The Perfect Summer Penny Loafer?: A Review Of The Allen Edmonds “Sea Island” Suede Loafer
It’s a not-so-secret that Allen Edmonds (the much loved, high end men’s shoemaker) has a Factory/Outlet from which you can buy most all of their shoe makes at seriously discounted prices. They are sold as Factory Seconds due to minor imperfections, scratches, or the like. Allen Edmonds typical quality standard is so high, though, that most of the Factory Second imperfections are beyond minor, or unnoticeable altogether. When you can spot them, they are usually the sort of thing that would be found on your shoe after a single day of wear anyway. In short, it’s super minor, making Allen Edmonds Factory Seconds one of the single best values in men’s footwear on the planet today.
Why do I say all of this? Well, because I recently picked up a pair of loafers of theirs during a Factory Seconds sale (yes, that is right, the Factory Second prices get reduced even more during these sales making the value even more insane!) and I absolutely love them. I had been looking for a great pair of loafers from the summer, into the fall, for a while now, and the Sea Island Suede Loafer by Allen Edmonds ($325) is exactly what I was looking for. And at the Factory Second price I got it for of only $160, this thing was an absolute steal. So, let’s get into it.
Packaging & Experience
When ordering Factory Seconds, you have to expect some corners to be cut. And this is where that happens. The shoes show up typically without the usual dust bags. Sometimes the box will be a bit damaged (as was the case with this pair). Shipping is free, but there is a restocking fee if a return has to happen. Plus, sometimes you cannot order Factory Seconds online, and need to call the store that has them directly (the number is provided on their site). In this case, specifically, though, you can order them right online through Allen Edmonds’ site. So, they’re improving, but still have a bit of work to do in this area. All things considered though, and for the value you are getting, it is mostly forgivable. B+
Style & Design
Good luck finding a loafer as sleek and well-made as this pair. I searched high and low, and nothing really nails the modern penny loafer as well as this pair does. It’s slim and perfectly rounded at the toe box. The slightly contrasting leather sole is absolutely perfect. The stitching as well is just the right color. Even the extra line of stitching on the back is a nice, unique detail here. The main thing though is really just how damn sleek these things are. They’re not bulbous in the middle of the foot — a typical problem for penny loafers like this — nor are they boxy or overly rounded at the toe box. These things are perfectly shaped to be a modern penny loafer.
And then the colors! All three are absolute home runs. I went with the Tan Suede option, but I would have been just as happy with either the lighter Bone Suede or the Navy Suede options. They’re all freakin’ awesome-looking, and I want them all. This shoe, in any color, straddles the line between casual and dressy perfectly as well. Meaning, this looks just as good dressing up a pair of dark denim as it does dressing down a navy suit. Worn sock-less, they are the perfect summer shoe. Worn with socks, and they transition perfectly into fall. A+
Quality & Construction
Look, they’re Allen Edmonds quality, one of the undisputed champs of high end men’s shoes. Yes, some of their shoes are better made than others, and there do exist even higher end shoes out there. But, especially at the price of Factory Seconds (even more so considering I couldn’t spot any imperfections on my pair), these are some of the best-made shoes a guy can buy. These shoes in particular are unlined, the suede is buttery soft, and the whole thing is hand sewn. They even considered things like the corner of rubber on the sole to help these things last longer. After a brief break-in period, these shoes are super comfortable (even when worn sock-less, though they are a bit less comfortable that way, naturally) and the suede just feels so good. It’s luxury. These things are in a different league than something like Cole Haan. And for $160? I feel like I robbed them. A+
These shoes are constructed on their 555 last, which is a slightly slimmer last through the middle of the shoe. It makes for a more snug fit, which is what you want in a loafer. For me, that presented some problems. The size 12 was much too big, and I was slipping out of the shoe, and the side of the shoe was bowing around my feet with every step. The size 11.5 was a bit tight, and pinched my little toes. I took a risk, and bet on the supple suede leather breaking in and stretching a bit and I was right. After just a few wears, they totally molded to my feet (and continue to), and stretched out to accommodate my foot. So, especially with a soft, unlined suede like these, you can get away with a slightly tighter fit than usual at the beginning, since they will stretch out a bit. They will also, over time, conform more and more to your foot. These are the sorts of shoes that get better and better with each wear.
Sometimes, the sides of the shoe do bow out awkwardly even when I am just stationary bit, but this has gotten better with wear as the shoe molds to my feet. Finally, the back edges of the insole are a bit tough and hard, and sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable. I expect this also to get better with wear, but, at least for now, this could be improved somewhat. A
Value & Conclusion
Sea Island Suede Loafer by Allen Edmonds ($199): These things are $325 at full retail. They’d be worth it at that price. They are on sale for $225, and the Factory Seconds are even cheaper at $199. (I would go with the Fact tory Seconds if you can, though if you’re nervous about sizes, or they do no have your size, then just go straight from the main line.) These shoes look amazing, feel fantastic, and will last decades. This is one of those rare instances where you actually get a whole lot more than what you pay for. Final Grade: A+