Review: Bobbies Driving Loafers — A Perfect Summer Shoe
A good driving loafer is a staple of any man’s wardrobe, we think, and especially in the summer there are plenty of opportunities to wear driving mocs like this. Perfect sock-less with a pair of shorts, or chinos or jeans, these are a fantastic casual shoe when you still want to look like you are putting in more effort than the guy standing next to you. That being said, when it comes to driving loafers, the perfect shape and design is key. Too sleek and things look pointy and circus-like, while too clunky and you can look like a grandpa. That’s why a pair like the Bobbies L’Élégant Driving Loafer ($150) is so promising. It comes from a super-underrated, French shoe brand that specializes in sleek and unique shoe designs. Many guys love their chelsea boots, but the fact that they have a whole line of some of the best-looking driving loafers around (not to mention some great looking oxfords and more) is super under-appreciated. Needless to say, we were intrigued enough to feel compelled to check out the brand, and what better place to start than their aforementioned driving loafers.
Packaging & Experience
You’re ordering these shoes from a company based in Paris. Some complication with shipping and returns is, while not really great, to be expected. As it happens, shipping was pretty fast (just a few days), but costs a hefty $25 for any order under $250 (and $40 for a purchase below $50). This, no doubt, is why many guys don’t really know about, or much care about, this brand. Then, on top of that, you get nailed for a $20 return shipping fee if something doesn’t work out and needs to be sent back. Plus, all shipping and returns must happen through DHL — the shipping company with the least amount of drop-off points, almost certainly requiring you to be around for a pick-up in order to do the return. There is no doubt that if Bobbies wants to make real headway into the US, they need to do better here. With all the hassle and fees, it’s hard to ignore that the experience is less than stellar, especially when compared to something like Jack Erwin. The packaging itself was nice enough, though, the shoe box being a super cool and bright orange, as well as dust bags being included. B-
Style & Design
Bobbies driving loafers come in a seemingly endless array of colors and styles. They put out new ones with each season, and they have their standard, non-changing line as well. You can get a pair of loafers in most any color you’d desire, as well as style. Some have simple nib soles, while others have fully rubber-bottom soles. Some have bows while others are ties while still others have tassels. And so on, and so forth. Bobbies has one of the most extensive lines of driving loafers I have ever seen. There is something for everyone here. For this review, we went with a classic penny strap style in a versatile “Sand” color. The design and style is timeless and goes with just about anything — and the lighter, more neutral color is perfect for the summer. These would look just as good with a pair of shorts as they would with jeans and a blazer.
The shoe itself is super well, almost perfectly designed. They are sleek without being too sleek, and the toe box is the perfect shape — not too rounded, nor too pointy. These shoes really do look good from just about any angle, and the nib sole is classic and wonderfully executed. There is a subtle logo on the outer edge of the top of the tongue. This might bother some people, but I don’t mind it at all. It’s tasteful. Overall, this is a perfectly executed, well-designed, and classic driving loafer updated with sleekness for the modern day. A
Quality & Construction
Here is where I was just a little disappointed. To be clear from the get-go, these shoes are not poorly made. They’re solid. It’s just that the leather is thinner and flimsier than on, say, the comparable (and cheaper!) Jack Erwin shoes. The nap of the suede is very low, and, out of the box (as you can see in the pictures) and even after some wear, the shoes have a sort of smooshed shape to them. While on the foot, there is not a whole lot of support, and the shoe itself just feels a bit flimsy. Now, again, it’s nothing terrible. They are solidly built, and they still feel like they are going to last quite a while. They are not at all cheap by any means, and I would expect many seasons of wear out of these guys. Still, they’re not as robust as the Jack Erwin loafers, to which they must be compared, and so leave something to be desired as far as the feel while on the feet. B
I usually wear a size 11.5 in dress shoes or loafers. Bobbies uses European sizes, so according to their own conversion chart, this would put me at a size 46. They warn that these shoes run a bit narrow, but state that if your feet are neither especially wide nor narrow, you should be fine taking your normal size. I did not find this to be the case, and the 46 was much to small on me (not in width, but in length). I worry, though, that the full size up to a 47 would be too large of a jump, and no sizes are offered in between. Plus, with the $45 round trip potential fee to try another size, it’s simply not worth the risk (it’s about 1/3rd of the shoe cost!). If you can find your size, though, or already know it, or simply just get lucky, then they do offer at least more sizing options than Jack Erwin (who offers no half sizes at all!), so at least there’s that. B+
Value & Conclusion
Bobbies L’Élégant Driving Loafer — $150: As stated above, it’s impossible to talk about these shoes without comparing them to the Jack Erwin driving loafers we reviewed a short while ago. The Jack Erwin loafers are, we think, better styled, have a few more details we love (like the raised heel), somewhat higher quality and more robust, lower priced, and are free to ship and return. Bobbies can’t really compete with that. While we wish Jack Erwin offered more sizes and fit better, Bobbies driving loafers are hard to recommend at their price considering the competition. If you live outside the US, and don’t have to worry about the hefty shipping and returns fees in much the same way (and perhaps even if you do!), Bobbies is definitely a brand that deserves some more attention than they currently receive. Their designs are impeccable, and their level of sleekness is hard to come by, especially at their price point. Still, in order to really compete in the US, they will have to do something about their shipping and returns situation (by perhaps taking a play out of Meermin’s book and opening a store in NYC to handle shipping and returns). In the meantime, we’re going to keep a serious eye on these guys. Final Grade: B-