More footwear brands for shoe-loving guys

Spanish shoe label Carmina opened its first stand-alone store outside of Europe at Capitol Piazza this month.
Spanish shoe label Carmina opened its first stand-alone store outside of Europe at Capitol Piazza this month.PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Men are more willing to splurge on shoes, say retailers and three shoe aficionados

Guys, slip on a pair of sloppy looking shoes if you want to dress to kill.

That is, kill off any interest from the opposite sex, or job prospects.

As shoe aficionado Jonathan Chiang, who owns men's bespoke tailoring business Leong T, says: "Shoes play an important role in showing someone's character. Having a nice, clean pair of shoes, shows that a person is meticulous, attentive and takes pride in his appearance."

If you're looking down at your feet now and feeling a little insecure, don't be. That is because at least three new shoe labels and retailers have opened here in recent months to help you look both dateable and hireable.

The Blind Cobbler is a two-month-old multi-label men's shoe boutique along Club Street. It carries British heritage brand Grenson as well as mass market shoe brands Swear London and Hudson that are exclusive to the shop.

In the third quarter of this year, multi-label accessories store On Pedder is expected to open its first men's store at Scotts Square. It will stock luxury brands such as Giuseppe Zanotti, Lanvin and Marni.


Other new brands here such as Carmina, Saint Crispin's and Septieme Largeur pride themselves on quality by offering handcrafted shoes in classic styles.

The newest of the lot is Spanish shoe label Carmina, which opened its first stand-alone store outside of Europe at Capitol Piazza earlier this month.

A key feature of this 149-year-old label is its Goodyear welted construction. This technique allows the sole to be removed easily for repairs, so the shoes will have a longer shelf life.


Prices range from $695 for a pair of leather loafers to $2,800 for shell cordovan boots. Brogues and oxfords are $795. The brand also makes women's shoes.

Among its fans is Mr Chiang, 30: "It's a great entry-level brand for people who want quality shoes that look high-end, but may not be ready to fork out top dollar."


More pricey new brands include Viennese brand Saint Crispin's, which Mr Chiang started stocking exclusively last month at his retail space inside North Canal Road barbershop Sultans of Shave.

Founded in 1985 by Phillip Car, the brand makes only 1,500 pairs a year. As all its shoes are hand welted, they are more flexible than those that are Goodyear welted.

Prices ranges from $1,950 for a made-to-order design and can go up to $7,000 for a bespoke pair.

A pair of shoes takes more than 45 hours to make and customers receive their shoes within two months. However, shoppers can buy display pairs at the store if they fit.


Despite such steep prices, Mr Chiang has sold 20 pairs within a month, proving that there are men willing to splurge on their footwear.

"It's certainly not for everyone; it's for those who crave a different level of luxury. It's not about arrogance, but about showcasing an appreciation for craft," he says.

Next year, he plans to offer bespoke shoe services from two Japanese labels.


Grenson and Septieme Largeur also offer Goodyear welted dress shoes. Grenson shoes cost between $500 and $675. French brand Septieme Largeur, which opened at the end of 2013 in Pickering Street, offers shoes in colours not typically offered for dress shoes - think purple and shocking red. Shoes from the ready-to-wear line cost $630, while those from the Patina (hand-dyed) range are priced between $750 and $800.

Local shoemaker Edwin Neo, 34, says: "What the entrance of these new brands and retailers reflects is a growing consciousness of how shoes can make or break an outfit.

He would know, having grown his bespoke business, Ed Et Al, out of a small workshop in 2010, to a 600-sq-ft retail space in Millenia Walk last year. His bespoke shoes start from $3,000.

From next month, he will offer a semi-bespoke line of shoes. Compared with the full-bespoke line, the semi-bespoke service does not come with a personal last and customers will receive only one fitting session, as opposed to three or more sessions.

"Nowadays, we get more customers coming in already knowing what they want, right down to the exact colour and shape of the shoes," says Mr Neo, who also sells ready-to-wear designs.

Other shoe retailers have also reported healthy shoe sales and in the case of luxury French brand Berluti, it is not just dress shoes that are flying off the shelves.

"We are seeing more clients buying casual shoes, in addition to the formal shoes that they are consistently buying," says a Berluti spokesman. Berluti shoes are priced from $1,150 for a pair of car shoes in kangaroo leather to up to $19,000 for a pair of alligator shoes.

Mr Steven Rogers, 40, founding director of The Blind Cobbler, has made similar observations. The Briton, who has lived in Singapore for eight years, says he enjoys watching the way men here shop.

"In the last five years, I've noticed that men are paying more attention to accessories in general. I've seen them buying socks to match their ties and pocket squares."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'SOLE IN LOVE'. Print Edition | Subscribe