Alternatives to the iconic Edward Green Dover
The Edward Green Dover is a fantastic shoe, but its iconic status invites a hefty price tag. Even on eBay the model holds its value well, and while you can readily expect to pick up GYW shoes on eBay for 20 - 30% of their RRP, the Dover can reach a value closer to 50% or more depending on the makeup and condition.
But the Norwegian Stitched Toe Derby is a style that's also available from a lot of other makers. I've identified alternatives that are essentially identical to the Dover in aesthetics but are a bit friendlier on the bank balance (and more unfriendly in a few cases).
A note on the toe seam
Note that many makers are unable (or choose not to) replicate the toe stitching from the Dover. The toe seam on the Dover sits almost flush with the leather, with a dimpled effect created by a matching stitch on the inside of the seam. The overall effect is that the stitch itself is almost invisible, but the dimpling around the stitch is quite visible. The more usual alternative is a raised seam (common on American NST versions), or a situation where you can see the stitch holding the two sections together down the length of the seam.
It's quite a polarising detail - my fiancée says it looks like disturbingly like scar tissue, but I love it. It allows more of a mirror shine on the front as the polish can cover the whole front of the toe more smoothly rather than needing to treat it as two, divided sections. It's a technically demanding feature, so only the more expensive makers will fully replicate it.
If you're reading this blog you've probably heard of Carmina - they have a wide catalogue with a few models that are close to the Dover. Those linked above are closest as they have a similar backstay section while the others have a plain back. Note the toe seam is fully raised to the same height as the apron stitch in this model.
Lof & Tung are Skoaktiebolaget's house brand - their designs do a good job of reflecting what's popular in the industry at the time and they expand their collection in interesting ways each season, and the pricing makes them a compelling option. The Denham certainly has a less refined appearance than the Dover, but for a rugged and well-priced shoe they are worth looking at.
TLB Mallorca, especially their Artista range, are considered by many to have the best quality to price ratio of any European maker. Featuring a bevelled waist and slim and elegant profile, these are probably the best bet in the £300 region. Note that the team seam is raised and braided to match the apron section, which gives a very different look to the Dover.
Yeossal are a Singaporean brand making serious waves with handwelted footwear at insanely competitive prices. Actually, competitive is the wrong word - they completely obliterate European makers out of the water in terms of value. The main risks for many will be sizing (which I got wrong on my order) and import fees (which were fine for me, but can be really unpredictable). If you can nail those down, you can expect a pair of shoes that are technically on par with the Dovers, though rather more aggressively styled, especially in the waist and highly bevelled soles.
The Hardwick (left) and Balfour (right) from Crockett & Jones are both a good approximation of the Dover style. Strictly speaking the Hardwick is missing the backstay section and features an additional row of stitching along the top-line that is a bit busy for my tastes (particularly in the way it cuts between the 5th and 4th eyelets). The Balfour is more elegant, although it hails from the more expensive Handgrade collection. Neither feature the dimpled toe seam of the Dover.
We're moving into pricing that's comparable with the Dover now. so at this point it's a case of preference rather than cheaper alternative. The Keble is from Foster & Son's new higher grade RTW collection - the toe seam, like the Dover, is sewn with a boar's bristle, and the antique oak calf is very similar to EG's offering. I had the chance to handle some of these and they are seriously impressive - a good choice if you are maybe tired of the ubiquity of the Dover but like the style.
Gaziano & Girling are likely the biggest trendsetters in modern high-end British shoemaking - in less than two decades they have become one of the most influential and aspirational makers. Like the Keble, a good option if you feel like the Dover is just too over-exposed. You'll also benefit from G&Gs slightly sharper finishing, soles and possibility for customisation through a much easier to access Made to Order program.
If you'll accept no imitations, the Dover has 22 variant options live on Edward Green's site at the moment, with more added each season. It's also interesting to note that it inspired several other models - the Cranleigh Boot, the Nevis Boot and the Fulham Monkstrap all feature the same toe seam.