Review: Beckett Simonon -- Dean Oxford

Recently, I was approached by Alena Cardona, Brand Relations Coordinator of men's shoe company Beckett Simonon. They asked if I would like to review a product of theirs. After looking at their offerings and gathering some information about the company, I gladly accepted.

Beautiful, straight out of the box. This is before applying polish, which one should always do before the first wear.

Beckett Simonon is another online-only business which saves money by offering products directly and in limited runs. Their shoes are comparable to those priced at $300 or more, but on average are only $200. They have high-quality leather and elegant yet timeless last shapes, nothing overly chiselled or angular. For my review, I was offered their Dean Oxford in black. It's a cap toe with a much sleeker shape than most in its price range. This was perfect, as my Allen Edmonds Park Avenue shoes are sadly a bit worse for wear, even if I get them recrafted. Getting a new pair of versatile, black cap toe oxfords (balmorals) was good timing. Though there's nothing technically wrong with the Park Avenue and it's a finely made shoe, I prefer the last shape and cap length of the Dean Oxford. As the name implies, it's just got a much more British feel to it. (Aside from the "gentleman's corner".) As with many fine shoes, they come with a dust bag but also a pair of spare laces. Nice touch. They are not cotton flannel bags, but this synthetic fabric does the job just fine. I'm sure one could espouse the merits of cotton allowing the leather to breathe better all day, but I'm not about to get wound around the axle on this. Even without these extras, they are worth it. They also came with two sets of inserts to adjust the fit if need be. Though I don't use them, there may be someone who prefers a snugger fit or wants that extra bit of cushion.

Nice, unpretentious shoebox which came inside a regular cardboard shipping box.

Among other details, the lining has a suede cap at the back so that they will not slip when walking, something that can irritate one's heel. The leather soles are Blake-stitched, so they do not have quite the same quality as Allen Edmonds' Goodyear welt. To most people, this quality difference is not perceptible and they can be resoled just like any Goodyear shoe. They also have cork filling to mould to one's foot over time. Adela explained the process to me:
We opted for an artisanal Blake method, meaning the entire shoe is crafted by hand and with a slow forming process, which is frankly the best. In short, this involves more than a hundred manual steps that are performed by master shoemakers with decades of experience. For example, we cut and skive the leather by hand, edges are hand waxed to seal the pores, and after the shoes are lasted they sit in the lasts at room temperature for a minimum of 72 hours (this allows the leather fibers to cool down slowly resulting in a better looking and more stable shape plus it accents the natural looking pores. Competitors use artificial forming with ovens and chillers and the shoes spend less than 10 mins in the lasts thus damaging the long term leather structure).
This explains why they have a much nicer shape than shoes generally do in this price range. It has, however, been asserted that Blake-stitching does not perform as well when it comes to wet surfaces, allowing water to seep in more easily. Your mileage may vary. It doesn't get wet very often in New Mexico. When it does, I bring a pair of overshoes to work. I would like to see some more rubber soled options from them in the future nonetheless.

Interestingly, they're just referred to as "Oxfords" on the label rather than "Dean Oxford".

You're likely thinking that there's got to be some sort of trade off besides the Blake-stitch. They're probably made in some third world country under horrible conditions, right? Wrong. They are ethically made by family-owned factories in Bogotá, Colombia and Oporto, Portugal. However, Beckett Simonon is always looking for other partner factories around the world. I like American-made products just fine but do not mind supporting small businesses overseas either, especially if I know they have good working conditions.

The extras: Inserts, dust bags, and a second pair of laces.

Now all of this sounds great, but does it translate into a good shoe? Yes. Absolutely, yes. I was impressed from the moment I started wearing them on the carpet to gauge fit. The leather is soft, the tongue also being softer than I'm used to dress shoes having, which meant more comfort at the top of my foot. They are 100% true to the size I measure on a Brannock device, the same that I wear for the Allen Edmonds "5" and "8" lasts. Each style listing includes a size chart which compares them to other brands that may work on you. If the size is wrong, you can always send them back for free. No break-in was required for them to be comfortable, though perhaps they pinch a bit when I flex the ball of my foot against the ground and hold it there. As if I'll really be doing that all the time. Otherwise, I don't notice anything. They are perhaps the most comfortable pair of dress shoes I've worn. I like my Allen Edmonds a lot, but these fit my feet so well it's not even funny. Worth $200? Yes... but also no, because they're worth more. Besides mainline Allen Edmonds, which are $425 now, I own shoes valued at $200-300 from Florsheim and Johnston & Murphy that aren't this comfortable, and that was after trying several sizes and settling on one. I would be satisfied with paying Beckett Simonon's asking price for these and will definitely be getting more in the future as funds allow.

Came straight-laced right out of the box. I love it.

There are only two real downsides. One is that they do not have all the styles that more established shoemakers offer. They make new products every month, so those extra special designs are ones you should probably pre-order while you can. It does seem as if they have a few established classics, such as the Dean Oxford and Yates Oxford Brogues, which they will keep on carrying. The other downside is that they only carry regular "D" widths, no narrow or wide sizes. I hope this will change at some point so they can become more accessible to people with varying foot shapes. Certainly, you can go up half a size if your feet are wide, but this isn't the best fix.

Sole detail. Note the notch, also known as a "gentleman's corner", which prevents catching on trouser cuffs when walking.

Regardless of those things, I highly recommend these shoes to anyone. Whether you're accustomed to getting Allen Edmonds for a steal at the Shoe Bank or just starting to get into tailored clothing and need something better than Ecco, you'll probably like these a lot. If you're used to Edward Green, well... maybe these can be your "beater" shoes.

Nouveau Vintage received material compensation in exchange for this review. Every effort has been made to remain objective.

Comments

  1. I'm naturally skeptical of $200 shoes (especially when they do that thing where they make it look like a sale price when it's not). Do they have cushioned insoles if you don't use those black inserts? Cork footbeds? How much did you wear them before deciding they were that comfortable? Thanks in advance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure.

      They do not have cushioned insoles. I do not know for sure if they use cork footbeds, but one would assume they do. You can always write them to be sure. I wore them on three separate days at work and they were comfortable throughout.

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    2. Asked customer service and they do indeed have cork filling.

      Delete

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