Goodyear welt construction is considered by many to be the be-all and end-all of shoe construction methods. This is because it’s a method that allows a shoe to be resoled many times over without causing damage to the upper. There is often an elevated price tag for shoes that are made in this way.
Until a few weeks ago, if you had told me that I could buy a pair of Goodyear welted shoes for under $100, I’d have laughed in your face. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I’m nicer than that, so I would have just been politely skeptical.
This is precisely how I approached shoes made by Samuel Windsor, a British company that makes a full line of clothing and shoes that’s designed for guys on the tightest of budgets. Given that my son’s day care has essentially increased my rent by 80%, I appreciate a company that keeps a man like that in mind.
But what about quality? While I love a good deal, I’m also a firm believer in the saying, “You get what you pay for.” Were these guys serious about selling Goodyear welted shoes for as low as $79?
Overall, I have to say that Samuel Windsor makes a decent shoe for the money. The quality of the product itself is fine, but the customer service is really what impressed me the most.
Samuel Windsor Classic & Prestige Collection Review
Samuel Windsor offers two collections of shoes: Classic and Prestige, retailing for $79/pair and $99/pair, respectively. Both utilize Goodyear welt construction. The only difference is that the Prestige Collection uses a higher grade Italian leather on the upper and sock liner, and has more padding in the sock. The company’s flashier designs and evening shoes are from this line.
Point being: there’s a difference between collections, but not in the construction. To read more about Goodyear welt construction, see our piece on Grant Stone shoes.
What’s In The Box?
For a $79 pair of shoes, I was impressed by what came in the box. The shoes themselves were carefully wrapped in branded paper and each thoroughly stuffed with paper to help them maintain their shape. The shoes also came with a plastic-but-sturdy shoe horn, a pamphlet with company information, and an additional set of laces. There was also a pre-paid return shipping label, which I thought was convenient.
It’s worth noting here that these shoes claim to be “handmade.” While I would never call anyone a liar over this, there is no way that this is technically true for a shoe that costs $79. There’s no way it’s true for a shoe that costs $350. There’s no way it’s true for a shoe that costs even $800.
Fully bespoke shoes or ultra high-end shoes like John Lobbs that cost well over $1000 per pair are handmade.
I have no doubt that trained human hands did indeed carefully guide these shoes through shoemaking machines over a multi-step process. But handmade? Unless a shoe is fully bespoke, then it’s highly unlikely that such a claim is true.
In fairness, Samuel Windsor is not the only company to use this terminology in such a way. In my early days in the footwear industry, my company sold a gorgeous shoe that was “Benchmade in England.” This was legally true but a bit sneaky, as “benchmade” is synonymous with “handmade” and only about 20% of the work on those shoes was done by hand. The rest was done by machine, albeit by a highly-trained artisan in England.
They retailed at $425, and that was in 2006.
Materials & Fit
As stated above, Paul and I both ended up getting suede shoes. I selected a chocolate semi-brogue, and he got a navy suede tassel loafer. While it’s unfortunate that we didn’t have a chance to review a leather option, it gave us a great sense of the company’s customer service (detailed further below).
Another positive that came from that is this bit of advice: if you’re going to buy budget shoes, suede is a much more forgiving material than leather.
Honestly, I’m a bit jealous of Paul’s shoes, which will look killer with a pair of white trousers in the summertime.
Being a British company, Samuel Windsor sizes its shoes in British sizing, and a good rule of thumb is to go a full size down from your American size when converting. Paul has a wide foot, a 14 wide to be exact. I’m on the other end of the spectrum, rocking a 7D on my 5’4″ frame. He ordered a 13, and I ordered a 6.
Paul wasn’t optimistic about the shoes fitting all that well, but he liked the style and has dealt with imperfect shoe fits in the past, so no big deal. They fit so well, in fact, that he was surprised and delighted by it.
My shoes were a touch big, especially on the left, which is the smaller of my feet. This was easily remedied by an insole, but as a buyer you should know that our experience is that the shoes run a bit large.
If I were willing and able to climb a mountain (and let’s be clear, I’m not), I would sing Samuel Windsor’s praises from the mountain tops with regard to their customer service.
My contact was a lovely gentleman named Dan. He was quick to respond to emails and was unfailingly kind throughout the process, which is a great start. What really got me was how he handled an issue we had with the first set of shoes we received.
I initially ordered a 6.5, and Paul requested a two-tone leather shoe. The 6.5 was far too big on me, and unfortunately, the leather pair Paul ordered had some quality issues on the upper. It was disappointing.
When I reached out to Dan and explained the problem, his response was something that customer service managers should train all of their employees to do: he apologized for the quality issue and sent us replacements immediately, before I even had a chance to drop the originals back at the post office, using the pre-paid return label.
This “we’re going to take great care of you, no questions asked” attitude makes me feel confident in buying from this company. Dan handed me off to another representative when he went out on paternity leave, and everyone else I worked with was equally kind and accommodating.
I put my brown suede semi-brogues on with a pair of jeans, as it was a Friday and I was feeling a bit casual. The wife and I went for a stroll after an hours-long rainstorm.
The beauty of a brown suede semi-brogue is that it can be dressed up or down. It gives jeans an air of sophistication they may otherwise lack, and it’s a nice way to take a bit of stuffiness out of a worsted wool suit.
Final Review: 4 Out Of 5 Stars
Samuel Windsor offers good value. In the world of budget clothing, it’s difficult to find items that are reasonably well-made and also good-looking. That these shoes came with a shoe horn and extra laces was a very pleasant surprise that added some value to an already well-priced item.
Are the materials here top notch? No. If you want really high-end leather and suede, you’re going to have to pay more. Are these the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn? No, but I’ve paid a lot more for shoes that have wrecked my feet, and I’m sure these will mold to my foot over time anyway.
Are there better looking shoes on the market that are constructed this well at this price point? I sure haven’t found a pair. For $79-$99, these are a great value and if you spend that elsewhere, you’ll get a lesser product.
Offering stellar customer service and a value-driven product that’s a great fit for a young man who’s just starting to build his wardrobe, I’m happy to recommend Samuel Windsor.
"These shoes offer solid all around value. The price point, construction, and excellent customer service come together to make a product that looks good and costs little. Happy to recommend!"Rating: 4.0 ★★★★