A review of the Saint Crispin's Mod 104 Austerity Brogue
UK 9.5, crust leather, Classic Last, leather sole, red leather lining
RRP £1,300 -£1,500 inc. trees / paid £700 from Ascot Shoes
Named for the patron saint of cobblers, Saint Crispin's have been making shoes by hand in Romania since about 1985. Although the term "handmade" has been worn down over the years, Saint Crispin's are one of the few predominantly RTW and MTO companies that still fit the bill as they produce exclusively hand welted shoes, which is probably a more helpful term to focus on than handmade (or the dreaded "handcrafted").
About this shoe
The model 104 is an Oxford wingtip austerity brogue - that means no broguing holes along the seams. Some austerity brogues feature pinking (the sawtooth pattern bordering the seams) but these do not.
The austerity brogue is a popular design among modern makers because its sleekness straddles smart and casual very well. This version distinguishes itself with a couple of design features:
1. Slight overlap of the quarter panels by the vamp section as opposed to separation of the panels
2. Double row of stitching parallel to the seams
3. Very nice arrowhead seam around the eyelets that's evocative of the Edward Green Galway. Most makers will just feature a flat line of stitching enclosing the laces
4. Lasted trees. They're lovely. The satisfaction of sliding a pair of lasted trees into a pair of shoes as they occupy every piece of available space is... peculiarly fulfilling. I won't go on about it, because it's hard to do it without sounding weird
5. Lovely red lining. Look how...red it is. Not a good choice to wear with light coloured socks, though, due to the colour bleeding. Though at least if your feet start bleeding for some reason it won't be that obvious
Overall it's a really versatile style - slick and refined, but definitely very wearable.
Whatever the leather
The uppers are Saint Crispin's calf leather - I'm unsure of exact shade, either milk or dark chocolate.
"Crust leather" is leather that's been tanned but not yet dyed. Read this Permanent Style review for details on how they individually dye the shoe's component pieces once the the leather has been clicked.
The main pro with crust leather is a rich colour straight out of the box. Cons are that it needs more maintenance and care through conditioning and polishing, and is prone to less colour fastness and pretty vicious creasing.
As of now, it's a wonderful, deep shade though with undercurrents of plummy-purple in the brown, and takes an excellent polish. Time will tell how it ages.
Save our soles
The soles feature a slight bevel at the waist and a closed channel. Those expecting a really sharply aggressive fiddleback will be disappointed. I'd prefer a little bit more myself, but as the day has yet to come where a passerby commented unprompted on the fine finish of my fiddle-backing, it really makes little real difference.
They've got monogrammed nail patterns for the previous owners initials, which while arguably a bit tacky is also something I would have done for all my shoes in a heartbeat.
Austerity by name, expensive by nature
At retail price Saint Crispin's are pretty expensive. If you're looking for similarly styled austerity brogues at more of a mid-range price, consider: