In this special installment of our review series on menswear items, we’re examining the best men’s dress shoes under $300 that we thought were worth reviewing, in addition to a few brands that our readers asked us to review. Read on for our thoughts on what brands are worth their prices!
Our Reviews of Men’s Dress Shoes, $100 to $300
First, a few notes. We didn’t consider shoes from brands like Cole Haan, Johnston & Murphy, or Florsheim; not only are they of too low a level of quality from what we’ve seen, but their discount level prices often reflect this. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for! We also reached out to Thursday Boots, Charles Tyrwhitt, Royal Republiq, Herring, Barker, Bexley, and Finsbury, but we didn’t hear back from them at all. Most importantly: we were not paid to review these shoe brands, so we’re discussing our most honest opinions, in a video that’s 100% unsponsored. While our opinions are ultimately subjective, we’ve tried to be as objective as possible in our criteria and evaluations.
1. Beckett Simonon Shoes
Beckett Simonon is a fairly popular shoe and it’s reviewed often in the menswear space, and we got two pairs from them to review. For the craftmanship, we think that they are generally pretty solid. We didn’t see flagrant errors with the stitching or how the sole was attached to the rest of the shoe, except for the way that they selected the leather and sewed it together. Our impression is that there wasn’t the utmost degree of care.
In terms of comfort, we think that the new last (made in Colombia) is a lot more comfortable than the old one (from Portugal) just because of the extra room. Overall, we think that the leather is softer than some other brands–kind of in the middle as it’s not really soft, it’s not super hard, but maybe like medium-stiff as we would describe. With the lack of attention to detail, the different colors, we gave the Durant a 2-star rating while for the Dean we gave it a 3 out of 5.
Of course, we are different people so we value things differently but we just want to share what our experiences were. We tested them independently and then we compared our notes so we can give you a little more insights.
2. Taft Shoes
Taft is trying to differentiate itself in the menswear space. They are doing a lot more with these shoes in fabrics that have bolder patterns or colored and that kind of a thing. If you are more in the market for that kind of fashion-forward look, they may be an option for you.
The Russel in London, which, as of 2020, this model is no longer stocked at $235, which is pretty bold. The cost per wear is kind of high as it’s not something we’d wear often. Also at $235 is the Beck in kind of a tanned color they refer to as burnt honey, which is definitely unique — lots of different subtle shading around the shoe. Overall, the workmanship is solid but we would say unremarkable. We give a 2.5 to 3 stars for the Beck while 2 out of 5 for the Russel in London.
3. Loake Shoes
Loake has a lot of classic shapes and lasts, a lot of business shoes that you can wear–brown or black shoes and even their boots. Their suedes have very nice touch–kind of a short nap, they’re not too soft but they’re also not super stiff. Their regular calf leathers are maybe a little stiffer. In terms of workmanship, they’re made in England, and as such, they are Goodyear welted which is like a standard over there; they don’t really do Blake construction.
Their 1880 Series boots are calf leather and have good quality. It’s not the best leather in the world and it’s not also crappy leather, but it is somewhere in a medium segment. The Eton Penny Loafer we got is an olive green, but it is also available in other colors for $240. It has very traditional English styling or last shape which helps to offset that by choosing to get a slightly bolder color and we thought it was advantageous. The stitching was nice and even. The construction was very high quality all around.
We give the Eton Penny Loafer and the 1880 Series a 3.5 considering the comfort factor that the height of the side of the shoe here was rubbing a little bit. If we were to discount those fit issues given how nice the constructions are, how nice the looks are, maybe could have gotten up to 4 out of 5 or even higher!
4. Moral Code Shoes
Some of the models on the Moral Code website are a little bit fashion-forward; they’re kind of a more modern brand, but we picked the more classically inspired models. It’s made in India, which could be a good source of leather, but the tannery is maybe not up to snuff compared to like Italian, English, or German or French tanneries.
The Brayson Loafer is priced at $170, made from stiff calf leather. It’s more of a classic, round-lasted loafer, which we think is something a grandpa would wear– contrary to how it’s advertised. The Holden in cognac color, which is at $198 is a wingtip derby shoe with broguing. The holes are huge and there’s no medallion, which could have made the shoe unique. Both models we got are quite shiny, which can seem cheap.
Overall, $170 for a Goodyear welted shoe, all leather although it’s a little stiff but in terms of comfort, it works for your foot so we give it a 3 out of 5 for both shoes. It was a fairly decent value for what you are getting.
5. Scarosso Shoes
Next up is Scarosso, a German brand but made in Italy. Just like most Italian brands, they have Blake construction. The Raimondo Sigaro Scamosciato, priced at $245 ($225 as of 2020), is a tobacco brown loafer. The toe was a bit square, which makes it unique. The Andrea Moro, price is $295 ($325 as of 2020), has a woven leather which not many brands offer, making it quite unusual. Overall, their loafers are nice and comfortable enough for summer.
We give 4 stars for all of their loafers. They are just nice and what we would want is a summer elegant loafer that is comfortable. Both were great shoe options. The fit was not 100% as there were some slight construction issues with the sole coming apart.
6. Velasca Shoes
Velasca, an Italian brand, was founded in Milan. The shoes, however, are made in the town of Marquette. It’s like a city that makes a lot of shoes and so most of the Italian-made shoes we review probably all come from the same town. They sent us multiple shoes, which examine here.
The Garzon (formerly Verduratt) is a single strap monk shoe. It’s a nice, sort of understated dependable shoe, and the color we have is black, which is quite conservative, and not too flashy. The Ost, which is a loafer with a very kind of flexible construction It almost seems almost like a slipper with a hard sole. The Cavadent is a calf suede and they made it waterproof.
We give the Cavadent a 4 out of 5 because it’s a very traditional style, you can wear them a lot. If you’re starting out, don’t want to spend much money and you want a conservative style, Velasca shoes are good. For the Garzon, we give it a 3.5 for those fit concerns while for the Ost, we give it a 3 out of 5 the fact that the fit was lacking as well.
7. Undandy Shoes
Undandy is another brand that is in direct-to-consumer type of space and they’re trying to differentiate themselves by doing a fully customizable model. You go on to their website and you can build a shoe from scratch. Usually, this kind of made to order program is something you see with more expensive brands. We designed shoes in different styles, colors, and lasts. They have a couple of options, which is really fantastic, but they just have some more way to go and any other workmanship attention to detail.
First, we chose the Undandy 31 Last, a conservative style and a smaller, more rounded toe, that we rank as high as 4 stars out of 5. The second one is the Undandy 15 Last; it’s a much more chiseled model in suede and we give it 3 and a half stars. Check out more about the shoes we built and our experience with them in this video here.
8. Meermin Shoes
Meermin is a Spanish shoe brand founded by third and fourth generation shoemakers of the Albaladejo family from Mallorca. They have a very high-end production. It’s not cheap by any means. They have heritage, nice styling, beautiful leathers, and great construction. This brand is fairly popular across the menswear space. Overall, their shoes look more expensive than they are.
We have, from their higher-end line, the model called Linea Maestro, which starts from $290 and goes up to $320, so slightly above $300, but it’s close that we still included them in this review. It’s hand-welted, which makes it very interesting as such aren’t usually found in this price category. Another model we have is a brown suede penny loafer at $175, which is a Goodyear welted shoe. Let’s examine both!
The Linea Maestro is slightly stiffer shoe but with a little bit of break-in. We think it’s a great companion. It has a unique style where there’s no cap toe in the Oxford and kind of slightly rounded last. It’s timeless yet elegant. Overall, we are really impressed that a shoe in this price range can be that good so we give it a 4.75! For the penny loafer, we give it a 4 out of 5 as there was a little bit of sliding on the foot that we don’t think could be accommodated by a tongue pad. There were also a few little construction things that were less than perfect.
9. Strange Island Shoes
These Strange Island oxford shoes, made in Italy, were some of the most expensive ones we looked at, and as the name implies they’re actually quite strange. It has some fabric, which makes it a very loud shoe, and much more with the red laces! They’re not exactly a classic menswear dress shoe, but are they worth it? Find out why, even though they’ll make you stand out, we rate it at just 1 to 2.5 stars!
10. Ace Marks Shoes
Lastly here, we have Ace Marks shoes, made in Italy. The brand began on Kickstarter, and while we’ve worked with them in the past, our review here today is entirely our own opinion. Our first impression is their patinas are nice. Plus, they added some handwork to it. It’s very Italian-style, as it’s elongated, and still rounded at the tip. They stand out in a way and what they really focus on is that it’s soft and it doesn’t require any breaking time.
The first pair we look into is a hand-painted mode–a whole-cut Oxford, which was pretty decent. We rank it a 4 out of 5. Another pair we have are out-of-the-box Italian style. The leather is box calf that’s on the medium scale between softness and stiffness, which we rank as a 3.5-star shoe.
As mentioned, we’ve worked with Ace Marks before, so on top of the shoes in this price range, we also share our experiences with their higher-end footwear that’s in our collection.
We hope you found this video helpful. We certainly spent a lot of time wearing the shoes, testing them, figuring out the differences! Overall, we think our winner of this whole test was Meermin (in terms of workmanship and styling details). Of course, it would still depend on what you want; for example, if you want cool loafers, then maybe Scarosso is a good brand. If you want oxfords or derbies, perhaps try Meermin or Ace Marks. It’s up to you!