One of the my favorite parts of this whole men’s style blogging/reporting thing is that I get to see brands grow. Most of the time I learn of a brand it is soon after its launch, or soon after it starts growing. But every so often, I will start following a brand before it launches. In the case of Jack Erwin, I started following them when they were in the fundraising stage. After hearing their pitch and brand concept I was rather excited. With their affordably priced shoes they presented a simple solution to a persistent problem in #menswear: aesthetically pleasing and well built shoes at said affordable price, $195 including shipping and returns.
Fast forward a few months and Jack Erwin launched (the beginning of October). The spread consists of 5 rather classic shoes; 1 loafer, 1 boot and 3 oxfords. Each comes in black and one shade of brown; either a dark brown (see wingtip above) or cognac brown (see loafer above). Different from many shoe brands, Jack Erwin only sells directly from its website. So yes, they are an online direct to consumer business model (but if you must try on/see the shoes before purchasing they do have a showroom in the Garment District that can be visited and I believe from time to time they will also have open houses). Looking forward, I have seen sketches for some upcoming models which look quite good so stay tuned over the coming months to see what else they bring to the table.
Although I am reviewing the Joe (cap toe), I have seen all of the other shoes in person and between the 5 models there is pretty much a shoe for any occasion and style. My personal favorite of the line is the Adam (wingtip). I think its lines are the nicest and the pattern sits very well on the last. But I opted to review the cap toe because I do not own a simple black cap toe (my other cap toes have brouguing on the cap) and I like the simplicity and sleekness of the shoe with its single line of stitching on the upper.
But before we really get into talking about the shoes, let’s step back a bit and talk about Jack Erwin and how it started. It is the brainchild of Ariel Nelson and Lane Gerson. Like many of the gents I have met who have started menswear brands, neither Ariel or Lane have much experience in the field. Ariel worked in beverage distribution and Lane worked at one of the Big 4 accounting firms before working on a few start up projects. But what they did (and do) have is a passion for both shoes and men’s style. Which has become apparent over the few times I have met with them. I feel like now is a good time to ask if anyone else thinks these guys look a little bit like E (Ariel) and Vince (Lane)?
But anyway, back to the shoes. What Jack Erwin offers is a quality dress shoe for less than $200. The question is is do they deliver a good value? In short the answer is yes, but as always, to really assess the situation we need to have a closer look. Fortunately, the guys at Jack Erwin were nice enough to send me a pair of the Joes in black for purpose of review.
The shoes are produced in Portugal, which has a longstanding and respectable reputation as a shoe producer, it just does not receive as much attention at England, Italy, America and to a lesser extent Spain and France. So I do not view the shoes being made in Portugal as a strike against.
All of their shoes are Blake welted and use full grain leather. As I have said before, Blake construction does not mean a shoe is inferior to a Good Year welted one, it is just a different aesthetic and with that comes a different feel to the shoe (as a sidenote, Blake welting is often associated with the Italian style of dress shoe). Typically, and as is the case with Jack Erwin’s shoes, the shoes are lighter and more flexible out of the box. I should also note that Blake welted shoes can still be resoled and will still last for years if they are made well.
So far the shoes have worn well. They fit my feet well and have required little wear to become comfortable, in fact, they were quite comfortable right out of the box. Which to me means that the last they use for the shoes works well with my foot. Unfortunately, I cannot say how well the shoes hold up over time as I have only been wearing them around for the past few weeks. But there have been no serious issues with them and the quality control and finishing on them seems to be pretty solid so there is nothing to make me think that I will not be wearing them for years to come.
It would be appropriate to compare Jack Erwin’s shoes with the Meermin Classic Collection or some of the lesser Herring Classic shoes. I can’t speak for the Herring’s but the Jack Erwins do hold up well next to Meermin. The Meermins feel like a more solid shoe, but that makes sense because they are good year welted, whereas the Jack Erwins are Blake welted. From an aesthetic perspective, what you may prefer is really a matter of personal style and taste.
So to answer the real question, do I recommend Jack Erwin shoes? Yes, I do. As I said before, they offer a solution to that oft pressing dilemma of ‘where can I get good dress shoes for $200?’ And their offering is better than any other I can think of at that price point and in fact they could compete at a higher price point (Meermin being slightly more expensive when you factor in shipping). Although some of the lines of the Joe could be smoother (again, that is a personal preference and some of the lines on the other shoes are smoother) and the leather have less creasing the fact that they can bring to market a shoe of the caliber they do at the price they do is worthy of respect and note. Much better than the garbage that Cole Haan, Johnston & Murphy and Florsheim peddle. It would be unreasonable for us as consumers to expect perfection for $195. And what Jack Erwin delivers is a solid buy. So if you are in the market for some dress shoes I highly recommend you check out Jack Erwin. If you have any experience with the brand or questions and comments please sound off in the comments section.
Note: FYGblog did receive a pair of shoes for the purpose of this review. However, as is always the case, the utmost effort is put forth to maintain an unbiased and objective point of view on the product being reviewed.