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.
For a lot of guys, J.Crew is one of their go-to sources for modern business casual and smart casual style choices. Whether you need an elegant tuxedo for your wedding, a bold blazer for the office, or just some basic blue jeans for everyday wear, J.Crew has something for you from their in house brands or from one of the fantastic third-party vendors that they collaborate with.
Many of us still work in the office at least a few times a week. Personally, I’ve also had a handful of after hours work events over the past few months and we have some upcoming social events planned for the holidays, too. Each of those situations call for a slightly different dress code, and for me, a nice pair of shoes is the cornerstone of any good outfit.
J.Crew launched these Ludlow derbies back in August and they look pretty promising online. The black and dark brown color choices are versatile and the darker details help put these firmly in the slightly formal and dressier side of the business casual style range. They look like a fantastic choice for those after hours business meetings, a late Fall or early Winter wedding, or even the perfect pair of dress shoes for a New Years party. Let’s see how they stack up.
Yes. Those are shoes.
The simplicity is similar to Alden’s model 990 plain toe blucher.
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: J.Crew
- Style: Plain toe derby
- Size: 10.5
- Last: N/A
- Construction: Goodyear welted
- Upper: Italian leather
- Sole: Leather
- Details: Round laces, blind eyelets, and dark edge dressing
- Extras: N/A
- Country of Origin: India
- Price: $228
Blind metal eyelets reinforce the lace facings, and stitching is neat throughout the shoe.
This pair was pre-ordered via J.Crew’s website back in August with an estimated ship date of some time in mid to late September. They finally shipped out via UPS Ground on a Wednesday in mid October and were delivered on Friday of that same week. In today’s world of missed ship dates and international logistical nightmares, I’m not too upset with their delayed arrival. If I’m honest, I completely forgot about them and was surprised to see the tracking information hit my email one afternoon. With that said, I can definitely understand a consumer being upset if they ordered these for an important social or work event and they arrived weeks too late. Worst of all, though, was that J.Crew provided no updates during the extended backorder.
FYI: J.Crew offers a boilerplate 30 day return policy for all unworn merchandise. You’re on the hook for $7.50 if you want to use their prepaid label, but you can also drop items off in store.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Easy ordering online, slightly delayed delivery, but OK returns.
The box had seen better days, but included shoe bags were an unexpected bonus.
This pair arrived in J.Crew’s black budget-focused shoe box with minimal branding. It looks very similar to Banana Republic shoe boxes in that the cardboard is a bit thinner and the outer branding looks like something you’d find at DSW, not J.Crew. My particular box was already torn on two corners and was barely holding it together. We’ve all been there, though, right? Inside the box was more of this minimalism with barely anything to write home about. The shoes arrived wrapped in a single layer of tissue paper. J.Crew was nice enough to toss in two of their relatively nice shoe bags, but no spare laces. The unboxing experience wasn’t the best.
Score: 3/5 Stars – This box was falling apart, but at least they included shoe bags!
Fresh out of the box, this pair of Ludlow derbies reminds me a lot of the Alden model 990 plain toe blucher in Horween’s Color #8 Shell Cordovan. Both options slide towards the more formal side of the menswear range because they feature dark mahogany brown leather, darker welts and edge dressing, and minimal stitching details. Let’s not mince words – J.Crew has not delivered an exact replica or a well-made homage for less money (these are cow/calf leather, not Shell Cordovan), but the two designs do have more in common than you would think.
Not a ton of depth to the leather, but the dark mahogany brown dye is fully struck through.
The J.Crew Ludlow derbies feature a vegetable tanned Italian leather upper. It looks to be around 2-3 oz and the topside has a consistent color and a very smooth, slightly glossy finish. It’s hard to tell if this leather is naturally this smooth or if it has been shaved down and “corrected” to even out the surface. The color is fully struck through, which means the dye runs all the way out to the edges and you don’t see a lighter color peeking out where the panels meet. I will note that this leather doesn’t have a ton of depth, color variation, or character out of the box, but veg-tan leather does tend to develop a patina over time. This leather has a regular temper that’s similar to other J.Crew dress shoes, but feels soft enough that any break in period shouldn’t last more than a handful of outings. Due to the tannage and relative softness, this leather does look to wrinkle easily. However, these are micro wrinkles at the flex points and not those giant, unsightly creases that cheap shoes with super cheap leather tend to develop after a few wears.
The 360° leather storm welt is neatly done, and finished in a dark brown dressing to match the midsole and outsole edges.
The round, waxed laces are tonal to the upper leather and feel great in the hand. They also feel like just the right length for tying, which is an important detail that a lot of brands overlook! The blind metal eyelets reinforce the facings and help those laces glide through the holes. All of the stitching on the upper is also tonal and blends in well. The 360° leather storm welt is neatly done, finished in a dark brown dressing to match the midsole and outsole edges, and the two ends meet in an almost invisible joint. Around back, I especially like the way the heel stitching closure finishes in a little tab that wraps around towards the inside. That’s a neat little detail.
Curved heel stitch adds a little extra attention to detail.
The interior is a nice place to be as it is entirely lined in cow leather that feels soft to the touch. It is not quite as soft as what you would find on a pair of Rancourt or Quoddy mocs, but it is nicer than most other mall brand fashion-focused shoes. The insole is a thin to medium cut of vegetable tanned leather that will break in and mold to your feet in time. Once again, it is not as thick as something you would find from a brand like Grant Stone or Alden, but it is leagues better than the foam insoles you normally see and you are paying a lot less for these derbies. J.Crew says there is a layer of cork filler underneath, too, which is something you typically see on those higher quality boots and shoes. That cork layer and the layer of foam underneath the leather heel pad both add a bit of additional comfort out of the box. Speaking of the heel pad, it has the J.Crew house crest and Ludlow name hot stamped with gold foil. All in all, not bad!
The outsole looks to be vegetable tanned leather. The sole stitching is neatly finished and sits effortlessly in the channel that was carved out of the leather. The heel block looks to also be made from leather with the topper a combination of vegetable tanned leather and rubber. Personally, I really like the wheeling pattern along the edges of the stitch channel. This is a nice detail that adds some visual interest and texture to an otherwise flat and smooth leather sole.
Presumably vegetable tanned leather sole with the added detail of a wheeled pattern along the edges.
As this style leans to the formal side of the smart casual range, these derbies are best paired with outfits that incorporate dressier elements. Imagine a warm brown tweed blazer, a caramel brown merino wool crewneck sweater, and a white or light blue Oxford cloth button-down shirt tucked into a pair of well fitting darker blue jeans. This outfit has some elevated items arranged in layers, allowing you to add or remove as needed as your missions change throughout the day. For a more casual take, maybe for an afternoon coffee meetup or an early evening movie date, you could pair these shoes with a navy blue cable knit shawl-collar cardigan on top of the white or light blue Oxford cloth button-down shirt. That cardigan softens up the aesthetic a touch and adds a warming layer. Keep the jeans or swap them out for a pair of khaki chinos.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Overall looks and feels slightly above average for this price point.
In terms of fit and sizing, I recommend trying a half-size up from your true-to-size Brannock measurement. I tried this pair in a 10.5 and the last feels like a boxy cut sweatshirt in that they’re a little too short, a little too wide in the midfoot, but tight at the heel and toe. I think sizing up a half-size would be the right call to get the correct length (for me anyways).
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!
With a combination of a soft upper, glove soft leather lining,
and an insole covering a cork sole, these should mold to your feet.
Comfort is always subjective, but I can see that with the correct size, these will break in well after a few trips to the office. The leather upper is soft enough that it has plenty of give, the leather lining is almost glove soft and feels great, and the leather insole should break in, too. Unfortunately, I can’t see what’s underneath the leather insole but if we assume it’s a best case scenario with granulated cork and not foam, that should improve the long term comfort as the shoes break in and mold to your feet in time. Long term, you’ll probably need to resole these with a new leather outsole well before the upper leather or interior materials wear through.
Score: 4/5 Stars – These fit small, so size up a half-size. Comfort should be pretty good.
At the end of the day, J.Crew has delivered a decent pair of business casual dress shoes at a competitive price point. For under $230 delivered to your doorstep, you’ll be hard pressed to find a firsts-quality alternative that has better materials, construction, and comfort. Consider these the less fortunate man’s option if they love the look and feel of Alden or Grant Stone shoes, but they are working with a smaller budget. This pair from J.Crew has a very similar look and feel to those more expensive brands, for hundreds of dollars less. Are they cutting corners? Most assuredly, especially in the places we cannot see inside the shoes. Odds are you’ll find leather fiberboard or cloth there, but will that matter to the recent grad who only wears them twice a week for a year or two?
Also consider that these derbies may end up thrown into a 40% off end-of-season sale. They’ve been excluded so far, and maybe J. Crew’s promo team will hold fast to keeping them at MSRP, but it is J. Crew. At a 40% off price point, I think the value for your money jumps up a step or two and they become even more attractive for the casual user. I’d even be tempted to pick up a pair to keep at my office for those rare, last minute, out of the blue meetings with important customers where your athletic polo shirt, everyday blue jeans, and well-worn chukka boots just won’t cut it.
Avg. Score: 3.75/5 – For the price, these shoes are nice enough for the average Joe.
A solid alternative to Alden or Grant Stone for the guy looking to spend a little less.