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.

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

Shoes as explained by Styleforum members

This article was published on a thread on Styleforum by the user A Harris many years ago, and we are reviving it here, implemented with pictures, for everyone to enjoy.

Throughout the years, Styleforum members have shared a wealth of knowledge on the forum pages, and if you have the time and patience to browse through them, you can check out the list at the bottom of this article. Bonne lecture!

Most classic shoe models can be traced back to bespoke shoemakers. Nearly all of them first appeared at least 75 years ago, and some have been around for more than one hundred years. They have evolved and have been refined, but most are still obviously connected to their original form. The driving force behind shoe design is really the silhouette of the clothes they are meant to be worn with – especially the trousers. Slim pants with a narrow (pegged) bottom require a slim fitting shoe unless you want your feet to appear larger than they actually are. Conversely, fuller-cut clothing requires heavier shoes. As a general rule, your trousers should cover the lacing of your shoes – approximately two-thirds of the shoe’s length.

The most important factor to consider when choosing a shoe is the last. The last is the wooden form that the shoe is constructed around. It determines both the final shape of the shoe and its fitting characteristics. Master lastmakers are, in a way, part scientist, doctor, architect, and artist.

Also crucially important is the leather that the shoe is clicked (cut) from. The leather used to make the shoe upper is almost always chrome-salt (mineral) tanned in large rotating vats. Most fine shoe uppers are made from high-grade calfskin. Thicker cowhide is sometimes used for pebble-grained uppers and to a lesser extent, you will see fine shoes made from shell cordovan (horse leather) and even exotic leathers like alligator and crocodile. A fine shoe will have an insole and sole of thicker pit-tanned cowhide. This leather is vegetable-tanned using actual vegetable matter, not vegetable extracts. Most shoe linings are also vegetable tanned.

There are a huge variety of methods used to construct shoes. Most require mass production and lots of glue – we will not concern ourselves with those. Most truly high-quality shoes are either welted, reverse welted or a variation. Some fine shoes are Blake-stitched or use an Italian moccasin construction. Let’s examine each method:


goodyear welted shoes men construction


Welted shoes consist primarily of a leather upper, a welt, an insole, and an outsole (sole.) First, the insole is tacked to the bottom of the last. The insole is the thick (usually about 1/8″) piece of vegetable-tanned leather that your foot rests on. It has a “feather” on the bottom of it. On a world-class bespoke shoe (and on a few elite ready-to-wear shoes like those of Vass) the feather is “skived” into (cut from) the insole itself. However, most all ready-to-wear welted shoes use a glued-on feather made of linen.

Next, the upper (with its inner stiffening layers and lining already attached, which layers are either natural leather or celastic depending on the quality of the shoe) is stretched around and tacked to the last. On a really fine shoe, the upper is splashed with water and beaten with a hammer to compress the leather fibers, and to permanently mold them to the shape of the last. The leather is then allowed to dry completely and the process is repeated, often multiple times. It should be noted that the majority of shoes, even very expensive ones, are lasted by machine.

Once the upper has been shaped the shoes are welted. The welt is a thin strip of leather – often two feet or more in length, about three-quarters of an inch wide and an eighth of an inch thick. In this step, the shoemaker uses a single row of lock-stitching (two interlocking stitches) to sew the welt to the upper leather to the feather (in that order.) Generally, this is done with the aid of a Goodyear welting machine. In a very few small workshops, the shoes are welted by hand. Once the shoes have been welted, the excess leather is trimmed away from above the seam, and the whole area is compressed with a hammer. Then the shallow, hollow section in the middle of the shoe (created by the attaching, and in some cases the skiving, of the insole) is filled. In most cases, a shank (thin metal or wood strip that stabilizes the sole and heel,) and a leather covering used to hold it in place, fill the back half. The front half is sometimes filled with cork.

The sole is then affixed with glue and sewn to the portion of the welt that protrudes from the front and sides of the shoe. The sewing of the sole is almost always done on a machine, with very few exceptions. On a top-quality shoe, the sole stitching is hidden in a “channel” and is not visible on the bottom of the sole. Finally, the heel is either built from layers of leather fixed together with wood and brass pegs, or a pre-made heel is attached, and the shoe is finished.

Closed channel vs open channel shoes.

Closed channel vs open channel shoes.


Welted shoes are considered superior by most because they are very durable and are easily resoled. A top-quality welted shoe can almost always be sent back to the maker for resoling, or even re-crafting. The heel can be removed, the sole stitching undone, and a new sole and heel can then be attached. In cases of more extreme wear, the insole and welt can be removed as well. The shoe can then be stretched back over the original last and remade. These processes can be repeated many times. As a result, a truly great pair of shoes can, with proper care and rotation, be worn for 10-20 years. And in some cases, men get 40 years or more out of them.


When a shoe needs to be highly water resistant, it is made differently. There are many methods – reverse welted, double-stitched, Norwegian-stitched, norvegese, veldtschoen etc. For the sake of brevity, I will not go into the specific differences. The main similarity is the welt and/or the upper leather curves out and away from the shoe, instead of down and in – the advantage being that that water cannot easily penetrate and wet the insole, like it can with a regular-welted shoe. Thus, reverse-welted shoes are more water-resistant and more casual than a regular-welted shoe. They can generally be recognized by the double or triple row of stitching on the outside of the shoe where the upper meets the sole. It should be noted that some Italian makers will add a braided stitch just for looks, so buyer beware.

alden reverse welt bluchers

Alden reverse welt bluchers.



Blake-stitching and moccasin constructions are used primarily by Italian shoemakers. A traditional moccasin is made without an insole. The upper leather wraps all the way around the foot and is sewn by hand to a flat vamp that sits on top of your toes and instep. The sole is then sewn directly to the upper on a machine. The most famous example of this method is the classic Gucci slip-on.

Blake-stitched shoes have an upper, an insole, and a sole – like a welted shoe. But they do not have a welt. The insole (which is flat – no feather) and upper are attached to the last. Then the sole is glued on and a single row of machine-stitching is used to stitch through and attach the sole, the insole, and the upper. The one advantage of this method is that it can make for a very light, thin-soled shoe. However, Blake-stitched shoes are not as water resistant, as durable, or as easily repaired as a welted shoe. If the manufacturer has not covered the insole with a full-length insole-cover, you can recognize a Blake-stitched shoe by looking inside it. You will see a single row of stitching around the forepart of the shoe.

Blake stitch construction

Blake stitch construction || Photo:

Italian shoemakers are also incredibly good at coming up with alternate ways of making shoes. They employ a bewildering array of methods and combinations of shoemaking that I could not possibly cover here. Some of the methods are labor-saving shortcuts that allow for a combination of machine and handwork, and some involve very complicated handwork that can make for exquisite shoes.


While the last, the leather, and the construction of the shoe are vital, you must like its design as well.

Most high-end shoes are variations on a few classic models. Lace-up shoes are generally divided into those with open lacing and those with closed lacing. Before I indicate the difference between open and closed lacing, I must define two crucial terms. The vamp is the forepart of the shoe that covers the toes and instep. The quarters are exactly what they sound like – the two back quarters of the shoe, which extend from the center-back seam and generally end at the midpoint of the shoe. On a shoe with closed lacing, the vamp is sewn on top of the quarters, and the tongue is usually a separate piece. On a shoe with open lacing, the quarters are sewn on top of the vamp, and the tongue is usually an extension of the vamp. Shoes with closed lacing are often called oxfords or balmorals, and shoes with open lacing are called derbys or bluchers.

On derby shoes (open lacing), the quarters are sewn on top of the vamp, which also makes the tongue of the shoe.

In addition, formal lace-up shoes are often referred to as “plain,” or as “half brogues” or “full brogues.” A plain shoe is just as it sounds – there are no decorations other than perhaps a double row of stitching on the toe-cap. Brogueing refers to a pattern of decorative punched holes along a shoe’s seams. “Half-brogue” usually indicates a shoe with a straight toe-cap and extensive brogueing. “Full-brogue” indicates a wingtip shoe with extensive brogueing. Half-brogues and full brogues almost always have a punched “medallion” decoration on the toe.

Lace-up shoes can also be whole-cut. This means that that the entire upper is cut from a single piece of leather. This takes a lot of skill and usually increases the price of the shoe. Shoes can also close with a buckle, in which case they are referred to as “monkstraps” or “monks.” Generally, monkstraps are a variation on the derby. Another version of the derby is called the “Norwegian.” Most Norwegians have three-piece vamp with a hand-stitched apron-front and split toe. In some versions of the Norwegian, the quarters extend all the way to the front of the shoe and join at the middle of the toe. Finally, there are slip-on shoes. They can be made in any number of ways – moccasin, welted, reverse welted, Blake-stitched etc. They can be constructed and decorated in many ways, can resemble brogues or Norwegians, can have saddles or tassels, or they can be completely plain. There are innumerable variations.

Check out these shoe-related threads on Styleforum:

Shoemaking techniques and traditions

The official shoe care thread: tutorial, photos, etc.

Vintage dress shoes: maintenance, tips, and advice


How to Bring Old Shoes Back to Life

Since winning the 2018 Styleforum Shoe Revival Challenge I have been asked by a number of people how this transformation was possible. I have been accused of everything from photoshopping to taking a picture of a new pair next to an old pair to dark magic…really?? In reality, it is not as complicated as it may look.
This is how I do a transformation to bring old shoes back to life:

Allen Edmonds Cream Polish  •  Saphir Pate de Luxe  •  Saphir Mirror Gloss

To start I strip the leather with Fiebings deglazer (you could substitute Angelus or Saphir products here). This is an acetone-based solution that strips off any old polish and the factory dye coatings. It should leave a dry and basic tan looking leather after.
The challenge pair in particular didn’t really require much stripping since the factory finish was fairly non-existent from the get-go. Now some leathers that are too highly processed (corrected grain leather) and are more “plasticky” in nature will not strip at all. So mid-tier to higher quality brands like Allen Edmonds, Magnanni, Santoni, Ferragamo, and this To Boot New York pair tend to do better. 
After deglazing, I use Venetian shoe cream to condition the leather as the stripping process dries it up some. You could substitute a Saphir conditioning lotion here too…both are all non-tinted white creams or lotions.  
Now is where the magic begins. I use Fiebings alcohol-based dyes. Again you can substitute Angelus or Saphir products. I only have used Fiebings and have been very pleased with them. I start from light to dark. Pick a lighter base coat…beige, tan, oxblood, light blue etc. Then move on to darker colors for accents, brogueing, burnishing and antiquing like medium brown, chocolate, mahogany, navy blue. For the challenge pair, I used buckskin base color and black for the antiquing. I probably did 2 rounds of base coat and 2 – 4 of antiquing.  
After each round of dye, some will penetrate, staining the leather and some will remain on the surface. I use the Venetian shoe cream in between coats to recondition the leather and to remove surface dye….remember its alcohol based so it dries the leather again. You can substitute Saphir cream and can even use tinted creams in between dye coats to add some color and create a more durable finish. If not done in between dye coats then definitely at the end of the dye process I will use a number of coats of colored cream polished with a thorough brushing in between.
For the challenge pair, I used a few coats of Allen Edmonds Saddle Brown cream polish over the entire shoe only at the end after my dyeing was complete. 
Finally, I use the hard waxes to top coat and give the mirror shine. Even the inexpensive waxes in a tin can give satisfactory results here but I prefer Saphir pate de luxe and the Saphir mirror gloss. I will typically use a very light coat along the vamp, sides and flex points as well as a very light tinted color here. A light coat because a mirror shine on the vamp will crack when the shoe bends….don’t do it!
For the heels and toes, I use a darker tinted polish to enhance antiquing and many more layers to give that mirror shine. Again mirror on non-bending areas of the shoe only.
For the challenge, I used Saphir cognac pate de luxe on the sides and vamp and dark brown for the heels and toes. I finished with Saphir mirror gloss in neutral for the perfect shine on the toes and heels. 
If you would like a custom antiqued pair hit me up on Styleforum username Mbaldinger, or on instagram under MBShoeDoc, or eventually on my website (this is a work in progress and is not up and running yet).
Mike Baldinger aka TheShoeDoc

How To Mirror Shine Shoes in Less Than an Hour – By Kirby Allison

The peak of traditional fashion for men might just well be a proper mirror shine on a fine pair of dress shoes. It sets you apart from other well-dressed individuals by demonstrating the dedication and effort you put into your daily appearance. It is no secret that a proper mirror shine can be, unfortunately, rather time-consuming. You may be looking at a day-long project between applying layer upon layer of polish while waiting for each one to dry.

Thankfully, a great mirror shine doesn’t have to be that exhaustive. With the right tips and know-how, you can achieve a stunning mirror shine on any pair of shoes in less than an hour. Here’s what you will need:



Saphir Mirror Gloss Wax Polish

High Shine Chamois or old cotton dress shirt

Fan or blow dryer

Saphir Pate de Luxe Wax Polish



how to get mirror shine shoes quickly

Using a High-Shine Cotton Chamois, apply Saphir’s Mirror Gloss Polish to your toe caps. Make sure you avoid cracking in the future by not applying any waxes on parts of your shoes that bend or move. Saphir’s Mirror Gloss contains a higher concentration of hard waxes than regular polish, making it indispensable for quick mirror shines. The High Shine Chamois or cotton shirt smoothly applies the polish without any lint or loose threads getting in the way. The high count threading effortlessly glides across the surface of the leather, vastly reducing the amount of effort required to buff it later. Apply a very small amount of water to your chamois whenever you start to feel resistance.


how to mirror shine shoes leather

Set your blow-dryer to medium heat and use it on the toe caps of your shoes. This will serve two purposes: it will speed up the drying process and will slightly melt the waxes. Melting the waxes will help the clear up, bringing them closer to that glossy finish. Once your shoes are dry, use a clean portion of your High Shine Chamois or dress shirt to buff the waxes off. Once the waxes are buffed, you are ready for the Pate de Luxe Wax Polish.


how to achieve mirror shine shoes hour

Apply Saphir’s Pate de Luxe Wax Polish to your shoes’ toe caps. The Pate de Luxe contains solvents which help further soften the Mirror Gloss, elevating its shine. This will further reduce the number of times you need to apply wax and buff. After applying it, blow dry the toe caps and buff it off with your High Shine Chamois like you did with the mirror gloss.


how to mirror shine leather saphir

You are all done! In a short amount of time, with significantly less effort, your shoes will have a stunning shine that elevates your appearance.



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Cobbler Union’s Euro Trip

Part of Styleforum’s mission is to introduce our community to the “behind the scenes” of a brand, and connect makers with like-minded connoisseurs that appreciate their works.

Cobbler Union, based in Atlanta, is a men’s shoemaker that manufacturers high-quality Goodyear welted shoes in Spain; they produce shoes directly with artisans, creating products that capture their own ethos that are not rebranded makers.

Here’s Daniel Porcelli’s travel journal during his latest trip to Europe, where he visited Cobbler Union’s workshop and sourced the leather for Cobbler Union’s upcoming models.

Much more than a great craft

As I flew over the Italian Alps and prepared for landing at Malpensa Airport in Milan, I was quickly reminded of why I love and respect our craft so much. I started Cobbler Union partly to preserve and respect the artisanship of shoemaking. But, the more time I spend in the industry, the more I realize that what we’re doing is much bigger than that. Cobbler Union is a vehicle that promotes a respect for workmanship and quality, a more beautiful way of life, one which positively affects our extraordinary craft. I consider myself a fortunate man for having the opportunity to do so.

While at the airport, my first cappuccino of the trip reminds me that I have just entered a different world, one full of exquisite aromas, beautiful architecture, elegant men and women, a world that inspires. It reminds me that through the appreciation of life around us that beautiful products can be created.

As I started my eleven-day grand tour in Europe, I was certain of one thing: the cappuccino always comes before the shoes, not the other way around.


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The artisans: the heroes in our industry

For me, it is always an honor to visit our artisans in Spain. Their dedication to the shoemaking craft is extraordinary. Put into context, a pair of our Goodyear-welted shoes has more than two hundred processes and tasks executed by twenty-five experienced artisans. These men and women labor on their feet for many hours a day. The art of making a shoe requires sweat and mental dedication as each step in production requires focus and attention to detail.

Today, there are few shoemaking clusters left in Europe. The majority of Goodyear-welted shoes are produced in a handful of towns spread across Spain, England, and, to a lesser extent, Italy. Other countries like Portugal, Hungary, or Romania all make beautiful shoes but, in general, with different methods. The growing scarcity of artisans and the increasing fragility of the industry is why we’ve made it our mission at Cobbler Union to do everything we can to promote our craft as much as we can.

I firmly believe that the more a man appreciates the labor of love behind his shoes, the more he will cherish and enjoy them.

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A great product is the best offense

Most of my trip to Spain was devoted to quality refinement and product development. Cobbler Union’s aim is to produce shoes that compare to legendary brands that oftentimes have a 100-year head start on us. This means we have to be agile, to work resolutely and aim high before we can be recognized among the best classic shoemakers in the world.

On this trip, we started a two-year initiative to implement forty quality improvements spanning product design, fit & comfort, construction, and quality. The goal of this project is for our products to become a benchmark against which new entrants and legacy brands alike are measured.

In addition, I have begun the development process for over twenty-five new models. Many of these will be made on two new lasts that we’ll begin testing in the coming weeks.

There are few things more rewarding than bringing a new product to market.

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 In search of the best leather

While concluding my European tour, I was fortunate enough to attend Lineapelle in Milan. This is our industry’s major trade show where the world’s finest tanneries present their collections. I love attending the event to strengthen relationships with the creators of our industry’s main component. By far, this is my favorite event of the year. Many of these tanneries have been in business for generations and their proprietors are legends in the leather-goods industries.

This year, I found inspiration in the colors and textures of the hides, learning something new with each conversation.

As a maker, we use top grade calfskin, which is one of the ways we set ourselves apart from other shoemakers. All in all, we found some exquisite hides and new interesting colors which will be adding to our collection in the coming months.

Leaving this fantastic trade show was the toughest part of my trip!

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You can connect with Cobbler Union on the Official Affiliate Thread on Styleforum.

5 Pairs of Shoes You Should Buy for a Classic Casual Wardrobe

It’s a lot of work to explore different brands, silhouettes, aesthetics, and stores, narrowing down what you like most. I’m reminded of Greg from No Man Walks Alone replying to a compliment on his store’s well-curated selection of goods, saying that finding the gems at a show like Pitti is incredibly difficult, requiring lots of patience wading through a nearly unlimited number of booths. Sometimes it’s nice for someone—like Greg—to simply say, “here are the best options. Choose from these.”

In the same spirit, I thought I’d share the five pairs of shoes I think you would be best-served buying—either as a capsule shoe wardrobe or simply as your starting point as you build a larger wardrobe. It goes without saying this advice comes from a point of view that favors versatility with tailoring, denim and chinos as my “what I wore” posts will attest. As a complement to this advice, read my “Versatile shoe” piece from last year. Thankfully there are lots of brands who make each one, so I’ll recommend a maker for each type at different price points for you to consider. In no particular order:

1- Chukka Boots

I wear these most of the time October through April. My chukkas are snuff suede with a Dainite sole so that I never think twice about wearing them if it’s wet out. I hiked Quiraing at the Isle of Skye wearing them, so they’re rugged enough in a pinch. Versatility wise, suede is the best, and with a more pointed toe, you’ll be able to wear them with a sport coat just as easily as with a full workwear fit. A rounder toe would help them match more closely with denim or moleskin pants.

Low price: Meermin (same as mine). Mid: Kent Wang. Mid-High: Sid Mashburn.


2- Penny loafers

I wear these most of the time May through September. Mine are—surprise—snuff suede. I walked throughout the cobblestone plazas and streets of Florence, seeing David, visiting the Uffizi Gallery and enjoying Florentine steak in mine. I prefer an elongated toe on these to the rounder ones you might see on a classic Alden, but that’s a personal preference.

Low price: Meermin. Mid-high: Sid Mashburn.


3- Longwings or Wingtips

I’ve always loved the brogue, at time shifting my preferred model back and forth between the wingtip silhouette or the long wing silhouette. I’m currently in the long wing camp, but I only own wing tips. Perhaps the grass is always greener. Mine are a pebble grain with Dainite sole, which came with me this past winter during our travels in Scotland. The Dainite sole came in handy for the rugged outdoors. I wore them on our road trip through the highlands, from Glasgow to Glencoe and Fort William, during which we stopped many times to jump out and photograph the scenery. Versatility wise, they can indeed be worn with denim, but really only dark denim. They look great with flannel or tweed trousers.

Low price: Meermin. Mid: Brooks Brothers. Super High Grail: Polo Cordovan.


4- Cap-toe Oxfords

You need something to wear dressed up more than just a sportcoat and jeans. For many years I went through that phase where you hate black shoes, and even today I think probably most of us could get away with only dark brown calf cap-toes in this category. But I think around the time Skyfall came out I realized black shoes in a tapered, chiseled toe last can make you look like James Bond – or, more realistically, they can make you feel like you look like James Bond. In any case, dark brown will help you through almost all the time, and it looks great with navy suits, gray suits, the navy blazer with gray trousers look, and almost every other tailored outfit.

Low: Meermin. Mid: Kent Wang. High: Carmina.


5- The Wild card

I know I said up front I’d tell you exactly what to buy, but this last one is going to come down to you making a decision for yourself based on your personal taste. It’s the dressed-down-but-contemporary-and-stylish slot, and which one you pick will depend solely on your preferences. For me, it’s a canoe moccasin, which I wear constantly. I walked from the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and all the way to the Spanish Steps in mine. For others, it might be a pair of sleek white sneakers: they look great with jeans, khakis and some brave souls even wear them with tailoring. Other options are Wallabees and desert boots. Instead of prescribing exactly what to get, take stock of your aesthetic preferences and make a choice to help fill out your own individual wardrobe.

My favorite canoe mocs: Oak Street. My favorite white sneaker: Tretorn. My favorite desert boot: J.Crew.

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Review: Holden and Green Shoes

New shoe companies seem to be popping up all the time these days. The market today for Goodyear or Blake-welted shoes in the $200-400 price point makes the days of hunting for decent-looking Allen Edmonds Seconds seem like ages ago. Into this mix has entered a new UK-based company, Holden & Green. I received a complimentary pair of their shoes to review for Styleforum’s Journal, and commenced wearing them regularly for a month to get a feel for their quality, fit and value.

First, let me get something out of the way: while the shoes were given me for free, the opinions below are my honest thoughts.

Initial Impressions

My initial impression of the shoes was very positive. It is evident from the first that the construction quality is very good, with a fit and finish that shows very close attention to detail—no stray or crooked stitching hastily trimmed off, no varied discoloration. The construction strikes me as akin to some “mid-tier” bench grade shoes I’ve owned and handled—something along the lines of Crockett & Jones or Alfred Sargent.

The leather of course looked great out of the box, but even the cheapest shoes out there look great brand new, so a month of wear would help in determining its quality. The last shape is an attractive, elongated, European silhouette. And the soles feature a beveled waist and red-painted channel-stitched sole.

Some Background on the Brand

H&G is so new that you can scarcely find anything about them on the Internet. I reached out to the owner and founder of the brand, Frank Clune, to get some information on the company and the product they make.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to work in the West End shoe world for the last five years and to meet some of the legendary charactersgenuine one-offs who seem to be disappearing from the world of work, who thrive in this business,” he says. He has no shoemaking training himself, but worked at legendary London bespoke shoemaker Foster and Son, where he met Terry Moore and worked with John Spencer, Emiko Matsuda, Emma Lakin and Lucy Smith. Frank owns the brand, taking guidance and advice from some of the people in the business he met during his time there.

Before starting Holden & Green, he started an eBay business selling overstock from UK retailers. The experience there taught him which styles and colors sell well (black outsells brown, for instance). Once he launched H&G, the aim for the brand was to make “quality at a good price, which means European-tanned leathers and excellent making,” he says. But to hit the price point he wanted to hit (below £300, or about $400USD), “it also means that we need to use non-European makers. This has been the most interesting and challenging part of the process to-date.” The shoes are made in two workshops: one in the Far East (not China, he says), and the other in North Africa. “We cannot speak highly enough of their attention to detail and their responsiveness,” he says.

holden green shoes review styleforum

The shoes I was given to try are definitely outside the typical business wardrobe of most non-menswear-enthusiasts. If the split toe and elongated last don’t catch your eye, the red painted sole and beveled waist just might. However, the rest of their models, which fall under what they call the “City collection,” are a bit more conventional for a conservative business dress environment (albeit with contemporary, European silhouettes). That conservative design bent, alongside the lessons learned from his prior overstock business, may mean the average antique museum calf-obsessed Styleforum member won’t find much to get his heart racing. But from Frank’s perspective, “getting City-Boys out of their curly-toed abominations feels like the right thing to do morally; for every City gent in his Henry Poole suit and Edward Green’s, there are two dozen others who need more than a little help.” All told, the niche he’s aiming for “is a retail price point beneath £300, using European leathers and tanneries, and getting the right maker to work with the best lasts we can find.”

Impressions After One Month

I kept a running mental checklist of how I felt about the shoes, typing occasional notes, over the course of a month, wearing them 2-3 times per week. At the end of that time, I treated them sparingly using Saphir Renovauteur, and a polish. I personally do not like the shiny fresh-out-of-the-box look of shoes, preferring instead a nicely broken-in and freshly polished look. I wanted to see how the leather reacted to a polish.

First, I was pleased to find the initial new-shoe stiffness disappeared very quickly—within the first two weeks. They still aren’t completely broken in, but that uncomfortable period of new leather shoes is gone.

Second, the leather’s appearance maintained its attractiveness. The factory-new shiny finish didn’t completely go away by the end of the month, but it had dissipated somewhat. I can’t speak to how well these will age over years of wear, but my experience in the time I’ve had them is positive.

Third, the completely subjective matter of fit: these are the best-fitting leather-bottom shoes I’ve ever owned, and are far more comfortable than any other leather shoe I’ve owned. Around the same time I received them, I purchased some Crockett & Jones-made Peal & Co. shoes from Brooks Brothers—they are much more to my liking stylistically, but fit-wise they don’t hold a candle to these.

Fourth, the other completely subjective matter, which is of style and design: I personally find these ugly. Their “City collection” designs are better, more along the lines of something I’d wear. The red sole and beveled waist are a nice, but a purely aesthetic touch, and aesthetic appeal is of course in the eye of the beholder.

Speaking of the differences in design between the channel-stitched, beveled-waist shoes I received and the more prevalent City collection (with neither of those aesthetic features), Frank says they are both of the same quality of make: “We’d say that they’re very good benchgrade shoes.”

All said, I’d say they are a good value for the money. They come in slightly higher than mainline Meermin, which I own and think are an excellent value. But for that extra $100 or so, you get considerably better construction, and noticeably better leather quality. Compared to more-expensive Crockett & Jones or Alfred Sargent, you get comparable quality at a much more attractive price—assuming H&G makes a style you like. They currently sell five styles, with ten more slated to be released in time for the holiday season.

This is not sponsored content. To read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.

Holden & Green shoes are for sale on their website

Absurdly Expensive Men’s Shoes to Buy Right Now

Sometimes, there is nothing more satisfying than window-shopping for things we will never buy. How many times have we stared in awe at the window of a prestigious boutique, like a kid in front of a candy store, despite knowing we’ll never enter the realm beyond those automatic glass doors?

I present to you the 11 of the most absurdly expensive shoes you can (and should) buy right now. Naturally, I’m leaving bespoke options out of the list, and I’ve limited the number of exotic leathers – because they are the equivalent of adding truffle to a dish and they always make it to the top of the “most expensive” lists. Sneakers are out too, because there are just too many rappers competing for who wears the most ridiculously overpriced kicks.

This is just a treat for the eye, as I’m ready to bet none of you reading this article could put together such a sybaritic footwear collection. If by any chance there is a spendthrift among you who can, please consider donating 1% of your shoe expenditure to a girl who’s been saving for her first Chanel bag.

Enough with the idle chatter. Let’s get to it!



Absurdly Expensive Men's Shoes styleforum

It’s hard to say no to shoes that bring up memories of your maternal grandmother and her antediluvian cane chairs. Lucky you! There are plenty of sizes left.


Absurdly Expensive Men's Shoes styleforum

“There is something special about a pair of Norwegian Split Toes,” says the description of the shoes – “and it’s not that they resemble a vagina,” I might add. You’re also walking on what seems to be a royal emblem, probably borrowed from some fallen Neapolitan aristocratic family. Cool, isn’t it?


Absurdly Expensive Men's Shoes styleforum

A little over a grand will buy you these classic monk straps from Stefano Bemer, the leather of which shines brighter than your future.


Absurdly Expensive Men's Shoes styleforum

Gaziano & Girling brag about having just a handful of people working painstakingly at their workshop in Northampton, but I bet in reality they employ Santa’s little helpers for 11 months a year, and that’s the reason why you’ll never get this pair of shoes for Christmas, even if you keep asking.


Absurdly Expensive Men's Shoes styleforum

393 Big Macs; 78 manicures; 6 years of membership at Planet Fitness. If you can give up all this, you’ll have enough cash to bring home these handsome English-made boots by Styleforum favorite Edward Green.


Absurdly Expensive Men's Shoes styleforum

If you’ve been dreaming of Donald Duck embroideries and feline heads appliqués on your footwear, you can breathe a sigh of relief, as Alessandro Michele for Gucci just made your dreams real.


Absurdly Expensive Men's Shoes styleforum

Okay, perhaps they’re not exactly what we would call a staple color, but you can always tell your billionaire friends that these rare boots are crafted from the skin of one of the heads of the Lernaean Hydra.


Absurdly Expensive Men's Shoes styleforum

If you trust yourself to buy shoes from a country that has given us Christian Louboutin as well as ASH, for just over two grand you can take home these bicolor monk-straps and safely ride your bicycle in the dark without having to worry about using reflective gear.


Absurdly Expensive Men's Shoes styleforum

Black leather and buckles don’t always equal a Fifty Shades of Grey scenario. However, should you decide to bring a little kinkiness into your shoe closet, don’t miss on these Ferragamo monk straps. They’d pair wonderfully with this other leather accessory.


Absurdly Expensive Men's Shoes styleforum

Loafers are having a moment right now, and you certainly cannot go wrong with these carta da zucchero casual loafers by Italian luxury brand Stefano Ricci. Besides exquisite crocodile details, these shoes feature galvanized palladium details. I Google’d it, but I wasn’t able to figure out what galvanized palladium is, although it seems to be just another word for “plated”, used by Italian luxury maisons who like highfalutin descriptions. If there is a goldsmith among us, please humor me.


Absurdly Expensive Men's Shoes styleforum

A staple in every Russian oligarch’s wardrobe, these oxford shoes in lizard leather are created from a single piece of hide, and have no visible seams. Do you have an idea how big a lizard we’re talking about here? If some hunter in Costa Rica has risked his life to hunt down Godzilla-like reptiles to satisfy your need for shoes crafted from sub-tropical animal skins, then you deserve to pay the ludicrous price tag.

Let us know in the comments if you’re the proud owner of any of these shoes, and please do comment leaving a link in case you are aware of even more amazing[ly ridiculous] deals we might have missed.

Versatile Shoes You Can Dress Up Or Down

I get told a lot that I am the “master” of pairing tailored jackets with jeans. I’m not sure if that’s true (people who say that probably haven’t seen @NOBD’s masterful mixing of tailoring with denim, chronicled over many years), but what I do know is that a major element of getting it right is having versatile shoes that work with both tailored and casual clothing equally well.

My footwear choices have settled into a pretty small rotation of shoes and boots that get tons of wear through regular rotation. As always, the major motivational forces behind my choices are versatility and maximizing the dollars I spend. I have settled on the shoes I own because they can be dressed up or down. So I thought I’d share with you the guiding principles I use when deciding what shoes to buy or wear. Before moving on, let me say I am not a sneaker guy, so I have no related guidance to share in this post.

First, here are some basic characteristics I look for in a shoe, with a brief explanation:

  • The less shiny, the better.
    • See this painful WAYWT post from 2011 to understand how I arrived at this point. With denim, a shiny dress shoe just looks like you changed out of your suit but forgot to bring a change of shoes.

versatile shoes styleforum

Kids, don’t do this.

  • The only exception to this rule is shell cordovan. I can’t explain why it works, but it does. #8 Alden tassel loafers were practically invented for selvedge denim, in my opinion.
  • Texture is good!
  • You can’t go wrong with suede, generally.

    • These two go hand-in-hand, but obviously there are textures aside from suede that can work well with denim that aren’t too rugged for tailoring. Pebble grain stands out in my mind as an excellent variation of calf leather that holds just enough surface texture for jeans. Boots in Chromexcel or other matte finishes can work with tailoring, too, but that will often depend on the overall design (e.g. Doc Martens are a no-go with tailoring, but a more classic wingtip boot might).
  • Brown, basically all the time
    • Not that this point needs to be made on Styleforum, but black is usually best reserved for more formal fits. One exception is black suede, which can look great with black jeans as well as gray trousers. The only black shoes I own are black cap-toes, which I reserve for dress wear. However, I think black suede can look awesome with charcoal or mid-gray trousers, as well as dark denim.
  • Not too pointy, not too roundy
    • Super pointy shoes look weird with denim. I think it’s because more pointed shoe lasts tend to feel refined and elegant, which clashes with the ruggedness of denim. The line between too pointy and reasonably pointy is fuzzy, though. Christian Kimber’s last shape from his collaboration with Eidos a couple winters ago had an aggressively tapered toe, but on a chukka boot with a commando sole in dark brown suede. It looked good with slim denim, but I’m not sure it would look good with a wider cut, including a 501-style silhouette. And of course, many Texans swear by pointy cowboy boots with denim (which I can fully get behind).
    • On the flip side, you can’t go too rounded in toe shape if you hope to dress them up. In my mind, a Clarks desert boot looks right at ease with chinos or jeans, but is too round for use with dressier fits, so it fails my versatility test. Somewhere in between these extremes is the range I tend to stay in.

Here are some general, holistic rules to consider:

  • Pointier, daintier, shinier shoes look good with trousers and suits, but not as good with denim or chinos. The blucher style can be dressed up or down more easily than the balmoral style, as can loafers. Thin soles with a narrow welt feel more dainty to me—though some ballsy folks have rocked Belgian loafers with denim to great effect.
  • Rounder, more rugged, more textured or suede shoes look good with denim, but weird with trousers or suits. Ankle boots like chukkas, jodhpurs or chelseas can work with dress trousers as well as denim, but that look does best when the hem is on the shorter side so they don’t have too much of a break. The same goes for higher boots. For both types of boots, just make sure the last shape “toes” the line (heh, get it?) between too pointy or too rounded.

Finally, here are some personal notes that build on the above points:

  • Did I mention that suede looks good with nearly everything?
    • Dark brown or snuff suede is universally attractive and will never look bad. At this point, I pretty much only wear suede dress shoes. Penny and tassel loafers see wear most of the year round, with chukkas and jodhpurs added in the colder months. I only wear my calf double monks and black cap-toes every couple weeks or so.
  • Pebble grain calf leather is the next best thing to suede for dressing up or down.
    • I’ve been eyeing some pebble grain tassel loafers, and am perennially attracted to Scotch grain long wings. 
  • It’s good to have a pair of ankle boots or pebble grain shoes with rubber soles.
    • Boots with a Dainite, commando, or other rubber sole are a must for rain and wintry slush.
  • There is one other pair of shoes I own that gets more wear than all the rest of them combined, but which I don’t generally wear with tailoring: the canoe moccasin. It’s a far more casual shoe, and something I wear with shirt jackets, sweaters, or just with my shirt sleeves rolled up. Mine are beat-to-death Sperry’s that I suspect may be some of the Chinese knock-offs that are sold through Amazon. My favorite well-made ones are the Oak Street version, and I intend to get some of those at some point. On the other hand, it’s kind of refreshing that a two-year old, $20 purchase is still going strong and providing me with so much use.

What are your criteria for footwear that is versatile enough to dress up and down? Sound off in the comments!