About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething salesman in the HVAC and hydronics industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, raw denim, and working on his
dad bod father figure.
Spier & Mackay, one of my favorite brands featured here on Dappered, recently released their new brogue cap-toe Balmorals. After reviewing their more formal plain cap-toes back in the Fall, I knew I had to check out this new design. S&M regularly lands on Dappered’s “Best of” and “Most Wanted” lists, as they’re among the best brands that deliver well-made dress clothing while sticking to a budget. While many of us have relaxed our day-to-day clothes to be more comfortable, some of us still want to wear (or need to wear) more formal styles for work including suits, sport coats/blazers, slacks, and dress shoes. Let’s take a quick look at Spier’s new brogue cap-toe Oxfords and see how they stack up!
No faux burnishing and a formal leaning silhouette.
The Adam Review Scale of Excellence (A.R.S.E.)
- 5 – Excellent! No issues and highly recommended.
- 4 – Good. Above average, but not perfect.
- 3 – Average. Minor issues, might be good at the right price.
- 2 – Fair. Below average due to defects, flaws, or imperfections.
- 1 – Poor. Significant issues, not worth purchasing at any price.
Direct sunlight brings out the red undertones.
- Brand: Spier & Mackay
- Style: Brogued Cap-Toe Balmorals
- Size: 10.5 D US (~44 EU)
- Last: N/A
- Construction: 270° Goodyear Flat Welt
- Upper: Full grain box calf leather from Weinheimer (Germany)
- Lining: Calf leather
- Sole: Open channel leather sole with a nailed leather and rubber combo heel
- Details: Blind eyelets, vegetable tanned leather insole, and cork filled midsole
- Extras: One shoe bag and a plastic shoe horn
- Country of Origin: Portugal
- Price: $248 USD
Clean broguing and stitching.
My pair of dark brown Balmorals was ordered on a Monday and they arrived on my doorstep that Friday via UPS Ground. I was actually surprised that my pair arrived so quickly, seeing as how they shipped from The Great White North of Ontario, Canada. Five business days is the standard, so no complaints here.
FYI: Spier & Mackay offers a simple 30-day return policy for all regular priced items in good condition. If it’s your first pair of shoes or sport coat/suit, the return or exchange is totally free. Note that only USA and Canada orders are eligible for the free returns and exchanges.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Easy ordering and a helpful 30-day return policy.
Simple box that contains the shoes, plastic shoe horn, and one large shoe bag.
My pair arrived in a clean, simply branded recycled cardboard box. It’s not the most magnificent unboxing experience or anything, but it’s completely serviceable. Inside the box I found a classic sized, plastic tortoiseshell shoe horn and a single, lonely cotton/flax shoe bag that’s large enough for the pair. While I do prefer individual shoe bags so that the shoes don’t dent and ding each other, one shoe bag is better than nothing. I would love to see an extra pair of laces included at this price point.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Throw in some spare laces and another shoe bag, please!
Fresh out of the box, I’m a BIG fan of this dark brown, almost burgundy color that Spier used for these gorgeous Balmorals. It’s super versatile and I can see these being worn with various shades of blues, greys, and even lighter browns. There’s no faux burnishing like a lot of other brands use, but there’s a bit of depth to the color dye job without looking too plain. This German calf leather from Weinheimer has a tight grain structure, so creasing over the years should remain fairly crisp. The quarter brogue style is well executed with accurately punched holes, even stitching throughout, and a lovely little toe puff underneath the plain toe to help give it some character without going full semi-brogue like the Allen Edmonds Strand.
Classic toe shape and a tapered waist.
The overall silhouette definitely leans more formal than casual, so it would be best to wear these Bals with suits, dress slacks, dressy chinos, or even dark denim when paired with a sport shirt and sportcoat. The five eyelet design and tonal, round waxed laces help to achieve this more dress oriented aesthetic. If you wanted to spice them up a bit, you could easily swap out these laces for a pair with a pop of color. The blind eyelets are backed with antiqued brass metal, making the laces slide freely like butter.
Full calf leather lining, with a smartly tacked tongue. No sliding around here.
On the inside, we have full calf leather linings and moderately thick vegetable tanned leather insoles. Each shoe also has a neatly stamped heel pad with some thin cushioning underneath for some out of the box heel support. While you can’t see it, there’s a layer of cork underneath that insole that helps to comfort, protect, and insulate your foot from the hard ground. S&M neatly tacks the tongue to one side of the upper with a small tab of leather. This is one of my favorite features and helps to prevent the tongue from sliding around on you. Finally, there’s a smooth patch of suede or roughout leather at the heel to keep your heel locked into the heel cup. Like our friends at Grant Stone, S&M shifts the stitching seams at the heel around a bit to prevent hot spots and chafing. This little touch shows that they’re paying attention.
Hiding under that insole is a layer of cork for comfort.
Flipping the shoes over brings the dyed full leather soles to your attention. You’ll also notice that there’s a bit of a tapered waist, more than anything I’ve seen from the American counterparts. It’s subtle, but it looks and feels nice. The Goodyear welt stitching is neatly done and mostly sits within the open channel running 270° along the perimeter. The leather and rubber combo heel stack is nailed into the shoe with ten copper nails, helping to secure the heel more than hopes and prayers and just a bit of glue. Finally, the edge and welt finishing are done in a dark brown shade in line with the more formal aesthetic.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Great! High quality materials, craftsmanship, and design details.
Comfort, Fit, and Sizing
Comfort is always subjective, but these feel pretty good overall right out of the box. The upper leather is certainly stiff, so expect to use the included shoe horn for the first handful of wears out of, or around the house. Overall, the leather lining and vegetable tanned leather insoles are firm but supportive. I imagine these will break in very well with some dedicated time. I do notice some slight pressure on my taller-than-average arches, but nothing that won’t go away with said break-in time.
Heels secured with more than hopes and prayers and glue.
Size wise, I recommend you go True To Size for your Brannock measurement. This pair in 10.5 D fit my 10.5 D/E feet very well, and I don’t suggest sizing down unless you’re in between sizes already. There’s about a half-inch or so of room in front of my toes, but no heel slip. If you’re an Allen Edmonds fan, go with your Park Avenue or Strand size as these feel very similar, in my opinion.
For reference, I am a 10.5 D/E on a Brannock device and usually take a 10 D in wider-fitting dress shoes, including Alden’s Barrie last and Grant Stone’s Leo last. I take a 10.5 E in Allen Edmonds 65 last, as that last runs too narrow for me. I also take a 10.5 in Vans and an 11 in most Adidas or Nike sneakers.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Fits true to size. Pretty stiff out of the box, but should soften up in time.
If you’re in the market for a pair of stylish Balmorals (Oxfords) to pair with your suits and formal-leaning sport coats, then you should definitely check out Spier & Mackay’s version of the slightly less formal Fifth Avenue or Strand. The higher vamp and 5-eyelet closure give this pair a subtle European flair while the choice German calf leather and Goodyear welt construction bring high quality components and construction to a price point that’s hard to beat. Check them out and let us know what you think!
Avg. Score: 4.5/5 Stars – Spier & Mackay continues to offer excellent dress shoes at a great price point.