In Review: Drop / Massdrop Carmina Oxfords – $350* FINAL ($500)
*NOTE: Massdrop doesn’t run these in perpetuity. On original publishing date, they aren’t currently available. Also know that there’s often a long lead time between plunking down the cash, and getting your shoes. That’s how Drop works. Money first, then they make the things, then they send you the things.
As Dappered’s resident shoe snob, I recently found myself oddly melancholy as I boxed up my favorite pair of Allen Edmonds Strands and sent them off for a new sole. The AE recrafting process is estimated to take 4-6 weeks. Thankfully, just as I had finished addressing the box my Strands were in for their return “home,” the flame of a new fling was sparked. The doorbell rang, and this beautiful pair of Drop x Carmina Semi-Brogue Oxfords was in my hands.
Oh. Hello there.
- Brand: Carmina
- Style: Semi-Brogue Oxford
- Last: Rain
- Construction: Goodyear Welt
- Leather: Tannerie D’Annonay French calfskin in marron (brown)
- Sole: Channeled, beveled, oak bark–tanned sole from Joh. Rendenbach Jr.
- Details: Hidden metal eyelets, cork/ground leather filler, and a brass nail-reinforced toe and heel
- Also ships with a pair of cedar or beechwood shoe trees
- Country of Origin: Spain
- Price: $350 USD*
*Note: Drop sent this sample pair for testing and evaluation at no charge. Joe said if we could get an address for their offices, we’d have to send them back. On Dappered’s dime no less. Because, no freebies. And we got the address. So I did send them back. Bummer.
Drop, the website formerly known as Massdrop, is a unique company that uses data and customer insights from enthusiast communities to offer bulk buy discounts on a wide variety of products ranging from electronics and outdoor equipment to apparel and shoes. They also regularly team up with well-known brands like Naked & Famous, Darn Tough, and Allen Edmonds to offer special pricing on one-off models for their enthusiast communities.
See that nifty engraving? Massdrop helped make ’em.
Just like Costco offers you bulk buy deals on Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and boxer briefs, Drop offers discounts based on how many units it can sell. Due to this unique ordering process, most orders through Drop are final sale. For ink pens or headphones, this isn’t such a huge issue. However, when you’re dealing with shoes or clothing, it’s much easier to order the wrong size if you’re not familiar with that brand.
With this in mind, starting January 1, 2019, US customers will get free returns and exchanges on select Drop-branded apparel and accessories. Make sure you pay close attention to the details of the item you’re interested in prior to ordering. I’m pretty sure these were final sale during the last go-round.
This sample pair of the Drop x Carmina Semi-Brogue Oxfords was ordered and shipped on a Wednesday. They arrived on my doorstep the following Wednesday. To be frank, this sort of delivery time frame is practically unheard of from Drop; most product runs can take weeks or even months to be manufactured, shipped, and finally delivered. For reference, I’ve personally used Drop over eleven times prior to this review and most of my orders averaged just shy of a month from order to final delivery. Patience is a virtue. Be prepared to wait!
Like James Bond pulling up in his sleek Aston Martin, the Carmina Oxfords arrived in a surprisingly luxurious burgundy cardboard box with gold foil lettering.
These shoes have a very nice “ride.”
After popping the hood, you’re greeted with the shoe snob’s version of designer lingerie – lasted twin-tube cedar shoe trees, red cotton flannel shoe bags, spare waxed cotton laces, and some of the most beautiful shoes I’ve ever seen. Bravo, Carmina.
Even the shoe trees look great.
Right off the bat, my wife and I are both taken aback with just how gorgeous these shoes are. The calfskin leather upper is crisp and firm with no visible defects such as loose grain. The punched brogueing, stitching, and staining/dye work are almost flawless with only a few very minor flaws. The left shoe has some excess dye at the toe near the welt and the right shoe has a leather “planchet” from the brogueing still in place. Only the pickiest of shoe snobs would notice or care.
I repeat: Wow.
The Joh. Rendenbach Jr. oak bark-tanned leather soles are world renowned for being super durable. I’d wager half of my shoes have a JR double leather sole and I’ve only needed to resole one pair over years of regular wear and tear. Carmina takes it a few steps further by channeling and beveling the soles. Closed channel soles are not only beautiful to look at, but they’re arguably functionally better than open channel soles as the stitching is better shielded from water damage and debris.
Closed channel sole.
Imagine Luke Skywalker flying his X-Wing fighter through the gulch on the first Death Star. Had the gulch been covered, Luke couldn’t have shot those proton torpedoes into the reactor core’s exhaust vent! Finally, brass nails structurally reinforce the heel and toe layers.
Fit, Sizing, and Comfort
The Rain last is a fairly sleek, slightly narrow fitting dress shoe last. It features a snug heel, slightly wider toe box, and a subtly squared-off toe. Carmina, Drop, and most shoe nerds agree that you should try one full size down from your US dress shoe size. For example, a size 9.5EE UK feels somewhere in between a 10 and 10.5 in Allen Edmond’s 65 lasted shoes.
For reference: I am a 10.5 D/E on a Brannock device and usually take a 10D in most dress shoes, including Alden’s Barrie last and Grant Stone’s Leo last. I take a 10.5E in the Allen Edmonds 65 last, as that last runs too narrow for me. I also take an 11 in most Adidas or Nike sneakers.
Last is sleek, and fits slightly narrow.
Those with wider fittings or high arches (like me) may feel slightly cramped in these. I did notice that the laced “throat” wasn’t closing as tight as I’m used to with Oxfords, even with thinner than usual socks, but I chalk that up to my high arches and these being new shoes with very firm leather. I would recommend a few days of wear around the house for the leather insole and cork filling to break in and mold to your feet before they’re “all day wear” comfortable.
Those with wider fittings or high arches may feel slightly cramped.
Speaking of comfort, it’s entirely subjective. While this pair of Oxfords is probably on the smaller side for me personally, especially around the arches, I’d say that given a few days of break in, they should conform to your feet and feel much more comfortable. The leather lining and insole are top notch.
I highly recommend you look into this pair of Carmina Oxfords. If you’re looking for a beautiful pair of shoes in the $300-$400 ballpark, don’t mind waiting a while for a deal, and intimately know your dress shoe sizing, I’d encourage you to buy them through Drop. For roughly $350, I don’t know of ANY other shoes that can meet or exceed what you get from Carmina.
Avg. Score: 4.75/5.00
About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething Technical Trainer in the heating and manufacturing industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, and raw denim. He’s also a new dad!