Behind every great brand, is a great story and Jay Butler, for me, has one of those great stories. And like most great stories, this story started with a vision and then a great execution to make that vision a reality, proving that no matter what, anyone can do what they put their minds and hearts to. I am a firm believer of that, and the Jay Butler story is one of many that helps to prove this. That being, let me first explain the background before we get to the shoes.
Jay Butler was founded by Justin Jeffers. Some of you may recognize that name and some of you won’t. Justin was one of the first people that ever wrote me, told me he was a huge fan of the blog (and my story), was coming to England and wanted to meet up for a chat. Naturally I obliged so we went a coffee/breakfast when he landed in London. This was about 4 years ago. He told me that he was inspired by my story and wanted to emulate something similar to it. I was incredibly flattered to say the least. He told me that he naturally followed the accountancy background of his family but that it was not what he wanted to do and that he was unsettled in his career. He then told me that he wanted to get into the menswear industry, first starting a blog and then doing a shoe line. I said, ‘great!’, you should do it!
Justin went back to the States, we kept in touch and he went full steam ahead with his recently started blog, The Fine Young Gentleman in the hopes to build an audience and grow the style community not only in America but the rest of the world. With passion and persistence, he grew that to become one the most read blogs in the US on menswear. After drudging it out a bit more in accountancy, he finally decided that it was time to start building a shoe brand. The backdrop idea of this brand was to create super affordable hybrid between driver and penny loafer which could hopefully give a practical alternative to expensive shoes like the classic Gucci/Ferragmo loafers and shoes like it that sold for +$400. He wanted to make that smart casual style more attainable to the common person that could not afford, nor justify, those Italian designer prices. But he did not want to go to China or India to do so, so he looked in his own backyard, Mexico. What many of you may not realize is that Mexico, specifically Leon, has a great history of shoemaking and so he went to work on starting his line, Jay Butler.
Fast forward to present day and you see that the brand is thriving, not in the sense that he is turning into Gucci overnight but that it is ticking along, growing one pair at a time. And I couldn’t be happier for Justin as he made his dreams become a reality. But the dreams don’t stop here as this is where the true tests of endurance and self belief start happening. Creating the brand is one thing but sustaining it is another. And this is where I hope to see Justin prevail as I could not agree more that there needed to be an alternative to those overpriced Italian designer loafers that for me, don’t hold a quality that comes close to matching the price.
That being, let’s talk about the shoes. Justin had sent me two pairs to test out. I usually take a US7.5. One of the loafers (the suede ones) fit just right but I have to say that the leather ones were a bit tight. Even without socks I felt like they were at least a half size small. I wanted to test both out but I could not actually wear the black ones longer than putting them on.
Like all products, you have to judge them based on the retail price. At $145 (£95, €132), they seemed to be of good value for what they are, especially the suede loafer. The materials I believe come from South America/Mexico region (where the shoes are made). The leather was not of immense quality but then again it did not seem far off from other designer stuff that I have seen at triple the price. Justin himself is not happy with the leather and is looking to upgrade to European calfskin. The suede was great though, only that I have not had the chance of wearing them in the rain and testing their ability to not stain easily. Overall, at price versus quality, I think that it was a good ratio. And the suede loafers were immensely comfortable, having walked about 8-10 miles in them on Sunny Sunday afternoon.
There were small blemishes here and there but nothing that took away from the life of the shoe, which is what matters most I think when buying a pair of shoes at this pricepoint. The stitching of the shoes was good however, especially as the aprons are sewn by hand directly on the last, which is great work at that price. Overall the shoes were a solid value at $145 and I love the suede loafer and would gladly own it in every color possible. I think that it is great that Justin found a part of the industry that was unfulfilled and is trying to fulfill it and I wish him nothing but the best with the rest of his venture.
(forgive the extra white feet!!)