“Next Level” is a series that highlights individual brands and/or products that are beyond the normal Dappered budget, yet many readers might have heard about. Like our monthly “The Reach” list, it is not the norm for Dappered, but something supplemental for those with growing budgets.
Editor’s Note: The specific boots featured in this post were part of a special group made-to-order purchase and are not available in stores or on Carmina’s website. More about the author, and the owner of said boots at the bottom of the post.
The boom of global e-commerce has made access to worldwide retail shops for men easier than ever. And with the help of social media and blogs, these shops are able to thrive in ways which would have been nearly impossible even as recent as five years ago. Mens shoes are no exception. So what happens when our careers finally allow for growing personal budgets toward higher end shoes? Enter Carmina Shoemaker.
A sleek boot in a mottled museum burgundy calf.
Carmina is a shoe manufacturer based in Spain and has been around for almost 150 years. All their shoes are Goodyear welted and they source their leather from the finest tanneries around the world, including shell cordovan from Horween in Chicago. Carmina controls every aspect of the production line. And with labor being more affordable in Spain than places like England, all of this makes for a luxury shoe that is competitively priced for their offerings.
The Ordering Process
Carmina recently reworked their online retail for an easier shopping experience. Before you can purchase any of their models you’ll need to first register for an account and provide your shipping details. Once registered, VAT tax will be automatically deducted from the listed price. Similar to Allen Edmonds, adding a specific shoe and size to your shopping cart will inform you whether or not the shoe is ready for immediate shipping or requires production (30 days). While the VAT deduction is 18%, be prepared for FedEx to hit you with an 8% customs fee two weeks after delivery. Shipping is free and delivery takes about 6 business days. Like most retailers across the pond you are on the hook for return shipping.
Chiseled toe and broguing details.
The model featured in this article is 80387 on Carmina’s Rain last. Not to be confused with a wingtip boot (think the letter W near the toe), these are considered a U-wing. The rich color of burgundy museum calf has a unique mottled effect which is quite subdued indoors, but really pops outside in the sun. The broguing and welt is very clean and the shape of the last lends itself to suiting duty, odd trousers with a sportcoat, and even dark colored denim. There’s a soft chisel on the toe that is aesthetically pleasing to the overall look of the boot.
Construction is extremely solid and is what you would expect for a $500 boot. That was not a typo and I’ll get back to pricing in a minute. The soles are made from the ever popular Dainite rubber which provides the needed grip and protection for winter weather. Leather soles would have provided an even higher measure of sleekness, but rubber will last significantly longer. Sizing on these is a 9.5UK. For reference, I wear a 10D in Allen Edmonds.
Dainite rubber sole. More durable than leather. Road bike not included.
Pricing. What you’re getting for the money.
Retail on these was $525. You’re probably thinking “Man that’s like a new iPad or 2100 chicken nuggets from Wendys.” True, the price might be a stretch for most budgets. So what’s the difference between a $500+ shoe versus a $300 shoe? For starters, the quality of leather will be softer, more durable, and take well to shoe polish. Simply put, the leather is far superior. And of course, the Goodyear welt allows the shoes to be resoled over and over again.
You might be thinking: “Well, Allen Edmonds offers quality leather and Goodyear welt for less.” And that’s completely fair. Allen Edmonds gets high praise for good reason. However let’s do a quick price comparison. Retail price for the Allen Edmonds Dalton boot is currently $425, and $465 if you opt for the V-tread sole. Meanwhile, a comparative ready-to-wear cap-toe boot from Carmina is about $455 (400 Euros). My specific pair of boots were a special order and included an extra made-to-order fee, but beyond that the price difference is only $30. For many, a lot of it will come down to styling and aesthetics. Carmina excels in the sleek department. But don’t forget, the leather is simply incredible, and the attention to details and craftsmanship is outstanding.
In the end, superb quality comes with a price. There is risk when ordering from overseas, since returns would be a hassle with a price tag. But with proper maintenance and care, shoes like these will last a lifetime, rather than having to replace a cheaper shoe more frequently. And when you look at it that way, many men will see the $500 investment as quite a bargain.
About the author: Patrick L.is a Chicago-based Information Technology administrator by day. On the weekend he shifts gears to wedding photographer, and makes his contributions to the world of style bloggers anytime in-between. Check out his photography site here.