On plenty of occasions, whether it be here on BespokeUnit’s men’s shoe reviews or in-person to anyone who will listen (willingly or unwillingly), I’ve professed a devotion towards leather boots of all styles.
However, the spring and summer seasons of 2020 brought with them many changes, the most universal of which was a large amount of time spent indoors. Naturally, my eyes drifted to social media and online shoe forums where my attention was piqued by a style I was not too familiar with – the premium leather slipper / wholecut loafer. As any normal person does, I began obsessively researching the styles, constructions, materials, and price ranges to see what was out there.
For a number of reasons which I will outline in the following post via the below categories, I chose to go with the Mark Albert Loafer in Black Roughout; I haven’t looked back since.
Wholecut Loafer Specifications
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Style & Appearance
What initially drew me to this style of loafer was the overall lack of decoration and simplicity in design. The absence of a bit as encountered on bit loafers or of a saddle as seen on penny loafers is exactly what I was looking for.
This loafer is closest in style to a Venetian loafer, though from my experience Venetian loafers tend to have some stitching on the top of the toebox that generally distinguishes them and which I was not interested in. For this reason, I’ll be referring to the Mark Alberts throughout this review as wholecut loafers or slippers.
The Mark Albert Boots iteration of this loafer style hit it right on the head. The slippers are sleek with a smooth silhouette and minimal features. The roughout leather, which has a very short nap and an incredibly soft feel, is allowed to shine wholeheartedly.
The goodyear welted sole is unpainted; this offers a nice contrast to the jet-black upper. Likewise, the white stitching of the flat welt also pops against the upper and the tan color of the welt.
Lastly, there’s black stitching around the “tongue,” along the heel cup, and attaching the backstay at the rear. This detail remains mostly invisible unless viewed from up-close.
The stitching on the backstay isn’t perfect but I was willing to overlook this given that most folks won’t get close enough to notice such imperfections. Keep in mind that these are handmade so variations in stitching are to be expected.
On-feet, these slippers look outstanding. During the summer months of 2020, I paired them with light-colored shorts whenever I had a chance to get outside. Further into the year, I found that the black roughout also worked well with mid to light wash jeans and more fall-oriented chinos.
I am actively testing out new fits with which to pair these loafers, though my predisposition to this specific pair will undoubtedly lead me to wear them with just about anything.
Fit & Comfort
As good as the Mark Albert loafers look, they are just as comfortable to wear. I ordered one size down from my standard sneaker size as indicated on their site and they fit quite well.
The leather upper is an ideal thickness. It is thin enough to remain light and pliable while also molding around the foot snugly. Notably, it offers the right amount of “give” while maintaining its lasted form. There’s also a lining in the heel cup (though not in the toe) that helps the upper to retain its structure throughout time.
With a leather sole construction, loafers can often feel bottom heavy. However, the fit on these was taut enough to where it didn’t feel like I was “dragging the sole around.” While ordering, I was wary of this being an issue with any slipper/loafer of this type. Fortunately, upon delivery and after many wears, I was glad to see that this issue did not arise.
The insoles appear to be vegetable-tanned leather which, coupled with the smooth side of the roughout upper facing inwards, make for very cushy wear.
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of going sockless. However, in the few times I tried it with these loafers, I seemed to be able to avoid the dreaded swamp foot. Either way, I’ll probably stick mostly with no-show socks (“boat shoe socks”) in the future.
All in all, the comfort of these loafers exceeded my expectations. It’s also one of the reasons I’ve found myself reaching for them so frequently over the past couple of months.
Dress Code & Formality
In a wholecut style such as these, with the leather standing front-and-center, the choice of material is critical in determining the formality of the final product. Moreover, loafers are inherently casual. Yet, by stripping away most design complexities, I found this style of loafer to be elevated to a more formal realm.
At the time of purchase, Mark Albert Boots offered four different leather options. Depending on the material choice, the same exact men’s slipper style can impart diverse elements to equally assorted settings and outfits.
After some back-and-forth, I chose to go with the black roughout. It was not an easy choice as there was also a Copper Chrome option in stock that was quite enticing.
Ultimately, what drew my attention to this style of loafer in the first place was the juxtaposition of elevated casual style (wholecut + loafer) with formal construction (goodyear welt + leather upper). Moreover, the additional texture provided by the roughout added a final layer of visual complexity.
Most importantly, I have way too many brown shoes, so a black pair couldn’t hurt; “black roughout it is.”
With the shoes finally in my hands and on my feet, I was glad to have gone the way I did. Nevertheless, if the Copper Chrome or Storm Kudu varieties are restocked, I would certainly consider picking either one of those up.
Presentation & Value For Money
The Mark Albert Loafers were shipped in a branded shoebox with protective paper and little else.
Could one expect more for the price considering they retail for $225? Perhaps. Yet, seeing as how Mark Albert Boots remains a relatively small operation, it’s also understandable. The addition of “accessories” in the box will quickly cut into the margins of a budding MiUSA shoe brand. Personally, I was so pleased with the loafers themselves that I was OK with this presentation.
On value for money, one need only look at the price of similar styles online to gather that yes, there is a lot of value to be had with the Mark Albert loafers. The next option I could find that offered the same look as these cost more than double the price.
Admittedly, this doubly-priced option was essentially a flawless execution when you zoom in on the details i.e. stitching, welt finishing, etc… But alas, I was more than content paying half the price for stitching that is less-than-perfect.
The Mark Albert Boots brand is known in online communities mostly for their namesake, boots. Because of this, I was initially skeptical of the brand’s ability to create a formidable loafer, especially in such a unique style.
Upon purchase, I did think that I was taking a risk on an unproven style from a lesser-known brand. In the end, I am more than glad that I did. I found the Mark Albert wholecut loafers to be an exceptional shoe that I will be happily wearing regularly for years to come.
If you’re in the market for this uncommon style and aren’t trying to break the bank, I highly recommend giving them a try.
"An exceptional execution of a very unique style. Skilled craftsmanship and premium leather choice make these wholecut loafers a product much greater than the sum of its parts."
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