NOTE: Nordstrom put these on substantial sale for their Labor Day sales event. Not quite sure if this price expires at the end of the long weekend or not. Still ships and returns for free.
About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething salesman in the heating and manufacturing industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, denim, and working on his
dad bod father figure.
Nordstrom is among my favorite style destinations for men’s business and business casual clothes. They also offer a wide variety of styles from traditional preppy brands like Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers to edgier, alternative stuff from brands like All Saints and Saint Laurent. Best of all, Nordstrom has their eponymous house brand goods at significantly lower price points. For those of us on smaller clothing budgets, this is a huge win as the Nordstrom house brand stuff tends to be great value for your money. As a quick side note, I once wore a pair of Nordstrom’s Calibrate house brand Oxfords almost every work day for a year. As a newly minted young professional, it was simply the best thing that I could afford at that time.
Dressy dress shoes. Indeed.
If you’re fresh out of school, working with a limited clothing budget, or you’re in a last minute pinch and need a pair of formal dress shoes, Nordstrom should be your first stop. Today we’re looking at their budget friendly Denver medallion toe Oxfords. Are they worth the small investment or are Nordstrom’s shoe designers simply getting mile high on their own supply?
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.
- Brand: Nordstrom
- Style: Medallion toe oxfords
- Size: 10.5 D
- Last: N/A
- Construction: Glued/Bonwelted
- Upper: Full-grain leather
- Sole: Rubber dress
- Details: Ortholite non-removable footbed
- Extras: N/A
- Country of Origin: China
- Price: $99.95
The Burgundy Leather option is a rich shade closely resembling an aged cabernet.
My pair of Denver oxfords was ordered on a Friday via Nordstrom.com. They shipped out on the following Tuesday via FedEx Home Delivery (like UPS SmartPost) and arrived on my doorstep on that Thursday. All in all, not too bad for Nordstrom’s free standard shipping.
FYI: Nordstrom’s return policy is my gold standard by which all other return policies are judged. Nordstrom handles returns on a case by case basis and has a wonderful philosophy to deal with their customers fairly and reasonably. This means that there is no specific returns window or timeline; they just ask that you not abuse the system. If the shoes don’t fit, send them back.
Score: 5/5 Stars – You can’t complain about free shipping; returns are easily handled.
True oxford, closed-style lacing. Sleek.
This pair arrived in Nordstrom’s standard black shoe box. There’s nothing special here to report, but it does its job well. The shoes themselves were wrapped in a single layer of tissue paper and separated by a piece of cardboard to help minimize dents and dings in shipment.
There were no extra laces, shoe care products, or anything else of note inside either. At this sub-$100 price point, one shouldn’t expect these goodies as there’s not much margin there.
Score: 3/5 Stars – At this price point, everything is OK. Nothing to complain about.
Fresh out of the box, you’ll notice that the color of these Denver Oxfords is a rich shade of deep burgundy that closely resembles aged red wine like a Cabernet or a Merlot. This shade is extremely versatile and looks great paired with suiting in shades of navy blue, charcoal grey, mid-greys, and even browns and tans. Given the right shoe style (the Denver’s style is too dressy), denim is an option for this color too!
The elegant medallion helps them stand out, but quietly.
I’m not usually a fan of wholecut or plain toe Oxfords; they’re a touch too formal for my personal style and taste. However, the elegant medallion on the Denvers is well done and adds just enough zest to make these stand out in all the right ways. Make no mistake, these are still formal leaning Oxfords that are best worn with suits and formal leaning business casual wear (think sport coat, dress shirt, tie, and slacks). That medallion brogueing takes them down a half-notch and makes them a bit more versatile for your average Joe who needs a pair of dress shoes for a wedding, interview, or their entry level corporate job.
Clean stitching. Nice lines.
The leather upper looks to be decent, flexible, and should require little to no break in time. While this particular leather might not have been sourced from the world’s finest tanneries, you can tell that it’s smooth, well done, and decent enough for this price point. Unlike really cheap dress shoes, this full-grain leather’s surface isn’t overly corrected or polished to a plastic-like shine. It should accept some pigmented shoe cream or a wax polish well, should you want to adjust the shade or shine levels to your liking. Best of all, there’s no noxious chemical smell from the dye, glue, etc. that’s usually found with really cheap shoes. One negative note: the dye on the tongue has rubbed off from where it was rubbing against the back side of the facings. You don’t notice it until you unlace the shoes and attempt to put them on. A minor gripe here.
Full grain uppers. NOT plasticky or over-corrected.
Flexible. Should require little to no break in time.
The upper’s stitching is neat and tidy throughout and I appreciate how symmetrical the toe medallion was punched. The round laces are lightly waxed and flow through the five metal-backed blind eyelet facings with ease. They’re a great length, too. No one likes laces that are a foot too short or a foot too long! You can easily swap these out for other colors, too.
On the inside, you’ll see a paired down leather interior with a simple OrthoLite cushioned footbed. The shoes are 75% lined in leather with the 25% being fabric on the “roof” of the toe box. Fabrics like this tend to be more breathable than veg-tan leather, but it certainly won’t last as long. If you’re a regular Dappered reader, there is no doubt that you’ve seen the OrthoLite name before. It seems as if most budget focused brands are turning to the Massachusetts maker who specializes in open-cell foam insoles, amongst other things. OrthoLite insoles are known to be more lightweight, more breathable, and more comfortable out of the box than traditional veg-tan leather insoles backed with leather, cork, or foam. These particular insoles are glued to the lasting board and are not removable without causing damage to them. Oops.
Likely not a replaceable outsole, but they should hopefully take plenty of wear.
The outsole is a two-tone molded rubber unit that imitates a rubber and leather combo sole. The front half does feature some decent traction grooves, but don’t be fooled into thinking this sole is anything more than basic. It’s simply glued, or bondwelted, to the upper assembly and probably cannot be easily replaced. If you manage to wear these enough to burn through the outsole, then congratulations are in order as you’ve definitely collected your money’s worth.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Not bad! Decent materials and construction for the price point.
In terms of fit and sizing, I recommend trying your true-to-size Brannock measurement. I tried this pair in a 10.5 (medium D width) and they feel spot on for size. That long and tapering toe box provides ample space for my phalanges with dress socks, but you’ll be out of luck if you prefer to wear thicker socks or typically need wider widths.
For size reference, I am a 10.5 D/E on a Brannock device and usually take a 10 D in most roomy 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 Converse/Vans and an 11 in most athletic sneakers from Adidas or Nike. Have a size question? Email us!
Springy and comfortable Ortholite footbeds, but they’re glued down so you can’t remove them.
Comfort is always subjective, but these feel really great right out of the box. Yes, what you’re feeling is the squishy foam from the Ortholite footbeds/insoles, but it feels surprisingly springy and comfortable – notably more so than some other mall-brand dress shoes (I’m looking at you, Banana Republic). This foam does tend to collapse or flatten out in time, so if you plan on wearing these Oxfords a lot, just keep that in mind. All in all, surprisingly comfortable!
Score: 5/5 Stars – Fits true to size and initial comfort is great!
Wrapping things up, I’m pretty happy with the overall look, fit, and feel of the Denver medallion toe Oxfords from Nordstrom. For a pair of formal dress shoes that retail for under a hundred bucks, they were surprisingly nice and comfortable. Sure, the leather may not be as good as something from Grant Stone or Allen Edmonds. Yes, that Ortholite foam insole will eventually collapse like Ferrari’s F1 championship hopes. No, you probably can’t resole these if you manage to wear through that rubber sole. These are all known risks that come with dress shoes in this price range. However, I think this pair is among the best you’ll find for the price. If you’re on a budget and need a pair of formal Oxfords, try ‘em and let us know what you think!
Avg. Score: 4.25/5 – A pretty decent formal dress shoe for those on a tight budget. Yes!
These oxfords more than live up to their very affordable price.