Galway or the Highway - Reviewing the Edward Green Galway and discussing its enduring appeal
During 13 years of buying and selling shoes on eBay, I've consistently been coveting a pair of Edward Green Galways. After much eBay scouring and patience, I ended up with a pair of Mink Suede and dark oak calf Galways on the 82 last, size UK 9.5.
More images are here, with a detailed review below. I'll also discuss what the particular appeal with the Galway design is, as well as go through some alternatives.
Edward Green Galway
Dark oak calf and mink suede
UK 9.5, width D
This model of Galway retails for £1,215 currently. Galways hold their value very well on eBay, so it's generally tough to get a new condition pair for less than £700. I managed to snag this pair for £500, which I was very happy with. I essentially funded the purchase with sale of a pair of Gaziano & Girling Wigmore boots.
The seller was very nice, and I ended up with original box and bags as well. I've since bought a pair of EG trees as well for the sake of completion.
Sizing and fit
These are on the 82 last, which is pretty fitted. EG describes it as a refined almond toe, a bit slimmer and more contemporary than the 202. EG currently sell Galways on the 82, 202 and chunky 64 lasts.
In hindsight, I might have gone up another half-size as the right foot is a bit tight, although the left is perfect, so if I went up a size I'd need an insole for the left. If sticking with the same size in future I would probably go for an F rather than E width.
I take a UK 9.5 in Gaziano & Girling, John Lobb, Crockett & Jones, Tricker's and most major British brands..
Dark oak coloured calf leather body section, with Edward Green's distinctive toe and heel burnishing.
It's not the best burnish job I've ever seen, quite blobby rather than faded in, but I'm sure it will develop over time.
The shaft section is mink coloured suede - sumptuously soft and a lovely darker contrast to the leather. The suede has a bit more give than calf leather, so it can move comfortably around the upper ankle without the creasing you'd get from calf. The shaft is unlined suede, which helps with the comfort and mobility.
Weight just a minute
A quick segue into the overall heft (or lack) of the boots. Edward Green leather is lighter weight than I think a lot of people expect, and the overall effect is a pair of boots that are comfy and quite physically lightweight. For reference a quick rundown of boot weights (weight per single boot, laces included):
Edward Green Galway - 615g
R M Williams Chelsea Boots -640g
John Lobb Hunter Boots - 720g
Crockett & Jones Islay - 740g
Trickers Stow - 780g
Key design points - what makes a Galway a Galway?
So I think there's a couple of key design features that really stand out. This is not to say that any of the features are individually unique to the Galway, but they come together to create a harmonious... booty... whole. Ehm. I've added photos to each point to clarify.
1. Arrowhead seam between shaft and body - this gives the boot a lot of its elegance, even if the actual makeup of the boot is on a chunky last or in a heavier material.
It also gives a slightly more casual feel when compared to a straight seam as with, say, this rather Victorian looking Alfred Sargent Miller boot. As the focal point of the design, it benefits from fine finishing and is probably one of the areas where some imitator models might feel "off".
2. Seamless body section apart from the scalloped heel counter - this contributes to the cohesiveness of the design - if there are more panel sections then the whole boot starts to feel a bit fussy and over-designed.
Compare the back of the Galway with a J Fitzpatrick model . Definitely a "close but no cigar" situation.
3. No broguing or medallion punching - these add too much visual noise to a design that is just on the borderline of being busy-looking, especially with a mixed material makeup.
4. Triple to double to single stitching - the imitation toecap section is delineated by a neat triple row of stitches. The seam between the calf leather section and suede shaft moves to double stitching, and lastly the decorative stitching running alongside the buttonholes to the top of the shaft is single stitched. This helps to place some of the visual "weight" at the front and base of the boot, which then becomes "lighter" as it progresses to the top. Unsure if the single stitching along the shaft is purely decorative or if it's structural and prevents the suede from collapsing.
5. Mixed material for uppers and shaft - not mandatory by any stretch and possibly controversial - Galways are readily available in single material makeups. This may be counter-intuitive given points most of the above points are focused on purity of design, and mixed materials are almost inherently fussy. For my money the best EG makeups are calf leather with suede uppers (coincidentally the type I bought) - you get the textural appeal of the suede without all the associated scuffing and staining concerns, and the suede has a bit of extra give and comfort that allows your ankles more comfy movement.
6. Speed hooks, pull tab and bellows tongue - most of these features will be hidden by the wearer's trouser fabric, but they are all nice to have, probably stemming from its history as a practical field boot. I do appreciate the integrated pull tab rather than a flappy one, and bellows tongues are a good solution to tongues that slide left or right during wear.
Imitation is flattery
It can't just be me that thinks the Galway is pretty much the pinnacle of dress boot design - this post from a little while ago listed some equivalent models from other makers, and there's definitely something ... "extra" about it. I'm sure you could run a similar comparison exercise for iconic designs from other makers like the Alden Indy boot.
When I talk about "imitators" here there's no judgement or derision intended - £1,200 boots are a niche product. I got mine for less than 1/2 that price, but would admit that £500 is still way beyond what even the most open-minded of significant others would deem sensible for footwear.
I've made a quick collage of some of the main competitor models for comparison. Models featured with links and RRP are:
I'm going to write about diminishing returns in the future, which you can expect when considering these competitors. I'd be interested to know from anyone that owns them which offers the best bang for buck if EG is out of budget.
And that's about it. If this seems a bit of an OTT breakdown for just one particular boot model... well, nobody forced you to read it. That's on you.
Shout with any thoughts.