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.
Spier & Mackay, one of my favorite brands featured here on Dappered, recently released their new more-budget-friendly shoe collection featuring Blake Stitch construction. After reviewing their Goodyear welted cap-toes last year, I knew I had to check out this new collection. Spier regularly lands on Dappered’s “Best of” and “Most Wanted” lists, as they’re among the brands that honestly deliver well-made dress clothing while sticking to a budget. Many of us have relaxed our day-to-day styles to be more comfortable, but 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 look at Spier’s new cap toe Balmorals and see how they stack up.
No longer Goodyear welted and made in Portugal.
Now Blake Stitched and made in China. But also $70 less.
And they sure do look nice.
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: Spier & Mackay
- Style: Balmoral cap toe “Oxfords”
- Size: 10.5
- Last: N/A
- Construction: Blake stitched
- Upper: Full-grain leather
- Sole: Studded rubber
- Details: Wavy character line, nice leather lining, blind metal eyelets
- Extras: Velvet shoe bags, spare laces, and a plastic shoe horn
- Country of Origin: China
- Price: $178 USD
Unique stitching creates a very unique design to these sleek shoes.
My pair was ordered through Spier late one Thursday evening. They departed Caledon, ON, Canada on Friday via UPS Standard (with UPS Carbon Neutral!) and finally arrived on my doorstep the following Wednesday afternoon. Seeing as how the package had to cross through those terrible, awful, no-good, very bad Wolverine and Buckeye states on its way down to the Volunteer state, I’m surprised they even arrived at all! Only kidding. 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 U.S. and Canadian orders are eligible for the free returns and exchanges.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Easy ordering, quick shipping, and a fantastic “first time” return policy.
Somebody at Spier got the message about elevating the unboxing experience!
This pair arrived in a rather nice Spier & Mackay royal blue shoe box. Inside, each shoe arrived nestled in a very plush velvet shoe dust bag. Spier also included a spare set of round, waxed dress laces, a plastic shoe horn, and a lovely little S&M branded polishing cloth. Did someone at Spier & Mackay read my last review where I was a tiny bit critical of the unboxing experience and decide to improve upon it? Am I finally a brand influencer?! JOE, I MIGHT NEED A RAISE!
Editor’s Note: …uh…
Score: 5/5 Stars – Surprisingly nice for the price! Great shoe bags, decent accessories.
Fresh out of the box, I’m very intrigued by the softness of the leather upper. Inexpensive shoes, like those commonly found in big box mall retailers, typically feature leather that is hard and highly polished. While that might sound ideal, the leather tends to be a lower quality hide that has been heavily corrected – the tannery sands away any imperfections and follows that up with a heavy coat of pigmented chemical dye – in an effort to salvage a less than ideal slab of leather. That finishing layer of colored “drywall spackle” binds to the leather and evens out the surface grain, but tends to be a failure point. Over time, heavily corrected grain tends to crack or flake off. If you’ve ever had a cheap piece of “bonded leather” furniture, you’ve seen this happen over time. These Spier & Mackay cap toes are nothing like that. The leather is soft and supple, reminding me somewhat of a well-loved baseball glove. Spier says this leather is full-grain calfskin and it was sourced from a European tannery. I believe them; it feels great for the price.
The soft and forgiving leather uppers are immediately impressive.
Design wise, Spier’s shrewd design team went for a more modern, European look with a four eyelet lace closure and a two-line stitched cap toe that is draped over a tapered toe box. From the side, you’ll definitely notice the wave-like character line. Unlike wingtips or longwings, this stitched design starts at the throat and wraps around the quarters towards the back of the shoe before getting neatly tucked underneath the backstay. I’ve never seen this particular design before. I like it for its elegant simplicity. It stands out from the crowd without shouting.
These shoes contain metal shanks, which may not be ideal for frequent travelers who pass through TSA detectors often.
Peering inside, you’ll find a genuine leather lining from heel to toe. It’s soft and feels better than most other dress shoes that I’ve seen at this price tier. This is a huge advantage over competing Oxfords that use a cheap fiber or cloth lining. Leather tends to breathe better, feel nicer/more comfortable, and last longer than inexpensive textile linings. The non-removable, leather-topped sock liner feels comfortable, too. I’m a BIG fan of full length leather sock liners like these on Blake stitched shoes as they help hide the major stitching that runs along the inside of the shoe. Spier says there’s a cork filling underneath which will break in and mold to your feet in time, enhancing your fit and comfort. There’s also apparently a metal shank in there for durability and supportive rigidity. Note: If you’re a frequent airline business traveler, you might want to consider dress shoes with a wooden or fiberglass shank instead as a metal shank will typically set off the metal detectors. No one desires an enhanced TSA pat-down.
Studded rubber outsole for grip in less than ideal weather.
The outsole is a unique studded rubber sole unit that has the upscale aesthetic of an Oxford that uses a combination leather and rubber sole. Make no mistake, it’s all rubber, but it’s painted well enough to fool most people whose eyeballs are more than twelve inches away. Should you eventually wear through this rubber sole, odds are you’ll have to pivot to a more common rubber option (Dainite? Vibram?) as I doubt your local cobbler has these soles. Regardless, the Blake sole stitching is neatly done and hides well in the sole channel. Nice!
Score: 5/5 Stars – Pretty, pretty, pretty good! Leather is nice; the construction is good.
In terms of fit and sizing, I recommend trying your true-to-size Brannock measurement. I tried this pair in a 10.5 and they fit well out of the box with thin dress socks. The toe box does taper pretty aggressively forward of the ball or flex point, but for me, this is fine and they feel good. If you have a wider forefoot, need a wider width, or prefer thicker wool dress socks, you are probably out of luck with this pair. Maybe try a half size up from your normal size? Sorry!
The fairly aggressive taper to these oxfords may create a point of discomfort for guys with wider feet.
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!
Comfort is always subjective, but I found this pair to be notably comfortable right out of the box. I can’t see exactly what’s under the soft leather footbed, other than the foam and lasting board, but I’m impressed at how comfortable they feel on the initial trial run around the house. Unfortunately, I don’t have space in my shoe rotation to wear these long term to find out how well that comfort lasts. If one of you Dappered readers ends up with a pair, please let us know!
Score: 5/5 Stars – Sizing runs true to size and the initial comfort is pretty great!
Overall, I really like these formal-leaning Oxfords from Spier & Mackay. The leather feels great, they fit pretty well, and I like that they can be resoled by a knowledgeable local cobbler. I also think they look pretty great! The modern design and unique character beltline adds to an elegant, subtle flavor. For those of you in the market for new dress shoes for work or a social event and who might have a tighter budget for 2022 (or beyond), you should definitely check these out for yourself. If you do, let us know what you love and what you don’t. Cheers!
Avg. Score: 5/5 – For the price, these are definitely recommended. Good value for money.
Once again Spier & Mackay nails it.