Jonathan Abel Shoes – Review

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.

Jonathan abel shoes review

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.

jonathan abel shoes derby quality review price

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.

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Atelier Wen Odyssey Watch Review

When I first touched Atelier Wen’s debut watch, I was immediately struck by how different it feels from the typical western-styled watches we all know and love. I don’t see how anybody could mistake it for something produced in the West. In both looks and feel, it’s unabashedly Chinese, but drawing upon a Western framework.

atelier wen review watch made in china

For the Odyssey model we tested, the dial is the first indication of its Eastern bent. The combination of a white porcelain face, heat-blued hands, and blue indices for hours/minutes reminds me of a Chinese porcelain plate or vase. The small seconds hand sits at the 6 o’clock position, and moves extremely smoothly. I honestly have had to double check myself sometimes to make sure it is indeed moving (it always is), because it’s rotating so smoothly. Around the second hand, we find the characters You酉 (top left) and Mao 卯 (bottom right) in a circle with 5-second markers in a pattern that echoes the 5-minute indices. Because I’m unable to do it justice, I’ll just direct you to Robin from Atelier Wen, who explains these characters in Atelier Wen’s Styleforum Affiliate Thread.

atelier wen review ceramic watch

The Odyssey’s 316L stainless steel case rides on a deep blue lizard-pattern leather band. It’s a bold choice, and perfectly accents the blue and white found on the dial and hands. Sitting inside the case is a Peacock SL3006 automatic movement– a clone of the workhorse ETA 2824-2. The weighted rotor of the movement is absolutely silent, and I observed a -3s/day drift during the time I tested it.

atelier wen review watch

I was surprised by the heft of the Odyssey. While not overly heavy or noticeable on the wrist, when I pick it up in my fingers, it feels substantial. Contributing to this feeling is the high-relief embossing on the caseback.

atelier wen review quality

The Kunpeng (bird-fish) on the caseback is more gorgeous in person than it ever could be in pictures, primarily because it feels amazing to touch. You don’t notice it when wearing on your wrist, but I can’t stop myself from running my fingers over it when putting it on or taking it off. The embossing really pops, and is my favorite feature of the watch.

atelier wen review


Small details set the Atelier Wen apart from its competition. The crown and strap buckle both feature the stylized “Wen” character that Atelier Wen created to represent their company. The case is finished to a high-polished shine everywhere but the top of the lugs, which are brushed. The handset’s bluing is both deep and bright. All of this comes together into a watch that feels like it should cost much more than the Kickstarter’s super-early-bird pricing of $488.

 


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Timex x Todd Snyder Marlin Mesh Watch Review

Once again, Timex and Todd Snyder have released another variant of the reissued 1960’s-style Marlin. With demand for previous versions leading to very limited stock over the past two years, it’s no surprise that Todd Snyder continues to us new variants of the same classic Marlin. This go-round, it’s in a sliver on silver colorway with a Milanese-style mesh band. Nothing else has changed from what we can see, so you’re getting more of the same classic mid-century style that the re-imagined Marlin originally brought to us in 2017.

Photo: Todd Snyder

Timex was kind enough to lend me a Marlin for this review, and I have to say I’m very impressed (and kind of sad to send it back.) Yes, I am a barbarian of a guy with a 7.5” wrist. Yes, the Marlin sports a 34mm case in a day when even a 36mm watch is considered tiny for a guy. Still, it feels and looks right.

Barbarian arms can sometimes be made to look a little more classy.

While light enough to not be noticeable during the day, a thin bezel and a thick, domed acrylic crystal make it feels more substantial than it has any reason to be. Overall thickness is 10mm, which is still within dress watch range, and would fit under a cuff very easily.

It feels thicker than it is. Or so she tells me.

And under a cuff.

Minimal branding, maximum style

The band is very nicely done as well. Easily adjustable, and well-finished, it’s comfortable for the whole day. The Marlin’s minimalist style carries over to the band, with a sans-serif TIMEX on the clasp the most overt branding on the entire watch. I’m guessing it could be easily polished off if you were so inclined.

A sticker on the caseback noted that the hand-wound movement is made in China, which is expected given its price point of ~$200. Somewhat surprisingly, I have observed a +2 seconds/day variance in timing during my testing. It’s also quiet and smooth. You’re not going to notice much ticking with this Timex.

If you’re buying this watch, it’s really for the dial. It’s a gorgeous, slippery silver, with a hint of sunburst radiating out from the center. Reflective silver hands point to Arabic numerals on the even hours that are styled somewhere between Art Deco and Art Nouveau. You can see right away why the updated Marlin has been in and out of stock so often– the details are period correct, and correct, period. At $200, it’s a no-brainer. Buy it.


Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post. To read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.

Hoffman Watches – Racing 40 and Diver 40 REVIEW

By Nathan Flowers

These days, it feels like most watchmakers are following the “bigger is better” theme, with both divers and chronographs seeming to start at 42mm, and getting larger from there. With that in mind, newcomer Hoffman Watches is bucking the trend by introducing two 40mm models, which they have been kind enough to loan us for this review.

hoffman watches review

Their Racing 40 model is very handsome and feels solid, but not heavy. It has a 316L stainless case that is polished on the sides, and lugs that are machined satin on the front/back. The black leather strap measures 20mm wide, and has a machined stainless buckle. It fits well on my 7” wrist– not too large, and not too small. The Racing 40 echoes a Daytona or Speedmaster in both looks and proportions.

hoffman watches kickstarter

That said, it is handsome in its own right, and our test model stands out with a reverse panda dial in a lighter navy blue background with white under the sub-registers for the chronograph minutes and 24-hour time. Under an AR-coated sapphire crystal, hour indexes are noted by very precise dots of hand-applied lume that give off a greenish Seiko-like glow. This lume is also applied to the high-polished hour and minute hands.

hoffman watches diver

The chronograph is easy to use, and sweeps at 5 beats per second, faster than a typical quartz second hand. The pushers feel nice and mechanical, and the chronograph instantly resets to zero when you hit the bottom pusher. It’s powered by a Seiko VK64 movement, so you know it’s going to be accurate (and it has been during my testing.) Though Hoffman also offers a mechanical chronograph movement (Seagull TY2901) for an additional $199.

Water resistance is a standard 50M, though since it’s sporting a leather strap with a lizard pattern, it wouldn’t be your first choice to take on your fishing boat. However, it would be right at home when going out for beers with jeans and a button-down, or maybe a blazer in the evening. It’s a bit too much of a tool watch for me to wear with a suit, though as a forum admin and IT nerd, my suit-wearing occasions are sadly lacking these days.

hoffman watches price

Let me get this out of the way now. I am a sucker for diving watches. I dive several times a year and always take 2-3 watches out with me if I’m going to be diving for more than a few days. I also religiously visit Styleforum’s Poor Man’s Watch Thread, and consequently, I own too many Seiko/Citizen divers, like the SKX and the SRP-reissues. The Hoffman Diver 40 is right up my alley.

hoffman watches affordable sports watches

Our review model is really striking, mainly because of how understated it is– black case riding a black NATO with a black bezel and a black dial. This thing is a Stealth Diver on your wrist. The hands and the indexes both are coated in a blue-tinted Super-LumiNova that glows well for hours after charging with light. The quartz movement is silent to my ear, and Hoffman also offers an automatic option for $99. Both offer 100M water resistance, which is more than enough for most diving.

hoffman watches styleforum

The uni-directional bezel rotates smoothly, but with a solidity that you don’t regularly see on watches below $1000. Each click passes with a gentle yet firm snap. On the review model, the bezel is marked with black indexes, and arabic numerals at the 15, 30, and 45 minute spots. The zero index is the source of my only qualm with the Diver 40– it’s a glossy black diamond that doesn’t contain any lume, making it less likely to be seen well in deeper or murky water. This fits in with the darker style of our review model, so it’s definitely a stylistic choice. Hoffman also does have models with a white zero index, which I feel would be more suitable for diving. On land, the Diver 40 definitely wears well on the wrist, feeling less bulky and having a lower profile than your typical SKX/SRP.  It draws the eye without being obnoxious.

hoffman watches color options kickstarter

Hoffman Watches’ Affiliate Thread shows many color combinations to choose from (I’m seriously considering a rose gold navy diver for myself), and with a shockingly low Kickstarter 24-hour super early bird pre-order price of $169 for the Hoffman Watches quartz models, you are getting a lot of watch for the money. Frankly, both of these watches feel like they’re worth much more than you’re paying for, and even at their ultimate retail price of $425, I think you’re getting a great piece of kit at a good price.


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100 Hands Shirts Review

As soon as Fok saw me, he told me to turn around.
“Drop your bags off, we’ve got an appointment.”
A three-hour flight delay in San Francisco caused me to miss my connecting flight in London, forcing me to spend the night at a local generic Double Hilton Marri-Stay and take the next flight to Milan at 7am the next morning. From there I hopped on a train to Florence, and by the time I arrived at the StyleForum Maker Space, I had been traveling for over 24 hours. All I wanted was a cold drink and a warm bed, but as we were already late to our appointment, off we went.
“Did you bring a camera?” Fok asked as we wove through the cobblestone streets. “We should take pictures. I’m really excited about it. Is this the right street? I thought it was right around the corner…”. Around and around we went until we found ourselves in front of a modern-looking palazzo in a narrow alley. On the doorbell was the name 100 HANDS, written in fine cursive.
“You’re going to like Varvara,” Fok said as he pressed the doorbell. “She’s the sweetest person ever.” And then she opened the door, a petite young woman, with light brown hair parted to one side, greeting us with a kind smile. “Please come in.  We’ve been expecting you.”
Up to this point, I had only seen pictures of 100 Hands’ shirts online, accompanied with interesting, if unclear, descriptions of their construction: threadless and invisible stitching mechanics? What does that even mean?  
Once inside, Varvara introduced us to her husband Akshat, a tall young man from India with curly dark hair and gracious manners. “I’m so sorry,” he began as he shook my hand, “but I’m presently with another client. Please, have a coffee, and Varvara will show you one of our shirts.”
And what shirts they were.
Varvara pulled out what seemed to be an ordinary shirt with a box check pattern, but a closer inspection would reveal much. As an example, the box checks of the shirts line up practically everywhere – collar points, sleeves, shoulders, under the arm, and 360 degrees around the body. There is no way this can be done by a machine, and the result is a marvel to see. 
 
Pattern matching awesomeness (click below to start videos):

Another detail that sets their shirts apart is that instead of simply folding over the bottom of the shirt and running it through a sewing machine, the hem is hand rolled and stitched. The result is not unlike the edges of similarly crafted pocket squares, except the rolls are smaller and the stitching is more dense, making the stitching comparatively discreet; thus the term invisible stitching.
Indeed, the amount of hand stitching per inch is incredible – roughly 25 per inch, about three times than what you’d normally see on a shirt – but what is more striking is the way in which it’s done.  “When a thread breaks, we don’t simply tie a knot and continue,” Varvara explained.  “We pull it out and start all over. This is what we mean when we say threadless stitching. It’s just a single thread along a seam. That way, when you wash your shirt over and over, there is less chance of the shirt coming apart.”
Over a later email conversation, Varvara admitted the market speech can muddy the method. “But we feel the most important aspect of our work is the patience and precision of it.  We do use machines for some steps, but the majority of the undertaking is done by hand, and doing so takes time.” The time-intensive shirtmaking process passes through no less than 50 pairs of hands (thus the name). Simon Crompton of A Permanent Style has written extensively of the superb craftsmanship and exceptional working conditions of the over 100 people who work there. Although the atelier has existed for over 20 years and had made shirts for Savile Row tailors and haute couture maisons in France, the brand itself was established in 2014 and has enjoyed quite a bit of success since then, outgrowing the factory in the city of Amritsar and relocating to the neighboring countryside.
Photos courtesy of 100 Hands

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Another peculiar adornment found on each shirt are what Varvara calls their “one-of-a-kind” buttonholes. Put simply, they are not sewn, but embroidered: fine silk thread is worked around and up to the slice. In contrast, traditionally a slice is made in the fabric and then thread is brought around the cut edges to form a buttonhole. 100 Hands’ decorative method, which takes about 45 minutes per buttonhole, is borrowed from India’s own textile culture. Compared to other makers, the results are much cleaner and far less bulky. Here’s a few pics, plus a link to a 100MB picture Varvara sent me that you can zoom in on for full menswear geek gawking:
Besides being able to choose the collar, fabric, and finishes for a shirt, some may benefit from a custom shirt for a better fit.  For example, most OTR shirts are cut with higher, square shoulders; doing so can accommodate more body types.  The downside to this “democratic fit” is when you have more sloped shoulders, as the excess fabric can bunch in sloppy folds around the chest. Customization and fittings can adjust the pattern for these and other individual peculiarities for a cleaner fit while still being comfortable.
Speaking of customization: in addition to seasonal offerings, 100 Hands has access to nearly 400 fabrics from Italy and Japan, such as Canclini, Monti, Loro Piana, SicTess, Albiata and Albini. There are five different interlinings options for the collar, 12 different types of buttons, and the embroidery initials – sewn by hand – can be done in three different fonts.  Moreover, there are two levels of handwork, the Black and Gold Line. Both have the pattern drawn and cut by hand, handfusing and pattern matching, but the Gold Line contains far more: hand-embroidered buttonholes, handsewn side and bottom seams, shoulder, and sleeve placket.
After describing the work involved in making a shirt, Akshat fit Fok and me for a shirt each. I chose a plain white oxford cloth to go with light tans and blues that I’ll be wearing come warmer weather. Fok chose a denim shirt to wear, I assume, in the rough factory environment of his home office.
After taking our measurements, Akshat brought out prototypes for casual outerwear they have in store for the future, including a field and shirt jacket in slubby navy linen. No word on when these will be available, but I’m excited for the shirt jacket in particular – with a barchetta breast pocket, flapped patch hip pockets, and buttoned sleeves, it makes for a compelling choice when a sport coat might be considered too dressy. Meaning, I’ll probably be wearing it everywhere in California.
L’ora di aperitivo was upon us, so we said our goodbyes to Akshat and Varvara to meet up with Arianna at the StyleForum Makers’ Space. While making a wrong turn or two, Fok reflected on our visit with 100 Hands.
“I never wear dress shirts,” he mused. “I mean, look at me. I’m wearing beat up 18oz denim, a  worn in leather Type 3 jacket over a dirty tee shirt, and old sneakers.”  He paused for a beat, then chuckled to himself. “Those are some amazing shirts. I’m going to find an occasion to wear that shirt,” he vowed.
“Does that mean we’re coming to Pitti next year?” I asked. Fok stopped. “You never take pictures; how are you going to prove you ever wore the shirt?”  
“You make a valid point,” Fok conceded as he began walking again. “I could just buy a camera, but I’d miss the cobblestones and pasta. And cheese. And salame. And…I keep getting lost. Just wait till you see your apartment, it overlooks the Arno. Is this our street? I need a glass of wine…”
Later on, in San Francisco, the shirt arrived neatly packed in a box within a green canvas “suitcase” with a wooden button. I chose a Capri collar, unique in that both the collar and points are constructed in one piece so that it can be worn either buttoned with a tie or casually open. The result is not only one of the best fitting shirts I own (despite all the cannoli and gelato I’d been eating) but also one of the most versatile. For all those times you go from meetings to dining or vice versa, the collar handles both with ease and looks great doing so.  
Unboxing video: 

So much handwork does come at a price – $350 and up – but you’ll be getting more than similarly priced options from better known brands, such as Kiton and Charvet. All three do have a measure of hand stitching, but the sheer amount of intricate, precise handwork of a 100 Hands shirt frankly dwarfs most others and is one of, if not the defining characteristic, something Varvara and Akshat are very proud of. And then there’s longevity.
Mark Boutilier of San Francisco, who wears dress shirts far more often than I do, has had his shirts from 100 Hands for over a year. “I have shirts from various high-end makers,” he says, “and the Black Line not only has finer stitching and finishing, but has held up better after wearing and washing. Others have had stitching come loose, buttons unravelling, but not 100 Hands. I’m really impressed, and would highly recommend anyone to give them a try.” He did lament, however, the lack of availability for their MTM program in the US, which wasn’t available at the time. But that has recently changed.
“People have been requesting our MTM service via Instagram and email,” Varvara relates, “So we decided to begin to tap the US market that way.” My friend Tom was one of the first.
“I contacted Akshat, and he was very accommodating,” he began. “He offered for me to simply send in a good fitting shirt, but I decided that would be too much hassle, and sent him measurements instead. I also sent him photographs, and he was able to diagnose my biggest fit issues stemming from a forward posture.”
And the results? “Quite good for a first attempt,” Tom reports. “They hit the measurement specs perfectly and adjusted for my stance. My guess is that with one more iteration, we’ll be golden.”
Maiden voyage of Tom’s shirt from 100 Hands

Maiden voyage of Tom’s shirt from 100 Hands

While my own shirt seemed fine by my eye, Varvara was able to detect a few problems. “The upper front placket under the collar could use some attention,” she noted. Otherwise, maybe the biceps need slimming? I guess my guns are more like pea shooters.
Currently their showroom is in Amsterdam and while they do trunk shows in various cities (London, Hannover, and Stockholm, to name a few) and their shirts can be found in several shops online and in-store (the Rake and Linnégatan in Sweden, for example), there is presently just one place to see 100 Hands shirts in person in the US, and that is at Carroll & Co in Beverly Hills. Tom and others have had success with the remote MTM program, but since Ill be going back to Florence for Pitti next January, I think I’ll make an appointment to see them in person to catch up. Maybe get another shirt or two.
To contact 100 Hands, email them at info@100hands.nl or varvara@100hands.nl

This is not a sponsored article; to read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.