Monday, August 3, 2015

In Review: Alfred Sargent Grey Suede Double Monks (for J. Crew)




Now passed on to its fourth generation, Alfred Sargent has remained a family shoe business since first founded in 1899 out of Rushden, Northamptonshire.  Over time, the company has established a reputation for high quality, handcrafted, and goodyear welted English footwear. In the hierarchy of the shoe world, Alfred Sargent sits firmly above Allen Edmonds, probably the most well-known US-made shoe company alongside Alden.  Shoe aficionados generally rank them in line with Trickers or Alden and below Crockett and Jones or Carmina.  

In 2013, Alfred Sargent teamed up with J. Crew to produce a great looking lineup of exclusive shoes and boots.  Fast forward to 2015, when J. Crew put a few suede models on sale at $399 from MRSP $500's.  A lot of people took notice, especially when they got hit with an extra 40% off a few weeks back.  Then, near the end of July, J. Crew did something I've never seen before and dropped a bomb of a sale right at midnight with a ton of items at an extra 75% off.  That put the Alfred Sargents at $100 flat.  Ridiculous.


Luckily, there was a single pair of grey suede double monks left in my size (US 8D), and I completed checking out in world record time before anyone could get the chance to buy them out from under me.  Sales, man.  Sh*t gets real.

They arrived on my doorstep a few days ago, straight into my loving hands.  Come to daddy for some sexy picture time. *edit - too creepy

Construction

 


87 Last


The making of an Alfred Sargent shoe requires about 200 steps to construct and a good amount of handwork.  The AS for J. Crew double monk is built on their 87 last, one of the narrower lasts AS offers with a pretty approachable shape and toe box.  Not too pointy or stubby, neither is it excessively chiseled.  With my smaller feet, it cuts a sharp profile.

The shoes come neatly packed in a box with individual dust bags and a soft felt cloth.  The uppers of the monkstraps are an attractive grey repello, a dressier suede with a short fine nap which is soft and velvet-like in hand.  



Every line is double stitched, tight and clean, and the hardware is all solid, as expected.  The midsole is hand corked, which should mold over time to the foot of the wearer and also provides insulation.

Alfred Sargent's soles are made with oak bark tanned leather, a long and costly process that takes months to finish but supposedly results in a more durable, flexible, and breathable sole.  The edges of the sole are clearly hand finished as well.  The welt is stitched in an open channel, the density of which is a bit tighter than my AEs and clean throughout.  While it would have been nice to see a closed channel or a beveled waist, at the price point it would have been asking a lot without a great deal of functional gain.  Then again, Meermin does it at <$200.

The combination heel is built up in individual layers and finished with a dense rubber quarter tip for durability at a point where the heel takes the most wear.

The inside of the shoes are partially lined in plush calfskin with a leather heel pad, the quality of which is appreciably nicer than a standard Allen Edmonds shoe and comparable to the lambskin Independence lining in feel.  On the medial side, the last, size, and model information are all handwritten with "Made in England" below. It's admittedly something that's inconsequential at face value, but has quickly come to be one of my favorite things about them.  It's a nice reminder that there is a human behind this work - a skilled one that's been doing this for a long time and clearly takes pride in craftsmanship.

Side by side with my Allen Edmonds, the finishing in general is slightly finer throughout, aside from the Independence Lining on my made-to-order boots.  I'd be interested in seeing these next to the shoes in Alfred Sargent's own Exclusive and Handgrade lines - something I'll have to put on the back burner for now, though from pictures it seems they may be finished at a slightly higher level.





Fit and Sizing


I'm told Alfred Sargents tend to fit about a full size larger than US sizing, although that's a bit of an over generalization as every last is different.  The 87 last is one of the narrower lasts in the lineup, though, and AS lists them as a half size smaller.  One thing to note is that they're listed by their US size by J. Crew, which is what I ordered (I normally wear an 8D).



I was relieved to find they fit well out of the box.  My feet sit comfortably and I doubt there will be any type of hard break in period.  I do wear the buckle at it's smallest length, which fits snugly without feeling tight.  This may have something to do with the double monks incorporating elastic into the proximal buckle, which tends to be more forgiving.  I have the tiniest amount of heel slip on the left and none on the right (my right foot is slightly larger than the left), but nothing that should cause any discomfort.  I can also wear them sockless as well as up to midweight socks comfortably (not pictured).

Impressions and Value

 


I have to say, whoever is in charge of collaborations and third party merchandising at J. Crew should get a raise.  Between Alfred Sargent, Private White VC, Barbour, Alden, and more, J. Crew has brought a stable of respected houses under one roof.  The monkstraps made for J. Crew by Alfred Sargent easily impress, especially considering the price.  The quality of materials and craftsmanship are without question and the design is classic and approachable.  Priced at $525-550, depending on the model, the ask is reflective of a an appropriate step up in quality, though I wouldn't personally pay it.  In addition, from looking at pictures of their house Exclusive range it appears that their main lines may have more handwork and finer finishing for similar MSRP.  I would say that based on my experience the J. Crew models are a good value on sale when they can be had for Allen Edmonds money, as they have been of late around $200-300's.  $100 for these shoes was basically highway robbery and something I was fortunate to get in on, even with my obsessive attention to sales.  At the Allen Edmonds range (whose prices continue to climb), Meermin comes to mind as well as the most obvious value competitor.  I've seen mostly great things written about them (although quality control has been brought up as an issue and Dappered reviewed a pair that was horrible), though I have yet to examine any in person. 

For those looking to find a pair of Alfred Sargents on sale, Haberdashoutlet has had a few pairs in larger sizes on clearance for quite some time at $299, including a beautiful set of pebble grain boots and a pair of calfskin double monks built on a different last with beveled waists and closed channel stitching.  I would also pay attention to J. Crew's sale page and bookmark the now sold-out boots and monkstraps, as returns often trickle back into the sales section independent of big sale drops.

As for my pair, I'm pretty pleased with how well they worked out, and I'm looking forward to wearing them a lot in the coming days.  Suede has the wonderful property of conferring a more casual feel to an otherwise smart shoe, making it more versatile, and the mid grey tone complements most others in the palette wonderfully.

If you grabbed some as well, or own Alfred Sargents of your own, drop me a line - I'd love to hear about your experience.

 

Things I Liked

Quality hand-finished detailing
Beautiful suede quality
Versatile styling
Value:cost ratio at $100 is astronomical


Things I Didn't Like

Exclusive Line may have better finishing
Would have preferred a fully lined shoe
MSRP seems a bit steep

Others To Consider In This Range

Meermin - least expensive and known as a high value for the money, mostly positive reviews, closed channel stitching/higher level finishing, but steep shipping and returns confer higher risk, mixed quality control concerns
Trickers - At Sierra Trading Post, many styles in medium/larger sizes at great prices (see past STP posts for discount code information)
Carmina
Crockett and Jones
Alden


Rushden Northamptonshire. EnglandR
Rushden Northamptonshire. England
Rushden Northamptonshire. England

5 comments:

  1. I want to thank you for this post. I am late to this double monk sale, but I see a few pairs online and have an interest in getting them but needed to know what size I should look for as online orders can be tricky.

    You have the best review and quality pictures to back it up.

    Thank you for this review!

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    1. Kyle - appreciate the comments and you're very welcome. Thanks for stopping by, and I'm glad you found it useful. Makes my day when I see this stuff helping guys out.

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  2. Sorry to dig up an old thread, but I'm having questions on sizing. Did you size these TTS to your Brannock? I'm on the fence between doing that (for me a 12D) or sizing a half size down (i.e. Barrie).

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  3. Sorry to dig up an old thread, but I'm having questions on sizing. Did you size these TTS to your Brannock? I'm on the fence between doing that (for me a 12D) or sizing a half size down (i.e. Barrie).

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    Replies
    1. No worries. I went TTS only because I "had" to take a guess at $100 when there wasn't something smaller than my normal 8D. Fortunately, the 8D J. Crew listed was the US 8D and not a UK 8. On the inside of the shoe it actually lists them as 7.5 UK/8D US, for which they're a touch big with very thin no show socks (I wear at the smallest buckle hole) and otherwise fit well with slightly thicker socks. I've heard this last is narrower than their "average" last, but I don't own any other AS shoes unfortunately which would make it easier for me to compare. Hope that helps, to some degree. Wish I had a pair of Aldens to give you some more clarity.

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