I seem to have chronic difficulty finding reasonably priced casual shoes. There are nice looking options, but they are $300-400; but nothing that aesthetically pleasing in the $150-200 range. As a result, I find myself wearing Top Siders almost exclusively. Enter Austen Heller. A company that is only a few months old but is showing some promise. The company is based here in the States but has its production in Portugal, which to my knowledge has a decently well established shoe production industry.
Austen Heller came out with a line up of 10 shoes. All of them are loafers, some with ties, but most without. The shoes are somewhat of a mix between my beloved Top Siders and a driving moc. The sole resembles a Top Sider and the upper a driver. The benefit of having a more substantial rubber sole than the normal driver is an increase in durability and wearability. Although I have not worn the shoes very hard yet, they have already held up better then the more classic drivers I have owned. The construction also seems to be quite solid, both on the upper and in affixing the sole to the upper. As you can see in the photos below the stitching on the sole is functional and is sewn through the bottom of the upper, and not just glued. But one should expect this level of construction for a $175 pair of shoes. As an added bonus the shoes came with a pair of shoe trees.
The inside of the shoe is lined with some type of leather, however, I am not sure what type. But it is very soft on the foot, which is crucial because these shoes will be worn almost exclusively without socks. And thus far I have not had the problems with the lining like I have had with my Scarosso loafers.
At first I was not the biggest fan of the shoes. I still think the ones with laces look considerably better than those that do not have any ornamentation. Some of the color schemes are also not for me. But the colorway I selected I do love. Regardless of my initial hesitations, the people at Austen Heller felt confident in their design and decided to send me a pair of shoes anyway. Now the primary critique I have of the shoes I have is the stamped AH logo on the inside of the foot on each shoe (see photo below). I dislike large scale logos like this and I think they could’ve kept this more discreet. But then again, these are all just matters of personal taste and I encourage you to make your own judgements here.
In conclusion, the styling has grown on me a great deal, especially after seeing the quality of construction and materials of the shoes. The website is not great, and the writing on it has received criticism when discussed with my friends. But it is easy to navigate and shop, which I greatly appreciate. When it comes down to it, the product is very solid and I now certainly endorse it. I am beginning to incorporate them into my wardrobe more and they have garnered some compliments, which is always a plus. So if you like the styling these are certainly shoes for you. And if you do not, then perhaps you will be like me and come to like them. As always, if you have questions of comments, sound off below.
Justin L Jeffers
Note: FYGblog did receive free product in the course of this review. However, as always the greatest effort is taken to maintain an objective point of view. For another review on Austen Heller shoes please refer to The Shoe Snob.