Are there any great dress shoes out there that are not Good Year Welted, Hand Welted, Blake Stitched or something similar? Put a different way, are there any quality dress shoes that are of a glued or cemented construction? Conventional menswear knowledge would say no, there are not any. I tend to follow this school of thought. Although there are a number of brands that use a cemented construction along with quality materials to make their shoes, none of these shoes are regarded as a great. It is worth noting that if taken proper care of, some of the cemented shoes will last for years and wear well. But it’s just not the same. Cemented shoes with premium materials is almost like putting a Quartz movement in a solid gold watch. Sure, the time may be just as (if not more accurate) but you lose the character and heritage of the watch as well as much of the credibility and elegance. But I suppose there are exceptions to every rule.
Some time ago one of you (ie one of FYG’s readers) asked me about a shoe brand called Wolf & Shepherd (link). At the time I was unfamiliar with them, fortunately, a few months later I met the brand’s founder, Justin Schneider, at the MRket show. Justin and I spoke at length and I agreed to try the shoes on, and despite them being a cemented construction, I was impressed. Wolf & Shepherd’s shoes are not your ordinary cemented shoes. Think cemented on steroids with a plentiful side helping of comfortable. This is largely due to Wolf & Shepherd’s proprietary construction.
After talking, Justin and I decided it would be great for me to review the shoes so Wolf & Shepherd was nice enough to send me a pair of their Closer cap toe in Honey and Gambit double monk in Slate. If you’d rather watch a video of me discussing the shoes, check out below. Although the content in the video and written review are pretty similar there are unique points made in each so if you are really interested in the brand, please review both.
When designing the shoes, Justin wanted to make them light, flexible and comfortable. He swapped out the typical metal shank for one of carbon fiber and the typical leather or wood heel for one of EVA. The difference in weight when you first take the shoes out of the box and then when you first wear them is immediately apparent. For more detail, refer to the diagram below.
Wolf & Shepherd crafts their shoes in Portugal and sources their leather from Italy; lending to a nice pedigree. That said, the shoes are priced from $325-395. Which leads to the big question, how can you charge that much money for a pair of shoes that are not Good Year Welted of Blake stitched. Let’s take a closer look at the shoes to answer this question.
The Gambit double monk is a pretty classic double monk strap. I opted for the Slate grey version, which came out as a nice shade of grey which in the night sometimes comes off as black. Upon opening the box, I thought the toe was a little soft for my tastes, however, after wearing the shoes that sentiment has faded. For reference I wear a size 10.5 in the Gambit.
The Closer also has a nice shape. Although I usually prefer 5 eyelets to 4 on oxfords. From the overhead photos of both shoes you can see that you do not see the sole protrude beyond the upper, which would make sense because there is no stitching (or faux stitching); this leads to a clean look. For reference, I wear a size 10.0 in the Closer.
As part of Wolf & Shepherds proprietary design their shoes have a half rubber sole (yes, the brand can re-sole them for around $75). Which aids in traction and is also quite flexible. Because the soles are not stitched, the waist can be narrow, which gives way to a nice aesthetic from the side and bottom of the shoe.The finishing and QC on the shoes is well done. I did not note any major oversights on the QC front, which for a shoe at this price, I wouldn’t expect to find any. As previously noted, the leather is from Italy. It is quality leather, certainly on a level that you would expect for a $350 shoe; so far it has worn well, although I have only been wearing the shoes around for about 6 weeks. It is not an issue on the two pair that I have, but on some of Wolf & Shepherd’s shoes, particularly those that have a lighter color sole like their Honey colored shoes, The EVA heel and rubber sole remain black, which contrasts with the tan color of the rest of the sole. This is a look that I am not a fan of. But as I said, it is not a problem on the two pair of shoes that I have or with any of their darker color models.
After having the chance to wear each shoe a few times I think I have been able to get a good feel for the shoes. Of course, I cannot say how they will wear in year or five from now, but thus far, they have worn very well. Right out of the box they are very comfortable. Comfortably snug, but not tight at all. The memory foam insole lends a different feel to the bottom of the foot. At first it was weird because it was different, but once I realized what it was, the feeling was great. The memory foam insole also helps with foot fatigue and soreness as the day goes on.
Many of you will know what I speak of when I say that after a long day or night of being on my feet in leather soled dress shoes, the bottoms of my feet sometimes feel fatigued or at worst, like someone took a hammer to them. This has yet to happen when wearing Wolf & Shepherds shoes. That said, if you are someone who spends much of your day on your feet these shoes may be ideal for you. Personally, there have been a few days when I know that I am going to spend a lot of time on my feet so I have worn the Gambits or Closers. But for others of you, I realize that the shoes not being Good Year of Blake construction is a non-starter. However, if you do ever want to deviate from that school of thought, Wolf & Shepherd’s shoes may be your best options for a first foray to the other side.
If you have experience with Wolf & Shepherd’s shoes or have any questions, please hit up the comments below. Thank you for reading.