustier)
  3. Plyometrics (due to a lack of lateral support)

That’s a lot of activities. Throughout them all, the Sagan performed beautifully – they’re comfortable enough to be worn for long periods of time, good-looking in a way that makes you want to spend a lot of time staring at your own feet, and versatile enough to be worn with a range of garments in a range of situations.

Price, Quality and Final Thoughts

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As shown here, the Sagan tassel loafer costs 325 GBP, or about $425. For that price, you’re buying a handcrafted loafer made of the finest, softest, most supple suede I’ve ever seen on a shoe. The quality is what you would expect from a RTW project with bespoke roots: superb. These are, quite simply, stunning shoes. Considering how versatile and comfortable they are, I think that the amount of wear you’ll end up getting from them makes the price well worth it, even if you’re not spending every day in high-waisted trousers and patch-pocket jackets.

I can see these being the perfect travel shoe for a tailored wardrobe, especially on overseas trips when you want a shoe that’s easy to slip on and off and that won’t restrict your feet as they swell like balloons. They’re so slim that they’ll pack easily in a suitcase as well. Add the fact that they’re comfortable enough for a day on your feet and you’ve got a shoe that performs as beautifully as it looks.

Recently I have tried to shy away from outright “Buy/Don’t Buy” recommendations, but for anyone who is on the fence about ordering these, I can heartily recommend you do so. They’re a pleasure to look at, and a pleasure to wear. Others seem to like them as well – I don’t normally hear “I like your shoes” from strangers, but I think it goes to show that they look something special.

Men are, largely, still collectors when it comes to clothing, and this is an ideal shoe to collect. Every time I load up the website I’m struck with the urge to order a second color, and I imagine that when (and it’s probably a when, not if) I do that a third order won’t be far behind.

Baudoin and Lange ‘Sagan’ tassel loafers in dark brown, shown here with cotton trousers from De Bonne Facture, a denim shirt that has lost its tags, and a La Portegna portfolio.

Photos by Ian Lipton

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A Talk with Allan Baudoin of Baudoin and Lange

Allan Baudoin is a London-based bespoke shoemaker. He is also one half of the team behind Baudoin and Lange, the ready-to-wear offshoot of his bespoke atelier which focuses on production of the “Sagan” loafer. Baudoin and Lange is led by Allan Baudoin and Bo van Langeveld. In this article, Allan answered our questions about what led him to shoemaking as a young man, what he loves about it, and about his work at large – both as a bespoke shoemaker and with the Baudoin and Lange brand.

This article has been edited for length and clarity.

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Styleforum: On the Baudoin and Lange website, you go out of your way to mention that both of you come from backgrounds not related to shoemaking or even to menswear. How have these diverse perspectives influenced the growth of Allan Baudoin Bespoke and Baudoin & Lange?

Allan Baudoin: My “background” is in computer science and business. I did not train in shoemaking formally, but had to learn everything on the spot under the pressure of building a name and an income for me in the early days – this means that mistakes are only made once, and you get to touch a lot more of shoemaking than under an apprenticeship.
I had to quickly learn to manage artisans and make decision that went beyond my formal knowledge. In the end, intuition plays a great part in making shoes – that and experience – and luckily I instantly “clicked” with the craft and everything around it. For the first time, I was working on something that felt very natural for me, and I got better at the craft with each iteration to reach the level of knowledge required to launch into RTW with Baudoin & Lange.
Bespoke and RTW use different parts of the brain; a lot more planning is involved as volumes grow, but you always need that bespoke “practicality” to come up with innovative elements and ways of doing beautiful work with nothing. I think one important factor in the growth of B&L is the complementarity of the skills I have with Bo. We are the inverse of each other, and that works very well for running a business. Bo comes from a finance background, having worked in private equity, and is an ex-competitive driver. I don’t have a license, so that tells you a lot about how different we are. In the end, the best decisions are reached by compromise between our two mentalities.

SF: Are there aspects of bespoke shoemaking that you were intent on keeping in your RTW line, or that lended themselves particularly well to your project? Similarly, were there aspects of the bespoke process that you knew would not translate – or even be detrimental – to an RTW line?

AB: I think the lines and aesthetics of my RTW work are very similar to my bespoke, and I did transfer (and improved) on some bespoke shoemaking techniques from the latter to the former – such as brass nail decoration which is now on every pair we make as our logo.allan baudoin interview stylefourm baudoin lange styleforum interview
Of course, some aspects of bespoke have to be systematized to become viable for a RTW line. We still hand-last each pair entirely and close the shoes entirely by hand, but obviously some aspects – like blocking insoles by hand – make no sense in RTW. However, our insoles are still blocked and shaped to the last before lasting, so they do curve around the last – which is rare in RTW.
Many techniques that I learned in bespoke I removed on purpose from the RTW project of Baudoin and Lange. For example, a bespoke shoe has hard counters and toe puffs, uses calf and lining – our Sagan loafers are unlined and unconstructed,  which means they are very easy to fit compared to a normally constructed shoe. This translates into extreme comfort from the first use – by removing something akin to traditional bespoke shoemaking, you end up with the exact same result, and a very large part of our clients are bespoke shoe buyers.

SF: I’ve heard that before starting your shoemaking line you briefly worked at Apple, and referred to your time as “disillusioning.” Even so, are there aspects of working with a large company that you miss, or lessons you learned during your time there that you think are applicable to your current life as a shoemaker?

AB: That’s indeed true, you must have heard this from an early interview probably quite soon after I had left the corporate life and was working from a tiny 10-square-meter workshop out of east-London. I think I was really not wired to work in the kind of spaces and environment that most large companies offer. As a shoemaker, I probably did not take away anything from working in an office, but as a designer and new company owner I do owe a lot to my previous background in computer science and business school.
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I’ve always been inspired by Apple design and manufacturing principles. The amount of design work and lack of compromise that the ideas go through from inception to execution without being dropped is hugee, because at Apple only great design ideas make it to the finished product. The vision comes from the user experience designers and hardware designers first; the manufacturing team is there to make it happen no matter how hard or how much work has to be put in. It makes everything easier when the product is perfected beyond the competitions’ standards. I think that’s something we try to emulate at B&L – some features our customers need to have in their shoes – and we find ways to incorporate them, sometimes by going very different routes than what a standard shoe company would do.

SF: What was it about shoemaking in particular that appealed to you? Were there other crafts you found equally enjoyable?

AB: I’ve always wanted to know how shoes were made. I think that for me, this is the craft that uses the most of my strengths – touch and the eye. Touch, because it all starts with leathers, and to use the proper kind in the right application takes a lot of gauging, of imagining the properties of the piece you’re holding and figuring out how best to use it for this or this other purpose. The eye, because everything is always in progress while making shoes, and your eyes guide you through the many steps. There is so much checking involved when making shoes, and nothing works faster and better than a trained eye. Being observant is something one is born with, and for some reason I think I’ve unintentionally or intentionally scanned every person’s shoe I have ever seen since I can remember. It is so incredibly rare to see someone with beautiful shoes that fit them – it’s about knowing what works for you.allan baudoin interview stylefourm baudoin lange styleforum interview
Now that I know shoemaking (to a satisfying level, in my opinion), I start to see other crafts as more attainable – and now I want to make too many things! I got to know tailoring a bit from how close our industries are related, but I’ve never been fond of working with soft fabrics. I don’t know why, but how fragile and flimsy they seem to be to work with is something I can’t cope with.
I really like sanding and finishing things at the moment, and so the things I d like to learn for myself one day would probably be watch case making and knife making. I love both watches and knives so that would be useful things to make for myself and I same as for shoes, there are no watches design that I really crave in the market so perhaps I could do something there. For me, all crafts have become more and more fascinating and they all connect at some level. I feel really at home with makers; we have a common language I think.

SF:Can you tell us about the process by which you became involved with the London shoemaking scene? What drew you to the art? How long did it take you to think: “This is what I want to do?”
AB: It took me approximately one week to decide that I wanted to do this. I really just came out of nowhere, I knew nothing about shoemaking or making anything actually – but when I visited a shoemaker close to my apartment in East London everything changed. I was in a mental place at that time where I felt I could do anything, and that anything goes as long as you enjoy it (I had just come back from going to Burning Man in the desert of Nevada, so that did leave an impression on me, the way everybody there was sharing their “trip” to the fullest with absolutely no regard to judgment about it. There, anything goes; everybody comes to share what they are about and in such a beautiful and generous way that it is hard to describe in words what the experience is like.
allan baudoin interview stylefourm baudoin lange styleforum interview I knew absolutely no one in the industry or even in anything related to it, I was introduced to makers by going from workshop to workshop thanks to my laster, and I went on to discover every aspect of the craft by myself by spending time with artisans.
Then, the shoes that I had made at first for me, then my friends and my 1st and 2nd degree network, found their way to a wider audience thanks to social networks.  I did get to talk and meet people who really knew a lot of industry people – first in mind is meeting with Simon Crompton [of Permanent Style] – a guy I had no idea I’d get along with so well. I was not even a reader of any blogs before I met him for lunch one day with no other purpose than to say hi and talk shoes and craft (which seems the way we connect with anyone in this little world of ours). I really have to thank Simon for his help in getting the word out, he introduced my work to everybody he knew. Mark Cho [of The Armoury] has also been incredibly helpful and supportive from the first day he ordered shoes from us.

SF: It appears that the Sagan loafer began as a bespoke or MTO project. How did that come about? 
AB : The Sagan indeed came from the atelier, when I was in the need for a pair of easy to slip-on, all-day comfortable pair to wear around the workshop while making bespoke shoes. My clients and some industry people around me soon took notice and started buying them.
Actually, a lot of tailors and cutters on Savile Row were among my first customers because of how comfortable they are to wear in the workshop while standing, and how well they served and looked in front of customers – perhaps their patronage helped put them on the feet of the right people at the beginning. I still get emails from people telling me that their tailor has recommended them. Today we are stocked in a lot of specialized shops that carry great tailoring brands.

SF: Why did you want this to be your first RTW shoe, and why build an entire brand behind it? How do you see it being worn?

allan baudoin interview stylefourm baudoin lange styleforum interview AB: The idea is of a versatile, extremely comfortable loafer that can go with as many environments as possible in one pair of shoes; from evening wear to summer wear, home use, travel and every day use at the office.
I felt the Sagan really deserved to have an entire brand built around it, because the concept is a new and innovative one – it just needs explanation and focus. At B&L we only make Sagans, and that is how much we believe in the concept. This laser-focus on one product translates to quality of craft and service.
I think the product is very innovative for the industry and for the luxury shoe market in general. I think we’re creating our own space instead of finding a gap in the market. It takes time, but I don’t see other brand or makers as competition – I never have. Every pair is different in use, and I feel no other shoe can replace the Sagan.

SF:Baudoin and Lange is a very accessible brand. Many shoemakers go the other direction – why choose accessibility over exclusivity?

AB: Bespoke shoemakers choose exclusivity by default, because the way a bespoke shoe is made is simply not focused on price sensitivity or lead times. That makes the product very expensive and hard to get which is the definition of exclusivity. I do like the idea of a very small number of aficionados enjoying and recognizing the work that goes into my bespoke shoes – it is a passion that connects us.
However, I really don’t think a great product like the Sagan would benefit from such an approach. Our goal is to put as many great looking, comfortable shoes on the feet of people as possible, not just for a select few who can afford it. Many retailers have told us we could charge double what we do but that’s simply restricting ourselves to a smaller market for no real reason.

SF: Can you describe a bit of the “flow” of the creation and production process? I’m aware that you have several partners in the pattern-making and construction processes – can you walk us through the creation and production of a new shoe for the Allan Baudoin line? Does this differ for the Baudoin and Lange line?

AB: I have a pattern maker, a clicker, a closer, two lasters, and a finisher and we all work really well together. I’d say an AB and a BL shoe start exactly the same way and go through the exact same initial process, but the AB goes to only one customer and uses only one skin of leather, whereas the BLs have to made for a lot more people, which requires many more steps.

It all starts with the last. I usually make lasts myself from “unturned toe” wooden lasts, meaning the toe is left wide and rough, while the heel to the joint area are made to the specific measures I give my last “factory” in France.

A first last is made to do the pattern making. This last and pattern will most certainly be modified a few times to accommodate changes I want to make, which happen constantly – I think the Sagan pattern was remade at least 50 times to accommodate changes in leathers, lasts, insoles, and other tweaks.

allan baudoin interview stylefourm baudoin lange styleforum interview Parallel to that is the work in sourcing and tanning the leathers we use for soles, insoles, uppers, fitting, bindings, and other pieces – they are all made to our specification and color ways that I have chosen over time. I never use ready-made colors or articles (leathers have countless specs) – you just can’t ask a tannery to have the best taste in color or substance and texture.

I will usually spend a lot of time with my pattern maker and closer when making Sagans (a lot of the work is in the stitching of the upper and the fine design details of each variation), and with my lasters for MTM/Bespoke, as these are always made with different sole types and construction methods. I always quality check every shoe, bespoke and Sagan alike, that comes out of the atelier, to make sure they are made as well as possible. This also allows me to spot problems and constantly perfect the shoes.

Every batch we make is always better than the last one, as I tend to always spot new “imperfections” we can improve upon. I think the Sagan range is now very close to perfection, but we always come up with new things, so it is a never ending process. Perfection does not exist, only the perception of perfection – for a trained eye nothing is perfect. I’m pretty sure you could ask any bespoke shoemaker if they are happy with their last work, and they will say “No” regardless of how perfect it looks to the outside world. We know exactly how good the shoes are, and that’s just never good enough. This is, I believe, the drive (and the curse) of the shoemaker.

SF: You’re still very young – do you feel, now, that you’ve found your niche in shoemaking? Or do you still have a bit of the restlessness in you that took you away from your first career path?

I am always restless. I have found a passion and obsession in shoemaking, and I have built a lot around it both personally and professionally. I intend to keep evolving and see where that takes me. I am always interested in all kinds of crafts and topics related to our industry, so you never what will come out of this!

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