NOTE: And just like that, as of Wednesday 8/2, they’ve gone on sale for 30% – 40% off. Sale drops them to $148.80 – $173.60. You’ve got to be logged in to a J. Crew Passport Rewards club account though. Details and more picks over here. Promo expires Tuesday 8/8.
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.
J.Crew’s Ludlow line up is their dress-focused collection of suits, sport coats, dress shirts, ties, slacks, and shoes that are ideal for those morning work meetings and the after hours social events. Whether you’re getting married, attending a graduation party, bar hopping after a networking event, or even if you’re stuck on your fourteenth Zoom call of the day, J.Crew has you covered with a plethora of possibilities to help keep you looking stylish and feeling good.
Last year, we reviewed the Ludlow leather derbies as they looked to be an affordable choice to pair with a wide selection of smart casual clothes. At the time, they didn’t really knock our socks off but they looked to be a solid option. Now, J.Crew has launched a new version in a warm, buttery brown suede and they look to be an even better choice for those of us who prefer more casual styles. Let’s find out if these Ludlow suede derbies are any good.
Sure seems like an homage to Alden’s 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 US
- Last: N/A
- Construction: Goodyear Welted
- Upper: Suede
- Sole: Leather
- Details: Blind metal eyelets,
- Extras: Cloth shoe bags
- Country of Origin: India
- Price: $248 USD
Snuff suede is not as deep/dark as J. Crew shows on their website.
They continue to struggle with some of their photography.
Yet this shade still looks fantastic, and will pair well with earth tones and greens,
and of course will compliment blues.
This pair of suede derbies was ordered on a Monday afternoon via the J.Crew website. The J.Crew warehouse team in Lynchburg, VA picked, packed, and shipped this box the next business day and sent it out via UPS SurePost. That’s the service where UPS teams up with your local post office delivery team for that last mile stretch to residential addresses. My box was delivered on that Friday afternoon for a grand total of three days in transit. While this isn’t Amazon Prime next day service, it’s hard to argue against free shipping in today’s economy.
FYI: J.Crew has a solid 30 day return policy for all unworn, resellable merchandise, but if you wish to return by mail and use their label, they’ll deduct $7.50 from your return. Naturally, returns to a store are free if you happen to have a local brick and mortar location near you.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Shipping was OK, returns by mail will set you back $7.50.
J. Crew’s standard box, no spare laces, but a pair of shoe bags was included.
This pair arrived in J.Crew’s standard shoe box. Inside, each shoe was wrapped and stuffed with tissue paper to help prevent unwanted scuffs and scratches during transit. Thankfully, J.Crew was kind enough to toss in a pair of flannel-like cloth shoe bags for storage, too.
Minor Gripes: At a full $250 MSRP, I think J.Crew could do a bit better with the ancillary goods. At this price tier, you have some stiff competition and brands like Grant Stone offer a whole lot more value for your dollars, even if you’re paying a bit more up front. I’d like to see J.Crew include a spare set of these wimpy cotton laces and a suede brush, because you’ll need them. However, if we assume that we Dappered readers are frugal and will end up buying these Ludlow derbies after they hit the sale section for ~25-40% off, we can overlook these issues.
Score: 4/5 Stars – The unboxing experience was solid, but I’d like to see more at MSRP.
Fresh out of the box, these suede Ludlow derbies look fantastic. I spied a pair of these hitting the shelf at my local brick and mortar J.Crew store a few weeks ago and had to do a double take. As a self-admitted Alden fan, I thought J.Crew and Alden had teamed up for another superb collaboration that I had missed. On that second look, I realized that J.Crew’s in-house design team has created a really well executed homage to Alden’s infamous plain toe blucher. Side note: without getting too far into the nerdy design weeds, both examples are actually derbies that have open lacing and have two quarter panels that are sewn together at the heel.
Clean stitching throughout, and a Goodyear welt makes for easy repairs.
Design wise, the J.Crew Ludlow plain toe derbies represent a classic example of American versatility. While the plain toe design is simple and leans more formal than longwing brogues or wingtips, crafting them in suede takes them to a more casual realm and lets them bisect the formal and informal world more efficiently. Style wise, I find that shoes like these work really well with a “smart casual” style – pairing effortlessly with blazers and sport coats, twill dress shirts, and flat front slacks or chinos. A lot of us are dressing down and prefer more relaxed styles, too, so don’t be afraid to pair these with a crispy Oxford cloth or linen button-down shirt and denim.
Diving into the details a bit more, we can start with the suede itself. A close inspection reveals that it’s a split suede with flesh on both sides and dyed a wonderful shade of medium brown. This is a dead ringer for tobacco or snuff and pairs well with other earthy brown or green tones. The surface of the suede is fairly uniform and evenly colored. It has the right amount of texture; you can brush it one way to slightly darken the look, or brush it the other way to make it lighter. You’ll even notice that you’ll leave “fingerprints” in the suede as you handle the shoes, but those can simply be brushed out if you prefer to keep your shoes looking mint.
Nicely textured suede can go from dark to light depending on which way it’s brushed.
As far as component quality goes, this suede feels like it hits right in the middle of the road. It’s definitely on the thinner side but it doesn’t feel like a cheap, sueded fabric. Seeing as how it has flesh on both sides, a thicker leather lining was needed to keep it all bolted together. For an example of the opposite approach, my suede boots from Alden are also split suede but they use the top grain side facing in and the flesh side facing out. This is much more durable and higher quality, but that’s to be expected when you’re spending 2-3x more out of pocket!
These shoes have five blind, metal eyelets and come with some lightly waxed cotton laces. The length is correct, but the laces do feel slightly cheap as compared to those that come with Grant Stone, Allen Edmonds, or Alden shoes. If you want good replacements, I highly recommend laces from Guarded Goods. That’s what I prefer for most of my boots and shoes.
Full leather lining with a vegetable tanned leather insole.
Peering inside, you’ll notice that these Ludlow derbies are fully lined in cowhide leather from heel to toe. The foundation or frame of the shoe is a moderately thick vegetable tanned leather insole. Underneath, there’s a layer of granulated cork filling that’s inserted between the insole and the leather outsole that acts like a layer of cushioning and insulation. This leather and cork sandwich will work together to create a semi-custom fit as the shoes get worn in over time. I’ll note here that my specific pair had some excess glue and plastic wrapping visible from the inside; this stuff is usually trimmed away during the quality control checks at the factory.
Finally we get to the outsole where it’s as classic as it gets. J.Crew opted for a vegetable tanned leather outsole, a leather or leather fiberboard heel stack, and a combination leather and rubber dovetailed heel topper. Simple, elegant, and easy to repair as these shoes are Goodyear welted. The 360* leather storm welt looks the part and matches in color, too.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Overall, these are decent suede bluchers and will be very wearable.
The leather outsole is complimented by a combination leather/fiberboard heel stack.
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 size 10.5 and they felt a little too small – a half-size too short and a bit too narrow at the toe. Sizing up to an 11 should alleviate those issues, but those of you who need a wide width are probably going to be out of luck.
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 find well-fitting Oxfords and derbies like these to feel very comfortable. Long term, I expect the leather insoles, cork-bed filling, and leather outsoles to break in and mold to my feet, which should deliver some pretty decent support and comfort. While they’ll never be as comfortable or as bouncy as athletic shoes built around a stretchy knit upper and layers of shock absorbing foam, I suspect that most of us will be just as content with the traditional layers of leather and cork as our family and friends that came before us.
Score: 4/5 Stars – These derbies fit small, so size up. Comfort is on par with dress shoes.
A side by side suede comparison with Adam’s Alden boots.
Not as nice, but the Ludlow split suede is still pretty good for the price.
The J.Crew Ludlow suede derbies are a great option for guys who are looking for a versatile, relatively well-made shoe. They are crafted from quality suede and have a classic design that can be dressed up or down. The overall design and build quality is better than similar options from Cole Haan, but not quite as refined or dialed in as those from Grant Stone. Think of these like the more frugal man’s Alden PTB. Overall, the J.Crew Ludlow suede derbies are a great value for the price (on sale) and would be a solid addition to any man’s wardrobe. Cheers!
Avg. Score: 4/5 – Recommended! Stylish and versatile derbies for every man.