J.Crew Ludlow Cap Toe Leather Oxfords – $173.60 w/ SHOPNOW ($248)
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.
Pricing Note: J. Crew just put these on sale for 30% off with that SHOPNOW code. They’ll drop even further if you have or create an account with them. Members when logged in should see a 40% offer at checkout on these oxfords. That’ll drop them to $148.80. Promo is scheduled to end Wednesday 9/20/23.
We are about to enter peak wedding season as late summer and early fall are by far the most popular times of the year to get married. It’s also one of the busiest times of the year for family get-togethers, school events, and other social gatherings where one might need to dress up a bit. It might be time to take a closer look at your formal footwear and evaluate whether or not it’s time to upgrade your entry level Oxfords to something nicer. Today we’re taking a look at J.Crew’s latest Ludlow oxfords and we’re going to see if they’re lemons or worth the squeeze.
Shoes that look all business.
(…with a splash of single barrel bourbon in the background)
The Adam Review Scale of Excellence (A.R.S.E.)
- 5 – Outstanding! Very nice and well worth the price of admission. Highly recommended.
- 4 – Very satisfactory. Above average, may have very minor issues but still worth it.
- 3 – Satisfactory. Average at best. May have notable issues, may be OK for some.
- 2 – Unsatisfactory. Below average due to defects, flaws, or other imperfections.
- 1 – Poor. Significant issues, not worth purchasing at any price. Avoid!
- Brand: J.Crew
- Style: Cap Toe Oxford
- Size: 10.5
- Last: N/A
- Construction: Goodyear Welted
- Upper: Calf leather
- Sole: Leather outsole with leather and rubber combination heel
- Details: Blind eyelets, waxed laces
- Extras: Two flannel like shoe bags
- Country of Origin: India
- Price: $248 USD
Although the traditional suit and tie has become less favored in modern menswear,
black oxfords still have their place. And when you need them, you need them.
My pair of Ludlow Oxfords was ordered via the J.Crew website on a Wednesday evening after work. The package shipped out from their Lynchburg, VA warehouse on the following day via UPS SurePost and was finally delivered on that Saturday morning. No complaints here – I expect retailers like J.Crew to get a product out of their door within three business days and delivered to me within one week as standard. Those of you on the other coast may need to recombobulate your expectations as many retailers do not have warehouses in both locations.
FYI: J.Crew offers a seemingly standard 30-day return policy for unworn, resalable merchandise. However, it is important to note that items must be received and processed within 30 days of the original purchase date, not the delivery date. I don’t recall this return policy detail being true before, but it feels suspicious when you cannot control the shipping or returns processes. I’m docking a point for that and another point for their $7.50 prepaid return label, especially when in store returns are marketed as free but they continue to close local stores.
Score: 3/5 Stars – Easy ordering, quick shipping, but the returns process is too strict.
You’ll get a fairly standard unboxing experience, which is no surprise.
This pair arrived in J.Crew’s bog standard black shoe box. Inside, each shoe arrived stuffed with tissue paper and wrapped in one extra layer for safe travels. J.Crew was nice enough to toss in a pair of cream-colored flannel cloth shoe bags, but there were no other bonuses to speak of. At full MSRP, I would be a bit underwhelmed as brands like Grant Stone, Allen Edmonds, and Cobbler Union provide a much nicer experience for not much more money. However, at the $248 retail price point, I think they’re just average and satisfactory.
Score: 3/5 Stars – This is a basic unboxing. It’s average at best, but OK for the price.
Fresh out of the box, I really like the overall conservative aesthetic of the Ludlow cap toe Oxfords. For my taste, I prefer my classic dress Oxfords to be simple and unadorned, yet elegant and stylish enough so that they can be worn across a variety of formal events for years to come. Envision formal weddings where the bridal party and guests are wearing traditional American wedding attire, which means you’ll need to wear a dark, conservative suit and pair that with dark, conservative Oxfords. These will be ready to serve you for those future graduation parties, job interviews, date nights at the symphony center, somber funerals, etc.
Low to mid grade calf leather is serviceable and a step above the likes of BR or Cole Haan shoe leather.
This Oxford is centered around a basic five eyelet upper and a straight cap toe design. The upper is made from a low to mid grade calf/cow leather and seems to accept a quick buff with a horsehair brush. We don’t have any information about the source of this leather, but it’s definitely serviceable at this price point. It’s not quite as nice as the calf that Grant Stone uses, but it’s noticeably better than the stuff used by brands like Banana Republic and Cole Haan.
This upper is simple, yet clean with single row stitching around the opening and closed lace facings. Double stitch rows are visible across the cap toe and along the upper vamp seam. The eyelets on the facings are blind; reinforced with metal stiffeners on the back side for durability. Interestingly, the J.Crew website notes that the upper has a “hint of pinking (aka a zigzagged edge) on the cap toe” but my pair has none of this. If we jump in a time machine and go back a few years, it’s easy to conclude that this is is simply repackaged text from their 2018-era Ludlow Oxfords, which did have that lovely pinking detail. These black cap-toe oxfords here in 2023, do not.
Lined in cow leather.
Looks like there were a few dings on the tongue of the pair Adam received to review, so watch for that.
Inside, these Oxfords are fully lined in cow/calfskin leather, which is a nice touch and a decided advantage over cheaper brands that skimp here and opt for pigskin or fabric linings. The vegetable tanned leather insoles are decent enough and feel stable and supportive enough for a welted Oxford. I can confirm that they’re thinner and slightly more flexible than the slabs used by Grant Stone and Alden, although that may be a positive thing for some of you who hate breaking in new dress shoes. I’m not sure what’s underneath the insoles, but you can bank on it being either foam or granulated cork. My money is on the former as you don’t typically get cork filler at this price point because it’s a time consuming manual process during construction, and time is money and these are budget-focused shoes. Take that with a grain of salt, though.
An educated guess would suggest that the heel stack is made from leather fiberboard.
This outsole is made of a single leather layer with a leather and rubber dovetail heel topper stacked on top of a leather-looking heel stack. The leather outsole itself is alright; perhaps a little soft, as I’ve noticed that just setting them down on concrete will begin to leave a mark. I can’t speak to the actual construction of the heel stack but given that a lot of similar budget-focused (and higher tier) brands use leather fiberboard, we can take an educated guess that J.Crew’s factory is doing the same here. The heel is decorated with a handful of brass nails and the edges of the assembly are stained a dark brown to black shade to help these blend in with that formal Oxford aesthetic. Yes, these Oxfords are Goodyear welted as best I can tell.
The outsold is made from a single layer of leather that’s perhaps a little soft,
which might wear more quickly.
Most fashion-focused guys understand that in today’s menswear sphere, traditional suit and tie business wear is essentially dead and dusted. Instead, you’re probably wearing some sort of business or “smart” casual outfit combination with a less formal button-down sport shirt or polo that gets paired with flat front chinos or denim. I bet some of y’all out there can get away with a t-shirt and shorts at the office, but for most of us, we’re still making the effort to dress a little nicer. With this in mind, I think you can still pair traditional black Oxfords with the right outfit and look great in a modern office environment. For you casual guys, try elevating your normal plain button-down shirt and tailored jeans with a pair of black Oxfords and a black dress belt. For those of you who like to layer, I like the union of a mid-grey merino wool sweater, a white button-down collar shirt, charcoal grey wool slacks, and black Oxfords. If you’re a bit more of an adventurous dresser, maybe try wearing a navy turtleneck sweater, black wool slacks, and a pair of these black Oxfords. It’s not rocket science, but it can be fun.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Overall, these are solid entry-level Oxfords that should treat you well.
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 my usual 10.5 and, with my usual Darn Tough lightweight merino wool socks, they feel notably tight at the toe box. I definitely recommend sizing up at least a half-size as this last is very tapered from the ball of the foot forward. If you typically need a wider width, you’re going to be out of luck here as J.Crew only offers a medium “D” width at this time and sizing up too much could end up feeling even worse.
Try a half size up. The last is very tapered from the ball of the foot forward
Those who need a wide width are out of luck. J. Crew made just standard 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!
Comfort is always subjective, but I can tell that given the proper size, these would be comfortable enough to wear to the office, to a fancy social gathering, or to a night out on the town. The leather lining and leather insole feel decently supportive right out of the box.
Score: 4/5 Stars – These run small, so size up a half size. Comfort is OK for Oxfords.
At the end of the day, J.Crew offers a solid entry-level dress Oxford at a somewhat affordable price point. The Ludlow cap toe Oxfords have a reasonable enough build quality and the leather takes an adequate shine. If you’re the Dappered gentleman that’s looking to spend less than $250 for a pair of conservative, classically styled dress shoes, you should take a hard look at the J.Crew Ludlow cap toe Oxfords. At full MSRP, I think they’re just alright. Given a fairly common 30% off sale or discount code, you could easily pick these up for noticeably less than $200. Not too bad!
Avg. Score: 3.5/5 – Overall, a solid wheelhouse Oxford for guys just getting started.