Prices for luxury fashion items have gone through the roof in recent years, growing at more than twice the rate of general inflation. In 2005, for example, the price of Edward Greens was $700, Common Projects $250, and bespoke shoes from some of London’s most exclusive West End firms $2,750. Today, exactly ten years later, those prices hover around $1,250, $450, and $4,500 respectively. Part of this is due to rising costs in labor and materials, but a lot of it is has to do with basic supply-and-demand. There are simply more people nowadays who are willing to pay higher and higher prices. As Pete once wrote, expensive things are only getting more expensive.
All very disheartening for those of us who care about affordability in menswear, but there are some glimmers of hope. Bexley, for example, is a thirty year-old French company that offers affordable footwear. They recently loaned me two pairs of shoes to check out – a black pair of chukkas and a brown pair of penny loafers.
The quality of both is really impressive. The uppers are made from full-grain leathers from the very respectable Tannerie d’Annonay in France, while the soles were either Goodyear welted or Blake stitched (two methods that allow for easier resoling). The stitching was well done, lining well attached, and finishing well executed (the apron on the loafers could use a little edge burnishing, but it’s minor). All in all, the quality feels similar to Jack Erwin, which we’ve recommended in the past.
Perhaps most impressive are the prices. For US customers, they’re $172 for the first pair and $110 for the second. At the moment, there are select pairs available on sale for $110 straight, without the need to buy another. That means good dress shoes for about the cost of good running sneakers.
Obviously, at this price point, there are some minor cutbacks in quality. The insoles, for example, are half-synthetic and half-leather (the forefront is 100% leather, while the back is fiberboard). A full leather insole would be more durable and comfortable over time, but as we’ve written in the past, the material used for the uppers, as well as the methods used to attach the sole, determines most of a shoe’s quality. Any detail after that tends to be minor, which is why at a certain point, a shoe’s appeal is mostly about design. On these two, the designs are simple and classic, with rounded, but shapely, toes. Bexley has more aggressive styles for those who want something more Continental.
I do have one additional misgiving, however. At the moment, Bexley doesn’t lists their lasts on their product pages, so sizing can be a little difficult. The loafers they sent me fit true-to-size, while the chukkas could stand going a half-size down. Like with any online retailer, this will require some guesswork when you’re trying to determine your size over the internet (we have a guide to help, should you need one). If you’re looking for a pair of shoes for under $175, however, I don’t think you could do better.