The Oxford captoe showdown: Crockett & Jones vs. Trickers vs. Meermin vs. John Lobb vs. Edward Green
Updated: Jan 17
The plain captoe Oxford is such a fundamental shoe design that you can find examples of it made by pretty every much every shoemaker in the world. Here I'm going to look at 5 examples from entry level to the high-end, and look at what you get for your money.
John Lobb City II, Dark Brown Museum Calf, 5 Eyelets, Leather sole, UK 9.5, £995
Edward Green Chelsea, Burgundy Antique, 5 Eyelets, Leather Sole, U 9.5/10, £965
Meermin Linea Maestro, Dark Brown Naturcalf, 6 Eyelets, Leather sole, UK 9.5, £230
Tricker's Appleton, Museum Calf, 5 Eyelets, Leather Sole, UK 9.5, RRP £395
Crockett & Jones Audley Handgrade, Antique Brown Calf Leather, 5 Eyelets, Leather sole, UK 9.5, RRP £590
This image features silhouettes to highlight the difference in shape and last. You can see how the C&J has the most asymmetric last shape and most squared-off toe; the Tricker's have quite a full shape all round, with a much rounder profile on the toe; the Meermin are noticeably slimmer in silhouette and on the foot; The Edward Greens have the same sort of asymmetry as the C&J but with a much rounder toe; and the John Lobbs have what appears to be quite a straight profile, although they do look sleeker in person.
These City II are made from dark brown museum calf with a single leather sole. John Lobb are one of the pre-eminent British shoemakers using museum calf - it features a much subtler colour variation than some other makers.
John Lobb are of course a huge name in the world of British shoemaking, though it sometimes seems their designs are quite "safe" and conservative compared to makers like Edward Green - and way more predictable the Gaziano & Girling. I've owned a pair of City 2 (since sold) and handled a couple of new pairs in store, and came away a bit unimpressed by some rough finishing and detailing.
I also think the value proposition on John Lobb is losing ground to exciting new makers like Yeossal or TLB Mallorca, which are available for around 1/2 of the price but with pretty comparable quality. The JL Prestige collection goes into the £1,300 Gaziano & Girling pricepoint, with none of the "oomph" or drama of the latter's shoes.
The distinguishing feature for a lot of Edward Green leathers are their burnished toecaps and heels. Dark brown is available, but this pair are a burgundy shade that adds nice variety to the classic brown and black shoe rotation.
Alongside John Lobb, Edward Green are the other "big" British shoemaker at around the £1,000 price-point. Their new seasons collections are a lot more interesting than John Lobbs though, and while they stick to quite a classic rotation of models, they are always exploring interesting new leather options.
Personally I find the Chelsea extremely well proportioned - of course, it depends on your choice of last, but I thin these are the "safest" of all the shoes on display here.
This model from Meermin's Linea Maestro collection is a dark brown Naturcalf - the body of the shoe is the original colour. I ended up intentionally darkening the whole toe section - I couldn't keep on piling on the lighter brown polish, so just kept applying layers of black and dark brown polish until I ended with a two-tone effect.
From the Linea Maestro, essentially to Meermin's mainline options as the Audley is to C&Js. Linea Maestro models are hand-welted and generally a bit sleeker looking, and feature JR soles. This is an elegant design, a bit more elongated than the other two. The length is counterbalanced by a slightly longer captoe, so it looks less stubby than the Tricker's.
As with the Tricker's it features raised seams - Meermin calls it "stitch & reverse" - although they're not as prominently raised as the Tricker's.
It's got 6 eyelets, compared to the 5 eyelets of the C&J and Tricker's. There's also a more exaggerated difference in width from the bottom of the eyelet sets to the top, which lends to the overall curvier feel of the mode.
Note that the Linea Maestro lasts as a whole are rather slim - indeed, some would find them way too snug for comfort. But you can't argue with the value - at £290 RRP this is a good value hand-welted shoe.
Tricker's have a a decent selection of museum calf (John Lobb are the main other big British maker using it, but the Tricker's happen to be 1/3 of the price) - I really like the dark brown in the Appleton. It's got a light brown and reddish undertone, and the museum variation is slightly more aggressive than the John Lobb version. While ordinarily an advocate for subtlety, I quite like a bit of pop with the museum calf.
Part of the Town collection. Having previously only owned Tricker's boots from the Country collection (which are obviously as far from elegant as possible) it was interesting to see what they would do with a dressier shoe.
Construction and feel on the foot remains tank-like, as we'd expect from Tricker's, but broadly it's very attractive - noticeably chunkier than the C&J and Meermin without being blobby. The raised seams add to this (compared to the finer stitching of the C&Js) - they do give the effect of visibly dividing the quarters and vamp, which makes it all seem a bit less cohesive than the C&J.
The Tricker's feature a small tab overlaying the bottom set of eyelets where's normally expect a stitch holding them together, while the eyelets themselves are almost completely straight with no curve. It also features a notched heel.
You should expect some stiff, rigid leather from Tricker's. In fact this pair was so tough that I ended up selling them after a couple of wear. I'm not a fan of torturing yourself trying to break a pair of shoes in - the other paus on display here have proven that's not necessary.
In terms of value, I'd be hard-pressed to consider buying Tricker's at full price, just because of how readily available discounts are. They also have pretty consistent sales, and they're easy to find on eBay for half the RRP (and not even factory seconds). They have an official outlet website you can sign up for and I believe an official eBay store for outlet / end of life models. At the very least you should be looking to get 40% off RRP.
Crockett & Jones
Dark brown antique calf uppers. The Crockett & Jones Handgrade collection, as well as having some slightly finer design features than the mainline range, features a fussier selection of leathers for the uppers, with twice as much time spent layering the antique colouring on than the mainline.
The Audley is from the Handgrade collection. It's a real continuity model for C&J, about as classic as the captoe Oxford comes. It's one of the last few models they have on the soft-square 337 last, which I think is actually very handsome looking.
The Handgrade detailing is visible on the asymmetric last when compared to a mainline equivalent, finer work on the waist and sole including a channeled stitched sole and a notch on the inside heel (supposedly to prevent trouser snagging, an issue I can honestly say I've pretty much never encountered in my life). Apparently the leather lining is also of better quality.
The easiest way to spot Handgrade models is the embossed logo on the footbed in a different font to the golden printed logo of the mainline options with the more familiar C&J font.
The Handgrade Collection retails around the £560 / $730 mark. The quality of finishing is very close to John Lobb or Edward Green entry level models, which at 1/3 to 1/2 of the price is impressive.
Clearly, all of the maker's have their own strong points. The Meermins are great value for money at RRP. You may prefer the sleeker last shape, or you may find it actually limits their day-to-day versatility.
The Tricker's are just a bit more fun with the museum calf and somewhat more robust feeling. As mentioned, my main reservation around Tricker's is just their availability in the second hand market and what that means for the RRP value, but putting that aside I love the shoes. The leather is also dramatically stiffer and harder to break in than the C&J.
The C&J's have very fine finishing for the price and are a pretty archetypal "job interview" shoe. It's hard to imagine them attracting any comments or even that much attention, but as an everyday option for more formal offices I can really see the appeal.
Edward Green and John Lobb have rough parity in terms of pricing, so it probably comes down to which of their lasts fits you better. For the consistency of finishing my preference would be Edward Green.