Beckett Simonon Dean Oxford Review
Watch the full video above or read the lightly edited transcript below.
Dress shoes. Everyone needs to have them. Regardless of your job and what you wear to the office, you must have a solid pair of brown and black dress shoes handy – period. And like every category of shoe, the market is flooded with strong contenders. So how do you sift through all the options to figure out what you really need in a dress shoe? Can you trust an online-only retailer to meet your needs instead of your local mall? I think you absolutely can, and today we’ll be looking at a relatively new player in the men’s fashion space: Beckett Simonon and their Dean Oxford shoes in Brown.
What Are the Qualities of a Premium Dress Shoe?
But before we dive in, let’s take a step back (pun intended) and briefly explore a simple question: what makes a good dress shoe?
I’m so glad you asked! There are of course many different factors that go into it, but at a high level, I would boil it down to materials, construction, and how the fine details are handled – I’ll get more into that later.
Quality Dress Shoe Materials
Ok, let’s talk materials. Not all leather is equal. Leather has “grades” – levels of quality. You might have heard the term “full-grain”. This means that you’re getting the entire outer layer of the hide, where the fiber density is highest – resulting in greater strength and durability. Instead of wearing out, full-grain leather develops a patina during its useful lifetime. Most people agree that it’s considered the highest quality leather.
So unless you want to intentionally choose a dress shoe made of faux leather for ethical reasons (a decision I would fully support, by the way), a full-grain leather upper (the whole top of the shoe) and lining are going to be high on your priority list.
So too, the material used for the outsole – the part that actually connects with the pavement – is a big tell separating more or less quality dress shoes. Quality dress shoes have full-grain leather outsoles, which can take a beating over time, whereas less quality dress shoes have rubber or plastic outsoles, which are guaranteed to wear down steadily over time.
What You Should Look For in Premium Dress Shoe Construction
Ok, let’s move on to construction. If you’re short on time and trying to figure out if there’s just one detail you can point to when determining the quality of a dress shoe, it’s how the soles are attached to the rest of the shoe. “Blake Stitch Construction” is a term you should become familiar with – it means that a row of stitching attaches the upper, insole, midsole, and outsole. In other words, it’s designed for you to be able to replace the outsole if it wears out. That means it’s high quality and built to last you for years to come.
Another high quality way to connect all the pieces of a shoe together is called a Goodyear Welt, and different manufacturers have their own spin on what that actually entails. Less quality dress shoes that only use glue to attach the various parts are meant to be thrown out when the outsole wears out – not a very sustainable approach.
Then there’s the “last” – another critical component to quality dress shoe construction. What is a “last” you may ask? It’s basically the 3D mold used for shaping the leather upper – it determines how the shoe actually comes together and the shape it will take. So you want to look for a design that has been perfected over time. Not only that, there’s different processes for how the leather uppers “cure,” if you will, when on the last. Lower quality dress shoes may use artificial means like vacuum ovens to unnaturally “speed up” the process of the leather forming around the last, but this could make it less stable over time. Check to see if the manufacturer took their time with this part to ensure a stable shape for years to come.
Of course, one of the easiest ways to tell quality dress shoe construction is who makes it: is it hand-made one by one or mass produced by machines? Not a surprise that hand-made has a bit more attention to detail.
Fine Details in High Quality Dress Shoes
Speaking of which – that’s the third major factor in determining dress shoe quality – attention to fine details. Things like hand-cutting the leather to get the smoothest edges, including interior brass eyelets to protect the facings (basically the holes where the laces go through) from tearing, and hand-sanding the edges of the soles are all “tells” that great care has been taken to ensure the final product is of the highest quality.
Dean Oxford Review
So! Now that we’ve got all our terms of engagement ironed out, let’s talk about one particular shoe that exhibits many of the features we’ve come to expect from a quality dress shoe – the Dean Oxford by Beckett Simonon.
Before I go any further, to remain true to my commitment to be totally transparent with you, I want you to know that they did send me this pair as a free sample to review, BUT they have no idea what my review will say and I’m only sharing them at all because I’ve done my usual research and testing before recommending them.
Who is Beckett Simonon?
You may be thinking, who is Beckett Simonon? Founded in 2012, they’ve been steadily building a loyal following of shoe lovers around the world. As an online-only direct-to-consumer business model, they have one peculiarity that it’s important to know right off the bat – you can’t just order their shoes and get them in a few days.
What?? What is this blasphemy? Yes, in the age of Prime shipping where we expect everything to be teleported to us instantaneously, this e-commerce model certainly bucks that trend. So why do they do it?
According to their website, they use this “pre-order” / “made-to-order” model so they can stay up to date on the latest fashion trends while passing the savings along to you. How does that work? By only making what they can sell, they don’t carry excess inventory, which other manufacturers bake in to the final cost of their shoes.
This allows their supply chain to be more nimble by not catering to the whims of seasonal trends that quickly go in and out of style. While most of their designs are pretty timeless, beyond black (which will always be in demand) other colors may quickly lose or gain favor with consumers. In an age where fast-fashion seems to rule all, there are some benefits to a slower approach. From a sustainability perspective, it’s much more responsible to match supply with demand as closely as possible so waste is minimized.
Beckett Simonon vs. Allen Edmonds
But, you really need to plan ahead – which is something that life doesn’t always allow for. The average delivery time is between 8 – 12 weeks. If you know about an upcoming event you really need a new pair of shoes for, you have to give yourself plenty of lead-time here. So at the end of the day, the question becomes – is the cost savings worth the extra wait?
The answer to that question is ultimately a personal one – everyone will value a different part of the equation higher or lower depending on a variety of factors. Do you need shoes right away, or would you rather save a great deal of dinero and be ok with the wait?
The other way to answer that question is to talk about the competition. While this isn’t a comparison-style head-to-head review, as I don’t own a pair, it’s safe to say that the Dean Oxfords go toe-to-toe (pun intended) with Allen Edmond’s Park Avenue Cap-toe Oxford, which retail for $395 USD at the time of this review. The Dean’s retail for $300 but are listed at $199 on the website.
So what’s the difference? What makes the Park Avenue sell for nearly $200 more? One is location – Allen Edmonds are made in the USA, whereas Beckett Simonon are made in Colombia. It’s important to note that Beckett Simonon is very clear throughout all their messaging, even going so far as to stamp it in the outsole of the shoes, that their partner factories provide fair and ethical working conditions.
The other big difference is brand – and I understand paying more for brand. Allen Edmonds has been around since 1922, and have well established themselves in the market as purveyors of high quality dress shoes, whereas Beckett Simonon is the newcomer turning heads with their high quality at lower prices. But if no one can tell the difference from the outside, is paying for brand really worth it? It’s something you need to determine for yourself.
Unboxing the Dean Oxfords
Ok, enough lead up, let’s talk about the Dean itself. Opening the box, you’re first greeted by a nice brochure giving you a background on Beckett Simonon, with great info on what goes into making their shoes and who does the making. A really nice touch.
Inserts for Extra Padding
Next, you’ve got some inserts here that you can use as well for a little extra padding.
Individual Dust Bags
Now to the really good stuff. Each shoe is wrapped in its own individual dust bag – great for protecting them when packed for travel.
The Big Reveal
Taking them out of the bag – your first impression is just, wow. Very good looking shoes. And they look great from whatever angle you’re looking at. Holding them in your hand, they feel substantial, like someone took great care to make them, the opposite of a mass-produced item.
Flipping them over, I love how the outsole is stamped with their logo, the “fair and ethical working conditions” reminder, and the size.
Are the Deans Premium Dress Shoes?
Now, let’s go back to where we started and see how the Dean does on the characteristics of a high quality dress shoe – we talked about materials, construction, and fine details.
First, materials. Full-grain calf leather upper? Check.
Full-grain leather lining? Check.
Full-grain leather outsoles? Check.
Now, construction. Hand-made one at a time? Check.
Resoleable Blake Stitch Construction? Check.
Time on the last? 72 hours without the use of unnatural vacuum ovens to speed things up.
Lastly, fine details. Hand-cutting the leather to get the smoothest edges? Check.
Interior brass eyelets where the laces go through? Check.
The Dean Oxfords really do check all the major boxes for a high quality dress shoe, such that it becomes not just a one-off purchase, but an investment into an item that you’re going to have for years to come.
Are They True to Size?
A note on size – I found them to be true to size to other dress shoes I’ve owned. Size can be tricky, especially in athletic shoes and other types, but in my experience dress shoes try to stay true to some sort of standard, and I found that with the Dean’s. If you happen to pick the wrong size, they’ve got you covered with free returns and exchanges.
One potential downside to the Dean – it only comes in Medium (D) width, so if you normally buy wide widths, these might not be the shoes for you, I’m sorry to say.
Tan is Played Out (or Why I Chose Brown)
Let’s talk about the color. I had a tough time picking because I liked all the colors a lot: Tan, Bordeaux, Oak, Brown, Black. I decided to go darker and go with Brown, and I’m glad I did. As one of my very fashionable co-workers pointed out, the whole men’s shoe world has been obsessed with Tan for some time, and while I still love it, I think it might be a little played out. The richness of the Dean in Brown is really a nice choice and adds formality to any outfit.
Remember, as a general rule, the darker the shoes, the more formal they are, with of course Black being the most formal. So by going with the darker Brown, I’m able to “dress up” an otherwise pretty casual outfit, which is my standard office attire.
Average Dress Shoe Comfort Level
So, how do they feel? Well, they feel like dress shoes. I have a very particular sensibility around this as I like to wear the most comfortable shoes I can get away with at any given moment. Dress shoes usually don’t make the cut. That being said, once broken in they become as comfortable as any shoe can based on the materials you’re working with to achieve a particular look. Comfort is just not high on my prerequisites for a high-end dress shoe because I don’t expect them to be.
Is This Stuff Adam Likes?
So, what’s the bottom line? Is this Stuff Adam Likes? The answer is…yes! Will I wear these every day? No, but quality dress shoes are an essential part of every person’s wardrobe, and why spend more than you have to when you can get fantastic-looking handmade shoes at a fraction of the cost? Again, the only drawback, the same thing that makes that extreme value possible, is the long lead time between when you place the order and when you receive it, so if you’re even thinking about it, I suggest you pull the trigger so you’ll have them in time for that big shindig you’ve got coming up.