Yeossal Review - Thompson split-toe derby in oxblood hatchgrain leather
Updated: Apr 28, 2021
Yeossal Thomson split-toe derby
UK 9.5, YSQ Last
Horween Russia Hatch-grain Oxblood leather
Spade outsole, Fiddleback sole, Tapered heel
Yeossal is a Singapore-based company whose hand-welted shoes have been making some big waves. Their designs reflect a lot of the best of brands like Gaziano & Girling, Edward Green or Saint Crispin's, with a starkly more competitive price-point.
The base price for Yeossal shoes is around £480 / $620 given the current conversion from the Singaporean Dollar.
As part of the Customer Group Made to Order scheme meeting a certain number of orders, these shoes had a discount of £50 / $65. They also included a pair of shoe trees that would otherwise be £70 / $90. I added metal toe taps for £20. Shipping to the UK was a very reasonable £15 via FedEx. So total price was essentially £465 / $600.
Import duty / taxes will of course depend on your local laws. These were invoiced such that they didn't incur any extra fees (which I was obviously fine with) but I don't know if you should expect the same. When making high price purchases from overseas, best practice to budget for import fees regardless and be pleasantly surprised if you don't need to pay them.
Overall, this is a staggeringly reasonable price for the quality of product, and the kind of figure that makers like Gaziano & Girling, Edward Green, Crockett & Jones and especially Vass should be shooting nervous side-eye glances at.
These were part of a Customer Group Made to Order for the Thomson model. I had a couple of queries for Yeossal via email which they were very quick to respond to. I pulled the trigger on an oxblood pair in hatch-grain leather, as I already have way too many brown shoes and thought some reddish tones would be handy.
In terms of options, Yeossal's MTO program is quite comprehensive. They currently have 39 models of shoes and boots, with choices of:
Standard and wide width
Box calf, patina, museum calf, suede and grained calf leather (with mixed materials available on boots)
Leather, Vibram or Dainite soles
Toe taps, sole colour options
Fiddleback or bevelled waist
Tapered or straight heel
Black, light brown or natural sole edge colouring
Lasted shoe trees
It's not quite on par with Saint Crispin's, who can offer all of the above plus details like sole monogramming, sole thickness options, customised medallions and fit adjustments. However, Yeossal are very accommodating so if you want any of these just drop them an email and see what they will agree to.
The production of the shoes was somewhat slower than initially promised. Yeossal said that the hatch-grain leathers had proven way more popular than anticipated, and they and the supplier had simply run out of leather. In non-pandemic times that might have annoyed me, but given that my need for formal shoes has diminished so much it wasn't too much of a stress.
For context, the order was the start of July 2020, and they were delivered for end of October 2020, so about a four-month turnaround.
Supplied in a sturdy, dark brown cardboard box with a pull-out draw section, first impressions are... impressive. The shoes included a complimentary pair of Pantherella socks (always welcome) as part of the GMTO rewards; additional flat laces; two bronze coloured velour shoe bags, shoe trees, and shoes. Very well put together appearance overall - the only thing you could ask in addition would be some branded insoles, maybe a shoehorn and matching polish, but nit-picking the freebies one didn't receive is pretty gauche.
It's an apron front, split-toe derby a la the Gaziano & Girling Hove or Edward Green Dover (and a million other designs by now).
The leather is a hatch-grain in oxblood - I think hatch-grain and split-toes are a natural pairing for a slightly less dressy shoe. The shade has some nice plummy / aubergine tones coming through too.
This comes to my first issue with the shoes, and if you're as anal as I am it's a bit of a deal-breaker - the leather is simply not completely consistent between each pair. The uppers of the right shoe are noticeably more matte in appearance, with a less pronounced hatch-grain embossing - this is apparent even to the touch where the right just feels much smoother.
The leather of the right shoe is also visibly darker, and even from the minor wear I've given them the apron section is getting a much more crinkled and aggressive crease than the left shoe.
Soles and heels
I went spade sole and tapered heel on these, so they are pretty strikingly shaped overall. The spade shape is quite pronounced - I had second thoughts about it after ordering, but overall it flatters the lines of the last very well.
The soles have a really aggressive fiddleback shape, which sets them apart from more conservative British makers like Edward Green. What can I say - I'm a sucker for the fiddleback.
This is also the time to mention that Yeossal's shoes are hand-welted, which at this price point is pretty crazy - the main points of comparison would be Meermin's Linea Maestro range or Vass, which are cheaper but nowhere near as well finished (or styled). You can pick up Vass for around the same price, but from the Vass I've owned it's potentially much more rustic finish.
The sole and heel work is near impeccable. The welt join is super neat, though for comparison it's essentially invisible on my G&Gs. The only flaw I can see is some weird embossed lines on the heels, probably where it was pushed on a bench or pressure was applied gluing the heel stack. Given that this wears away quickly when worn it's a bit minor to complain about. The channeled sole is really well done, completely concealing the stitching.
I'm less enamoured with the stitching on the apron front of the right shoe. The raised seam around the apron section is noticeably wider on the right foot, and angles inwards whereas the left one sits upright. The inner row of stitching of the apron the left foot creates a braided effect, whereas on the right foot that inner section is pretty much smooth.
It's not catastrophic but combined with the clicking of the leather on the right shoe it does illustrate the difference in fine finishing QC you get vs. a more premium-priced brand.
This is criticism point 3, and probably the most off-putting for potential customers. Nailing down the fit on a pair of shoes that take three months to make and are shipped from Singapore is potentially a bit of a commitment.
I did a lot of last research and thought the YSQ would be quite safe. The last is described as "a classic last with soft chiseled toe shape with slightly higher instep... with generous volume in width and under the vamp. We recommend taking this last in your usual size."
I flat-out don't think that's accurate. I should have sized down with this last, as the instep has massive amounts of room, not what I would characterise as "slightly higher". And the width at the base of the foot is markedly narrower any standard width shoes I have from a wide variety of other makers - the arch and ball of my foot were practically overhanging the insole of the shoe, which is obviously impossible to walk in.
I experimented with tongue pads and insoles to modify the fit, but ultimately had to sell them on eBay. Yeossal do offer a returns option on MTO shoes with a restocking fee, but the time potentially wasted would be off-putting to me.
On a more positive note, who doesn't love a nice pair of lasted trees? And oooh boy... these are nice. Lovely telescopic lever action, very attractive finish, hollowed inside. Particularly fond of handle shape too - much easier to carry than the metal knobs sometimes used.
As part of my group order these are free, but otherwise you can add them to the order for approx. £50. Highly recommended, as Yeossal's lasts are quite distinctive, so a generic pair might not be ideal.
There are two other aspects of Yeossal's model that give me pause for thought.
1) Where are their shoes made?
They only state "a small family-owned workshop in Asia", which makes me suspect they are made in China rather than Singapore. It's likely the actual maker is Xiboa (who also make the excellent Sons of Henrey Oct Tenth shoes) as there a finite number of workshops that can do hand-welted shoes at scale.
I say this because I know many people have mixed feelings about going out of their way to actively buy from Chinese companies, particularly if it's over an "artisan" product from your own country. This is frankly nuts when we consider how many people unknowingly purchase Chinese-made products every day, but I think the salient point is that high-end footwear is traditionally a European or American-borne, craft-focused industry.
Obviously many other countries now have thriving shoe industries, but for myself nearly my whole collection is from British firms, who make their shoes in British factories. I know many users over on r/goodyearwelt will buy primarily American-made shoes.
The fundamental question is how do you feel about supporting Chinese-made products like this, which clearly undercut the value proposition of more established Benchmade shoe brands? I can live with it personally (and would rather not get into an argument about it) but it would be remiss not to mention it. Your mileage may vary.
2) Designs that are very derivative of other makers
Scrolling through Yeossal's Shoes page is like a who's who of classic contemporary shoe designs, and in many instances, the designs seem very derivative of other, more expensive brands. Compare the following
Yeossal Thomson to Edward Green Dover or Gaziano & Girling Hove
Those are just the ones I spotted on first pass. Again, I'm not 100% on board with the argument that this is inherently bad - shoe designs are often passed around and iterated on (see the number of Edward Green Galway clones from other brands) but there is a slightly uncomfortable element with taking the look but undercutting the price. It feels almost like a replica watch at a certain point.
I'm going to reserve judgement on this one until it becomes clear if Yeossal shows enough independence in their styling in the long term.
Overall I'm impressed with the overall quality and styling for the price. Yeossal's own range of model and leather options and excellent communications means you can really tailor your purchase.
I'm less impressed with the ease of sizing and the consistency in finishing. £500 is a price-point that will easily snag new condition Gaziano & Girling on eBay, a brand that I'm confident in sizing with impeccable finishing.
In fairness to Yeossal, the complaints around fit are potentially very specific to me, so I wouldn't let that put you off. If you're thinking of buying, make a list of the makers, sizes and lasts that you are confident in the fit of and send to Yeossal for advice.
I did find the leather inconsistency annoying but appreciate this is a detail that bothers me a lot more than it may others.
In summary - a brand I'll continue to watch with interest and I may grab on eBay given a chance, but I probably won't roll the dice on a full-price order again. Given that I know this last and size won't fit, I'd have to try different ones and don't want to risk a different type of bad fit.