Edward Green Dover Review - Dark Oak and Lavagna Suede. The peak of British RTW shoemaking?
Introduction to the Dover
The Edward Green Dover needs no introduction... which makes for a slightly redundant opening sentence for this review, but there it is. The Dover is one of EG's most iconic models, in competition with the venerable Galway boot for the brand's most well-known design.
The Dover is a 5-eyelet Derby with a raised apron front, though the quintessential design feature is the Norwegian stitched toe. Of course when we discuss the Dover's toe it's mandatory to mention that it is hand-stitched with a boar's thistle, a detail which this quote from Permanent Style expands on:
The sewing is done by pig’s bristle that is bound to the thread, which it draws through a small cut made by an awl. The bristle is narrower than a metal needle and can move through the leather at angles a needle cannot."
"The hand sewer prepares the pig’s bristle by cutting off its root, sanding the broken end to ensure it’s sharp and then splitting the other end to allow it to be bound with the thread. Several strands of yarn are then twisted together with the split bristle and rubbed down with beeswax. The thread is then rubbed hard with leather to melt the wax, ensuring that thread and bristle are bound together. The beeswax also helps seal the stitching on the shoe.
I never realised that the reason the split-toe seam has that distinctive finish is that this same hand sewing technique is used on the inside of the toe, to join the front two pieces of the upper. It’s that hand sewing underneath that creates the dimpled effect on top, which is so often highlighted by the polish."
The most classic makeup is Dark Oak leather (colloquially called "Doak") but my shoe rotation is so full of dark brown shoes that I feared another would break the camel's back (and my shoe rack). So I've been looking for something with the same classic appeal but a little extra differentiation too, and jumped on these when they popped up on eBay.
UK 9.5 E, 606 last
Dark oak antique leather with lavagna suede apron front and tongue section
I paid more for these than I normally would for a pair of shoes on eBay - £770, compared to a RRP of £1,295. Possibly more for this specific pair, as I can only assume they are Made to Order having never seen a bi-material pair of Dovers before.
They also included EG branded shoe trees, so maybe an overall RRP of £1,400 + whatever the Made to Order surcharge would be. Generally you'd expect to pay 20 - 30% of RRP for shoes on eBay, but Dovers (and Galways, as it happens) hold their value very well compared to other shoes. So why pay more here?
It was mostly the makeup, which is one I've never seen before but I was completely smitten with. Enough visual difference from all my other brown shoes, while also echoing some of the best Galway makeups which combine leather and suede for the shaft section.
Unboxing and packaging
Edward Green do a nicely presented package overall, with distinctive green box colouring, cloths and bags. The dark green box is used for sample pairs, seconds or repairs (more on that later) as opposed to the lighter green with new pairs.
Dark Oak is the most classic Dover shade for a reason - apart from a black suit there really is no colour it won't complement. Edward Green's leather is excellent - soft, flexible and consistently clicked between shoes. Obviously it's impossible to tell how well a leather feels and wears from images - the prevailing impressions are shoes that are light but sturdy at the same time.
On a less positive note, a continuing theme with EG is slightly messy burnishing - I mentioned the same thing in my Galway review. It's not a deal breaker, but Gaziano & Girling burnishing is far finer and smoothly, organically blended in. You wouldn't know this from the images on EGs site, but it's quite common on real life pictures from eBay listings, Styleforum posts etc. This is definitely an area that the continental makers continue to lead on.
The real star of the shoe here is the lavagna suede used on the top section of the apron which also forms the tongue. This is a dark, cool grey suede. If you've not tried higher end suede shoes before, its surprising how sumptuously soft it is to the hand compared to cheaper suede. I think the overall effect here - the contrast of colour and texture - is just beautiful, as Dark Oak, in spite of the name, is actually quite a warm colour.
I like also that the suede forms the tongue section too, slightly visible under the lacing.
The effect of the apron front
The apron front is a design detail that would normally look relatively preppy or casual (at least as casual as a dress shoe can be), so it's interesting that it's such a central aesthetic point of EGs best known shoe.
I've photographed here with a much more casual pair of Church's apron front derbies - you can see that the difference in formality comes the rounder toe and wider last of the Church's and the sharper detailing on the Dovers.
Flaws or defects
The shoes are actually marked as B grade (seconds) inside the shoe. There are no exterior defects - my suspicion is they are marked down because of an imperfection the left shoe, at the interior point where the lace facing is stitched to the tongue. It's quite messily cut and stitched, and the tongue overall seems fractionally shorter than it should (certainly shorter than the tongue on the right shoe).
It's not a major issue - it's only visible when the laces are removed and the eyelet sections are lifted upright, and doesn't affect the comfort. I wonder if it's a common issue for Dover construction or because the mixture of upper materials here was particularly difficult to work with?
A pretty impeccable welt - the join is almost imperceptible, although slightly less invisible than my Gaziano & Girling, but at this level though it's almost impossible to discern without a magnifying glass. Welt stitching is about 9 SPI, though I don't put much stock in using SPI as a meaningful measure of shoe quality.
Beyond that there is very little to add about the welt - it's as good as you can get for a RTW shoe really.
EG do a very tasteful sole treatment, though it may appear somewhat old fashioned compared to the trendy up and coming makers who favour an aggressive fiddleback and bevelled waist. Overall the EG treatment is a gentle bevel that's only really visible as the light catches it. There is still a strong conservative aspect to the brand's ethos that means that is unlikely to change any time soon.
The heel stack is straight compared to the "trendier" makers like Gaziano & Girling or Yeossal. The closed channel sole completely conceals the stitching in a very neat way, which does add a more premium feeling than an exposed welt stitch.
Fit and Last
I was nervous about ordering these as I've had some bad experiences with a few EG lasts, most notably the 202 last which I find squeezes my little toe quite uncomfortably (though I do like the round toe shape). The square toe of the 606 last appears to have alleviated that, as these are extremely comfortable, possibly the best fitting RTW last I've tried.
Edward Green always has a range of Dover models available in whatever seasonal leathers they have, as well as some established continuity colourways. Pricing is consistently quite high - they are always around £1,300 compared to the £1,000 of some of the less iconic models. I'm going to do a follow-up post with a detailed list of alternatives from other makers in the future, but for now consider these:
A very gratifying purchase overall - the balance and harmony of the two materials works exquisitely, and the overall elegance of the Dover design makes it clear why it's such a popular and imitated model.