5 Underrated Men’s Footwear Brands to Consider for Your Wedding

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Ever purchased a pair of shoes that, though gorgeous, had a sole fall apart not too long after? Perhaps you’ve owned a leather pair that developed a web of unsightly, unnatural cracks? These are some signs of low-quality shoes. Consider viewing formal shoes as an investment: Your wedding shoes can serve you for long after the festivities, whether it’s at dinner parties, other formal ceremonies, or the office every day. With the range of styles available, from boots to derbies to loafers, it’s possible to score a pair that, even when regularly worn, can realistically last you a lifetime! Before we recommend a few under-the-radar men’s footwear makers that all grooms-to-be should know, here’s how to recognise good quality in a shoe.

How Can I Tell If A Shoe Is High-Quality?

Pay Attention To The Leather

Firstly, let’s look at the leather, which is the main material men’s formal shoes are made of. You might have heard that full-grain leather is the best “grade of leather,” or that genuine leather is one of the worst. That is, however, a myth. There is no universal grading system for leather quality. Full-grain leather is simply leather that hasn’t had its outermost layer treated or altered, and genuine leather is just real leather. Some brands with low-quality leather might emphasise “full-grain” in their marketing, while others with stellar leather simply call theirs genuine. Be careful not to fall into this trap!

So, how can you tell what good-quality leather is? There is, unfortunately, very little the average consumer can do to discern leather quality. Much like numerous aspects determine how good the food is at a restaurant (e.g., spices used, cooking method, freshness of the ingredients, etc.), numerous factors influence the quality of leather.

However, there are a few indicators worth looking for. Instead of trusting in the alleged grade of leather, pay attention to its finish. Leathers that feel natural tend to look better for longer than leathers that feel brittle, waxy, or paint-like (often a way to hide defects). Additionally, if a shoe brand or clothing company is happy to disclose the tanneries their leather is sourced from, that’s another positive sign.

Even if quality is difficult to tell apart, certain leathers do have specific characteristics. Sheepskin or lambskin, for example, is much softer but less durable than the usual cow or calfskin leather, and therefore better suited for garments than footwear. Shell cordovan, made from horsehide, is renowned for its durability and for forming beautiful folds instead of creasing. Some exotic leathers like alligator, ostrich, and sharkskin are also generally more durable than cowhide.

Consider A Shoe’s Construction

Credit Ace Marks

Secondly, consider a shoe’s construction. Most shoes are cemented, meaning the upper (everything above the sole) is either glued or cemented to the sole. These shoes are highly impractical to effectively resole, making their lifespans only as long as that of their soles.

Credit: Heddel

Instead, look for Blake stitch or Goodyear welt construction. The Blake stitch (also known as the McKay method) and its similar variants, such as Blake Rapid and Bologna construction, are processes used to stitch a shoe’s upper to its sole. Goodyear-welted shoes use a machine stitch to connect the upper to the sole along the shoe’s edge, via a thin strip of material called a welt. Sometimes, bespoke or luxury shoemakers construct shoes similarly but stitched manually; such shoes are called hand-welted. The primary differences between Goodyear-welted and Blake-stitched shoes are that the latter tend to be lighter and cheaper, while the former are significantly more waterproof. However, both methods allow the shoes to be resoled by a cobbler with the necessary equipment, giving you the option to breathe new life into even the most heavily worn footwear.

Now that we’ve covered how to identify good-quality footwear, here are some underrated men’s dress shoe brands renowned for offering some of the best ready-to-wear quality at their price points, so you can purchase a wedding shoe worthy of the occasion and many more. We do still recommend doing your due diligence and searching for reviews on menswear discussion boards like Styleforum, as well as the Goodyearwelt and Malefashionadvice subreddits, for more detailed info like sizing advice.

Recommendations For Your Wedding Shoes

1. Zeve Shoes 

Starting things off closer to home, Malaysian brand Zeve Shoes claims to handcraft their beautiful footwear in Malaysia. Founded to fill the gap in local leatherwork, Zeve Shoes’ vision is to make high-quality, genuine leather products accessible to the Malaysian public. Across its regular collection and special offerings for wide feet, Zeve Shoes exhibits some impressive designs, demonstrating tasteful takes on trends and sophisticated renditions of classics alike. Its leather is sourced from tanneries in China, but fairly priced, with loafers starting at RM 209 (RM 199 on clearance sale) and dress shoes from RM 239, all Blake-stitched.

“Second time I’ve brought from Zeve and no complaints in the slightest. Superb quality shoes, good customer service and very helpful. Quick delivery as well. The only place [I’ll buy] shoes from, from now on.” – Bryan Doe

2. CNES Shoemaker

Singapore-based Vietnamese brand CNES Shoemaker’s bang for the buck has earned it a solid reputation in Internet menswear circles, owed partly to a meticulous eye for detail and not just the splendid build quality. Whether it’s boots, loafers, Oxfords, or derby shoes (also called bluchers) you’re looking for, CNES can make them, Goodyear-welted or Blake-stitched. Prices start at SG$ 260 (RM 890) retail for a pair of Blake-stitched loafers, sometimes dropping to SG$ 190 (RM 650) for leftover stock in odd sizes. CNES ships internationally from Singapore and allows exchanges if you estimate your size incorrectly.

“CNES Shoemaker people are extremely helpful and will work with you to narrow down a fit. I [made-to-ordered] a pair of spectators with them and they came out beautiful and fit me very well.” – JFWR

3. Meermin

Ask any menswear forum to recommend the best-value budget shoes available and Spanish shoemaker Meermin is bound to be one of the first names on the list. It’s no surprise: Featuring a plethora of stylish Goodyear-welted shoes, transparent disclosure of source tanneries, and a wide array of lasts (the forms resembling feet which shoes are made around) for feet of all shapes, Meermin delivers stellar quality for the price point. Made partly in Spain and partly in China, prices begin at US$ 195 (RM 910) for a pair of loafers and US$ 215 (RM 1005) for a pair of derbies. Shipping to Malaysia will set you back at least another US$ 25 (RM 115).

“Overall still very happy with the boots, quality of finishes was very good and both leather, stitching and soles have been holding on pretty well despite shoes being exposed to a wide range of DYI activities, mud, snow etc. Difficult to get better at this price range.” – Tong25

4. TXTURE

Another brand hailing from one of Malaysia’s neighbours, TXTURE has been painstakingly crafting shoes with an emphasis on detail since it was founded in 2009 at Bandung, Indonesia. Despite primarily specialising in the manufacture of (some absolutely stunning!) casual boots, there are plenty of options available that’d look sharp with a suit at your wedding ceremony, such as loafers or brogue wingtips for casual weddings, or derbies and Chelsea boots for wedding dinners or more formal occasions. Prices start at US$ 240 (RM 1120) for loafers, US$ 250 (RM 1170) for derbies, and US$ 270 (RM 1260) for Chelseas.

“Construction is where the shoe really shines. I’m no expert on welted boots but I would basically describe the shoes as flawless in their construction. The stitch down welt really pops, and every upper stitch is perfect. There are no wonky panels or size differences between each shoe. Couldn’t be happier here.” – brentos12

5. Thursday Boots

Thursday Boots has become one of the most popular shoe brands in this price range for good reason, and you can see why. From US$ 168 (RM 785), you can get yourself a pair of cap-toe derby shoes of Goodyear-welted construction, with full-grain leather and comfortable cork-bed midsoles. From US$ 180 (RM 840), make bold fashion statements in Thursday Boots’ classically stylish brogue wingtips or exude elegance in a pair of double monk-strap loafers. From US$ 160 (RM 750), score yourself a pair of versatile chukka boots, of the durable, weather-resistant stitchdown construction, that can be dressed up or down accordingly. The starting price for shipping to Peninsular Malaysia is currently US$ 40 (RM 195).

“I am really happy I took a shot on these. They have been great boots a have found a way into my rotation and life. They provide an attractive last that blends the utilitarian look of many heavy built boots and your standard dress or fashion boot.” – Rymanocerous

The Best Local Shoe Stores For International Brands

Perhaps you desire a pair of dress shoes that’s a tier above the previous list, and perhaps your wedding is coming soon, or you’d rather not deal with the hassle of estimating sizing, or you simply prefer the experience of brick and mortar shopping. In that case, here are two Malaysian shoe stores that stock men’s footwear from brands of similar (or greater!) repute.

1. P. Lal Shoes

P. Lal has quite the reputation among those in the know. For years it was referred to, among the classical menswear enthusiasts in Styleforum, as the cheapest retailer of Crockett & Jones, an English shoemaker a tier beyond those on the above list in both price and quality. P. Lal no longer stocks Crockett & Jones but currently hosts a gargantuan collection of men’s footwear, including well-known brands like Loake and Cheaney. The Loake 1880 collections, in particular, are often recommended as being good value and wouldn’t be out of place on our list. P. Lal’s prices are the best part: Shoes in uncommon sizes can drop to as low as RM 600, with other pairs regularly going on sale.

Location | 91, Jalan Gasing, Section 10, 46000, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia

2. WJ & Co.

As a purveyor of sartorial excellence, WJ & Co. stocks some of the finest menswear you’ll find in Malaysia and appropriately charming footwear to boot. Featuring the likes of Alden, Carmina, Edward Green, and John Lobb, all very respectable names in the world of men’s dress shoes, WJ & Co. is a retailer for the distinguished groom who wants to spare little expense in preparing himself for his wedding day. Prices start at RM 2450, but what you get for it—considering the intricate craftsmanship, incredible durability, and outstanding details characteristic of these shoemakers—more closely resembles a work of art than mere shoes.

Location | Lots F7 & F9A, Level 1, Bangsar Shopping Centre, 285, Jalan Maarof, 59000, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


UP NEXT: HOW TO SHOP FOOTWEAR FOR GROOMS-TO-BE

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