Very helpful review. For your last point, they have shoe trees but for some reason they're not on the website. Shoot them an email and they'll send you some. Charged me $35 USD. Not sure about about shipping though if ordering alone - I had them add it to an open orderGot the shoes: (not so) brief review.
- Packaging is standard, shoebox, paper thingy inside shoes. No spare set of laces.
- Shoes look very close to the visuals shown on the website.
- Leather shows some "markings" or creases that highlight where the heel stiffeners are. Overall, the 'marks' I see on the leather seem to be natural, and not defects like veins or 'hollow' leather that I've seen on Berluti for instance.
- Welt shows some 'imperfections': to me that shows it was handwelted and that the the tool used to make the indentations to mark the stitch distance was hand-applied.
- The strip of leather hiding the back-seam on one of the shoes could have been finished better.
- Inner lining with no obvious faults, simple design.
- Outsole with closed-stitch was done well. I've seen companies sort of mess up where you could see the lip of leather that was glued back. Not here.
- Some original design choices: lots of toe spring, and the eyelets further apart than any of my other shoes.
Overall I'd give the shoe an 8-9/10 discounting price (there's no competition if you factor in the price). The leather is better than my 780€ Goodyear Santoni shoes, but seems a bit below my Edward Green MTO/John Lobb Prestige which cost double the amount of my Santonis. That being said, it's subjective and could be from the type of leather or the fact that this was handlasted, and therefore the leather on my Archibalds could have been subject to more pulling motions or what not. Not qualified to say for sure. It's obviously full-grain calfskin though, and resembles Annonay Vocalou Aniline calfskin.
Things to improve (maybe):
- Product is advertised as artisanal. Yet not an individualized marking on the outsole or the inner lining. Santoni's founder signs his limited edition handwelted shoes, but no need to even go that far, just a scribble indicating the last, size, etc. My Archibalds have nothing written on the inside except the embossing on the insole.
- Things to maybe add to the packaging: spare set of laces (i got round-ish laces, maybe the spare could be flatter), or maybe a piece of cloth like Edward Green does. I don't know about including a plastic shoehorn. Things to consider maybe. A wooden box like Stefano/Mario Bemer is overkill imho.
- Some brands include a piece of paper on their high-tier shoes saying "This shoe was made/inspected by [signature or initials]", seems easy enough to do.
- Fancier outsole design. The current design is simple, like Lobb Saint-James, or Vass or what not.
I wish I had a pair of Vass/Bonafé/Meccariello to comparé, as these are the closest handwelted competitors, albeit more expensive (700-1000€ as opposed to 450€). My feeling is that Meccariello for double the price might offer a cleaner finish, but the value of these Archibalds seems unbeatable for a Western European product.
- inner lining writing and extra laces/cloth can be added at minimal cost.
- a more 'premium' product could be designed, perhaps on a made to order basis, which would include a waist where the welt disappears (forgot the technical term), which is a staple of super high-end shoes. . I don't know how much more handiwork goes into this as opposed to the shoes I got. Maybe double. Having an idea of the price would be nice, since transparency is what you guys are about.
- possibility of add-ons like metal toe taps and rubber topys: doesn't affect me, I live in a city with many talented cobblers. Could be of high value to people who live in remote places though.
- selling shoe trees: not necessarily lasted though, as that could be expensive.