The Shoe Snob Blog

December 17, 2012

Written by , Posted in News

Berwick Shoes — A New Player In The Industry

A few weeks back, I was emailed by a factory in Spain who has their own label called Berwick shoes. They were offering to send me a pair of my choice for review. Now, don’t get me wrong, I won’t review just anything, as one might think. If something does not look to be of decent to high quality, I will respectfully decline the offer. But if something looks good, something that I think many of you would be pleased to know about, then I will definitely give it a shot. Now, saying that, I was amazed with the email (describing the components of the shoes, i.e. the leather used etc.), the shoes on offer and more importantly the retail price of them. Because of this, I was actually excited to see how the shoes were going to turn out as it really almost seemed to good to be true. So, I carefully picked out something that wouldn’t conflict with my own line (at least for the foreseeable year or two) and patiently awaited them. I was foretold that the range of shoes that I picked from would retail at 180 (145, $250), use French calfskins, Crust leather and Jon Rendenbach soles (the same ones that Vass uses). Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to see them….

Upon receiving them, everything was tip top with the packaging….no complaints there. Pulling out the shoes, nothing seemed to catch my eye as far as blemishes go. Balance was good, leather felt nice, pattern was straight and proportionate but the only thing that was not perfect was the finishing, with a bit of slip ups on the stitching on the welt (sole stitching). This is to be expected though at 180 so it does not bother me. Anyone looking for perfection at that price is fooling themselves. As a word wisdom, remember that when critiquing a shoe you have to consider it’s retail price. There is nothing I hate more than stupid people looking at a 200 and comparing it to John Lobb. That’s just plain idiotic, yet I see it all of the time. So, for 180, the shoe looked the part and so much more. In fact, I would venture to say that these stand next to or just below Crocketts…..

Then came time to put the bad boys to the wear test…. As a double soled shoe, you would expect them to be extremely stiff, yet surprising they were not. Granted, they are by no means a soft flexible shoe, but they felt great and supportive. The only thing that surprised me was how big they ran. They gave me a 40.5 (of which I am usually a slender 41, with very low volume) and even these ran big. A size 40 would have been ideal, so I would personally recommend sizing down half size. But after a day’s wear, I have to say that they were just as comfortable as most of my higher end shoes and that the leather maintained it’s shape and suppleness quite well. For 180, they were simply brilliant. It’s really starting to make me the think about the true cost of shoes and how it will be hard for designers (like me) to compete with factory owned brands. This is another story though, one that I plan to write about next week as I see the industry heading in quite a direction, one that leaves the future uncertain….nevertheless, a brilliant shoe at a brilliant price, and yet another shoe brand for all of you to try out…..with my blessing attached!!

  • Richard G

    Hello Justin

    I bought a Berwick 1707 double monk strap on a visit to Barcelona a year ago. I fully agree with your opinion that they deliver good value for money. Mine aren’t even the Premium Grade line, just their regular Goodyear Welted line which cost about 150 at a shop on La Ramblas. Wouldn’t trade them for my Crocket & Jones though.
    Keep up the good work
    Cheers from Zurich
    Richard

  • Adam

    I was intrigued by these so had a look on the website, whilst you have confirmed they are well made I agree with Richard above that I wouldn’t trade some of my Crocketts etc for them. For the price to me they would be more of an everyday shoe or workhorse shoe. That you don’t mind wearing to pull on and nip out or to work.

    What I liked most when I learned to buy proper shoes was the feeling of wearing them. The shoes being special. I don’t know if I see that in them. And some brands just have that some pthing a bit more special. Compare a loake to a cheaney for instance. One just have something a bit more.

    Or maybe I’m over romanticising it or thinking too much.

  • Anonymous

    Every high end brands that make goodyear shoes, use the same process, with the same machines, and buy the leathers in the same tanneries. I think there are not so much diferences between a shoe made by Lobb and one by Loake to justify the huge price (EMHO)

    Congratulations for your blog.

    George.

  • Anonymous

    I too bought a pair of double monks from their goodyear welted line in Barca three years ago, they have been nothing but great! Even been able to keep the original sole after such a long time. Deeply recommended for that price!

    Great blog btw.

    C

  • Alex B

    I think to a point you get what you pay for – there are a few things about the finish that would irritate. But at that price, there’s no need to compare them to a more exclusive product. The quality of leather looks great for the money – I think that’s what’s really separating them from other cheap brands.

    The finish isn’t nearly as good as Cheaney from the pictures you’ve shown, but these are much cheaper. They are in the price range of Indian-made Loakes, half the price of Indian-made Grensons, and look considerably better than either, both in the materials and the construction.

    I like. But I think they might have been better off getting an English language web site and an e-shop set up before they started passing out the free shoes to bloggers. It’s all very well drumming up some business, but with no easy way to order, what’s the point?

  • Jan

    All shoes but one don’t strike me.
    This style though should make for a great foul weather boot
    http://berwickshoes.com/shoes/mod-920-country-calf/

    If I would not already own a pair of Cheaney FS029 I would seriously consider to get a pair of the 920.

  • Hey Justin, thank you for another great post.

    I have been thinking of soon doing my first investment shoes purchase (and as new, not ebay). I was already unsure between Meermin and Ed Et Al. which were both favorably reviewed by you. Then there is also Andrew Lock in the similar price range that has also received favorable reviews in blogosphere…

    Now that you have shown me another option with Berwick, I am torned apart (although they don’t have any English website or e-commerce yet).

    Well maybe I can wait until they come up with English/e-commerce page like Meermin did and take some to think on that…Anyway, may I ask what’s your thought on comparing Berwik with other shoes in a similar price range like Meermin and Ed Et Al?

    Thanks

  • Alex B

    Mr Joohwan, I hope you don’t mind if I butt in: Justin doesn’t reply to comments very quickly these days. Not because he’s lazy, just because he’s a very bad person and involved with the Albanian mafia.

    Anyway, here’s a piece of advice: if you’re going to buy a first pair of “good” shoes, and you’re in this price range, take a look at some established makers. This one has no online service at all, not even an English website. Meermin has some issues over time and stock, and you have to order by email and pay with PayPal – if they have what you want. Ed et Al I haven’t tried so I don’t know their stock or service. One thing I do know is that they don’t to half sizes or varied width fittings. Basically, all of these new, smaller retailers have an element of nuisance and risk in getting what you want.

    I would suggest that you try some established online e-shops, that can give you a huge range within your price limit, all made by people you’ve heard of. The shops that I will recommend can all give you good advice about sizing and fit, and are happy to do so very quickly. Also, being established makers, you can find plenty of comments and reviews elsewhere.

    Try http://www.pediwear.co.uk or http://www.herringshoes.co.uk, or http://www.shoehealer.co.uk. The first two have the best websites, where you can search for what you want by size (I find that the single biggest frustration with some sites e.g. Carmina, working through every model and finding they don’t have my size in what I want – or take orders online).

    Herring also have their own ranges, many made by well-known makers for them. What’s more, they have a sale on at the moment. Shoe Healer’s site isn’t so good, but they’re great if you want to arrange something made to order with Alfred Sargent, for example, they do have a good stock and some nice clearance deals.

    All of them have brilliant service and knowledgeable staff, let you order direct online from stock, and will deliver anywhere on the planet at a reasonable price within about three days.

    I’m not saying that Ed et Al, Berwick, Meermin etc are not worth it: I’ve seen some people very happy with the shoes, and the prices can be competitive. I will probably order from them myself one of these days. But with online retailers, especially if it’s your first time, I’d go for one that has a very well-established e-store so that you can be sure of getting what you want, and getting it quickly, without any misunderstanding.

    Alternatively, save your money and buy Justin’s shoes when they finally arrive in about ten years (OK, in about three months, allegedly). That’s my plan, although I’m still worried they only fit his weird pointy little elf feet.

    Good luck!

  • Richard G – Thanks for sharing Richard….would trade one for one, but would definitely have two Berwick’s for the price of one C&J….which is precisely what you could do with the difference in price…

    Adam – while I appreciate your sentiment towards English shoes, you would be pleasantly surprised if you actually wore one….and at 180, they are not that far off in quality from C&J to rather have two pairs instead of one….and I can’t say that I really see this great about C&J shoes. I like them, don’t get me wrong, but what you talked about I see in brands like Edward Green and Gaziano & Girling….maybe that is just because I am a big snob….

    George – Well, George, I thank you for sharing but I can’t say that I completely agree as there is much more effort put into making a Gaziano & Girling shoe than a Berwick with lots more handwork, attention to detail as well as better leathers used all over the shoes….those things cost money, whether it’s time to pay employees for handwork, using only leather in the shoes, and using much better leather….

    Anon aka C – Thanks for sharing and for the kind words!

    Alex B – I think you are thinking about English shoes when you make that first statement, but this is not the case for shoes like this and Ed Et Al and the others, where the shoes are inexpensive due to the cost of labor being significantly lower than in England. That’s what you pay for in an English shoe, cost of labor. Factory workers in this country are constantly asking for more and get paid much more than a Spanish factory worker. This cost is reflected in the retail price…

    This shoe is better than a Cheaney, hands down, without question and you cannot disagree because you have never tried one of these one nor even felt it…You are a bit brainwashed with your English brands, just like many British people are as they feel a yearning to be overly and blindingly loyal towards British made products…look at all of the people who will argue with me about the Church’s rant that I just made, blindly defending them for their name, even though they are no longer British owned….

    As you say, the finishing might not be as clean, but the leather and last proportions are much better than a 300 Cheaney shoe…and that makes a huge difference!

    Jan – they are very nice indeed!

    Joohwan – First and foremost, don’t listen to Alex B. If you need help with Berwick, I can put you in touch with them. Secondly, it’s hard to compare between the three really as they are all very good for their price. But if I had to choose one, I would probably go for Ed Et Al, as I really like the styles that they have…plus the price is right, the shoe is comfortable and they are well made. They are easy enough to order from and I have already had other blog readers do so successfully….All the best…

    Alex B again – you sound like you work for the English shoe brands. Just remember that mine aren’t English….they are Spanish made…. and they will fit people with normal feet, not fat hobbit feet!

    Oh, and they are scheduled to arrive by Feb. 10th, 2013….

    -Justin

  • Alex B

    Now don’t go getting cross, Justin. I’m very impressed by the photos you’ve shown and have nothing at all against Spanish-made shoes. Or French, Italian, Austrian, Hungarian….God help me, I even have a pair of American shoes!

    Last shapes are a subjective comparison I suppose, but I accept your point about the superior leather on these for the price, and that the labour costs make the difference. That’s not true of all of those names mentioned, though: some of them use some pretty tatty materials, and it’s good to see this one as such an exception.

    But back to the main point I was trying to make to your dear reader above: do you really want to buy shoes by asking a blogger to put you in touch with the seller, guess your size, and end up having a transaction that could take a weeks, and be based on Google Translate and Western Union?

    These things CAN work out, and maybe these shoes are worth the effort. But for a first decent pair of shoes, isn’t it a better idea to work with an established retailer, a brand that you can see a lot of, and a straightforward online transaction with Visa, DHL and in a language you already have in common?

    Blind nationalism is not for me, Mr Fitzpatrick, and Church’s can kiss my arse. I’m just being practical. You’re just cross that I keep mentioning your mafia connections, aren’t you? 🙂

  • Alex B – Fair enough…but funnily, all of these shoemakers that I have dealt with as of late have all spoke perfect English, so there really is no need for Google Translate and the thought of a dodgy online transaction….

    If I refer someone and they get botched up, then I have the power to ruin the credibility of the makers by telling the story on the blog, so it should not really be a risk, other than getting your right size….but that is no different than any other online transaction…

    -Justin

  • I bought some classic shoes for years. I used to buy Church shoes but after a while I found them to be too fragile. So then I started to buy my shoes randomly without paying too much attention to the brand. I had these shoes for the past 2 years and I though these were more comfortable, with very good quality leather and more resistant than anything I had before. These were Berwicks. I went online to check were I could buy new ones and (that is how I found this website btw) was surprised myself to discover that these were not expensive English shoes but decently affordable and Spanish. Well anyway, I can only agree with what has been said so far: very good shoes for the price.

  • Marco – Thanks for sharing!!

    -Justin

  • Anonymous

    I hope their online shop comes soon…any info?

  • Anon – Unfortunately not….I am sure that they will let me know as soon as they do though, and then I will let all of you know!

    -Justin

  • Andrew

    Hello Justin,

    Thank you for excellent blog! I have learned a lot.

    Are they your shoes:
    http://berwickshoes.com/en/shoes/mod-3561-mancalf/
    ?

    They say shoes are “red” but they seems like brown on your photos, what is the real color?

    Do you like the toe box shape? Unfortunately they have not top view photos on they website. Could you tell me some last that close to it (from some other company to judge)?

    And what is your opinion about brown calf leather wholecuts with jeans? (Or deep merlot that you have designed.) Are not they too formal?

    Kind regards,
    Andrew

  • Andrew – Thank you for the kind words! Glad that you enjoy the blog. Yes those ones are the ones that I have…they are not red nor brown but rather burgundy….I do like the toe box shape, of which I did show in this post from the top down…Did you not see the picture? I cannot compare it to anything else that I personally know as it is quite different from anything that I have or that I have seen….Sorry….

    Whether a wholecut is too formal or not is not really a matter for debate in the sense that I don’t follow the “sartorial rules” laid down those by those that think they dictate these things…any shoe can look good under most trousers based on how one styles and carries himself….I would wear wholecuts under jeans, whether or not other people would is another thing….

    -Justin

  • Picky Dresser

    Dear Justin,

    I have been in contact with Enrique from Berwick in order to order a pear of 3582 wholecuts. He has been very patient and helpful. However they don’t have a facility to pay online using VISA or accept Paypal which makes it difficult, BTW I do like your new wholecut design, the only reason I am not choosing them (even though they look well made) is due to the front design being slightly to round rather than a more contemporary chiseled edge.Keep up the good work!

    • Felipe

      Picky Dresser,

      I am a longtime Berwick client and had a problem with a pair of shoes but can’t find a phone number or email apart from that of the store in Madrid. Do you think you could send me Enrique’s email address?

      As a hardcore shoe-buff and longtime client I would like to contact them directly in order to voice my observations discretely.

      Thanks,

      Felipe

  • Picky Dresser – that’s weird…so how do they accept payment? Anyway, thank you for the kind words…will have a chisel toe soon…

    -Justin

  • Andrew

    Dear Justin,

    Thank you for answer!
    I have contacted Berwick (I like this pair as well as their boots) but they told me to wait opening of the e-store. They also wrote a new collection is coming soon. I sent them some more messages but hadn’t got answer — seems like they do not get orders by e-mail now.

    Anyway, I like their design and it’s interesting what they will offer in the new collection; meanwhile will order some Carmina instead.

    Good luck!

    Andrew

  • Andrew – Glad to hear that you got in touch with them. I did not know that they would not even take an order via email……but i guess they have their reason….I will definitely be looking forward to their new collection, should be good!!

    Thanks for the kind words

    -Justin

  • Aaron Adams

    When you polished the shoes did you only polish the toe and back quarter?

    • TheShoeSnob

      i polished the whole as I always do, but also only ever focus on bringing out the shine on the caps and heels