I’m happy to report that I’m lucky enough to own more than my fair share of custom and made-to-measure clothing. I’ve got a few suits and a number of shirts that were made with no one but me in mind. My wife hit it out of the park for Father’s Day and got me a set of ten pairs of custom-engraved collar stays, and I even own custom suspenders.
All my shoes, however, have been ready-to-wear. That is, until I came across Undandy.
Undandy is an England-based shoe company that makes ready-to-wear and made-to-order shoes, all of which are manufactured in Portugal. I took the plunge and had some tassel loafers made up for myself.
The shoes themselves are gorgeous. The color I picked out looks even better in person than it did on screen, the last of the shoe is slim and handsome, and the material is more supple than I was expecting from a $190 shoe.
The fit was overall a bit large, which I will describe in further detail below.
Undandy Shoe Review – ’31 Loafer Review
For your reference, Undandy numbers its lasts. ’31 simply refers to the last that I chose.
The website walks you through the creation process in steps. Those steps, in order, are:
- Last / toe shape selection
- Model selection (oxford, derby, monkstrap, chukka boot, chelsea boot, etc.)
- Decoration (none, cap toe, various brogue styles, etc.)
- Leather and color on various “zones” of the shoe, referring to quarters, toe caps, or whatever else may be there depending on the model you selected (pick from calfskin, suede/nubuck, or patent leather in a wide variety of colors)
- Lace / tassel color
- Stitching color
- Sole color
- Sole engraving (optional)
One thing to keep in mind is that not all styles of shoe are available across each of Undandy’s lasts. For example, the tassel loafer I made up is only available on the ’31 last. Had I wanted a tassel loafer on one of the other two lasts they offer, I’d have been out of luck. This was initially a bit confusing for me, but it makes sense in terms of streamlining Undandy’s workflow.
Have A Plan When Customizing Your Shoe Design
It’s best to have a plan when you’re having a piece of clothing or shoes made up. I didn’t heed my own advice when creating these shoes, and it took me over a week just to make a final decision! I was like a kid in a candy shop whose parents told him, “You can only get one thing.”
Buying made-to-order shoes online is a lot of fun, but it can also be overwhelming. There are so many options for so many different parts of the shoe that it becomes difficult to actually make a decision.
To be clear, this is not at all an issue with Undandy. The point of me saying this is that it is of the utmost importance to have a plan of attack. Look through your shoe wardrobe, take stock of what’s missing or what needs to be replaced, and go from there. Taking a “I’ll just see what the options are and I’ll like something” approach is easy at first, but in my case it totally led to decision paralysis.
The Box & What’s Inside
The box itself is well-constructed with subtle branding on the top and sides. It’s clever that the company uses a relatively nondescript box for made-to-order shoes, which are by definition unique. It’s a fitting juxtaposition.
The presentation just as you open the box is clean and streamlined, which shows attention to detail. The box includes one branded flannel shoe bag. This is a nice touch, but to be perfectly honest, I never understood why brands that offer flannel bags sometimes only offer one. While this is great in terms of protecting your clothes from your shoes while traveling, it does nothing to protect your shoes from each other.
This isn’t a massive pain point by any stretch of the imagination, but it would make sense for Undandy to include two flannel bags.
Each shoe was individually wrapped in generic tissue, and then wrapped again in branded tissue. Each shoe was also stuffed with more branded tissue. Protecting shoes in this way is incredibly important, especially when we’re talking about light-colored nubuck shoes like these:
Undandy Quality: Materials & Construction
These shoes are well-made, with a narrow waist, a nubuck upper with a nice hand, and even stretchy dark blue gore underneath the vamp for a more comfortable fit (see first picture below):
As far as construction is concerned, Undandy’s website says, “All our shoes are handcrafted by our skilled cobblers in Portugal, from cutting the unique patterns of the last you picked, to embossing the Undandy logo into the lining of your choice, each pair of shoes is a thorough work of precision.”
This is lovely, but it doesn’t tell us anything about the particular construction method used for their shoes. What I can see is that the soles are stitched all around, so based on the price point and general quality level, I would assume that these utilize Blake construction. This is a quality construction method that allows shoes to be resoled while maintaining a sense of lightness and flexibility.
The words “handmade,” “handcrafted,” and derivatives thereof are overused in the clothing and shoe industry. Surely, Undandy does indeed employ shoe artisans in Portugal, surely they do great work, and surely some of that work is done by hand. But at $190, the claim that these shoes are handmade is difficult to swallow. Undandy isn’t the only brand to to make these claims, but you should be aware that a fully handmade shoe will generally not cost less than $1,000.
Regardless, the shoes appear to be well made.
Above, you can see the “Gentleman’s Cut” on the heel, which is a notch cut out on the inside corner. This was invented many years ago to protect the wearer’s trousers but is mostly an aesthetic detail nowadays.
Nubuck Versus Suede
These tassel loafers are made from nubuck, a material that’s often mistaken for suede. This confusion is common, but also easy to clear up.
Leather, nubuck, and suede are all made from animal hide, in this case cow. Any hide has two sides: the outside, and the inside.
Both nubuck and suede are brushed to achieve their characteristic “nap.” The difference is that while suede is made from the underside of the hide, nubuck is made from the outside of the hide, just the same as regular leather.
Because it’s made from the side of the skin that deals with the elements throughout the cow’s life, nubuck tends to be stronger and longer-lasting than suede.
Undandy’s ’31 last is described on their website as “a thin sole with a rounded toe.” This is true, and they’re quite handsome. These loafers to be dressed up or down easily; they can be worn with a khaki suit, casual trousers, or even shorts. They look great when going sockless, which I did below.
Comfort, Fit, & Look Of The Undandy ’31
The shoes look phenomenal. The last is elegant and stylish, and the color is truly beautiful. These are definitely statement shoes so I’ll have to wear these sparingly, lest I become The Guy With The Light Blue Tassel Loafers.
I was a bit disappointed with the fit of the shoes. Undandy’s website says that the shoes run true to size, but these felt quite large despite the fact that I ordered a US 7, my typical size in a 60-something strong shoe collection.
Undandy uses UK shoe sizing as its default. Typically, UK sizes for men are one full size smaller than their US equivalents, but Undandy lists a UK 6.5 as equivalent to a US 7. My feeling is that had I ordered a half size smaller, the fit would have been more accurate.
As I had the shoes engraved, the shoes are understandably not exchangeable, at least not according to the company’s official policies. To be clear, I am not faulting Undandy for this. That’s a reasonable policy and they should stand by it. What I am saying, though, is to learn from my mistake: if you’re ordering shoes from a new company and they offer a customization option that renders them yours forever, wait until you know the size is correct before moving forward with such an option.
Better safe than sorry.
Being a tiny guy, I’ve learned quite a few workarounds over the years for things that are too big. In this case, insoles did the trick on the right, and an insole with a heel gripper did the trick on the left (my left foot is a touch smaller than my right).
Final Review: 4 Out Of 5 Stars
I’m quite happy with these shoes. The were a plethora of customization options, the construction is solid, they arrived with a flannel bag, and they look awesome. At $190 full retail, I think the value you get is pretty exceptional.
With that said, I didn’t have the best luck with sizing, and I do hope that the company starts including a second flannel bag in with each shoe.
"These are some great-looking shoes! Though they came in a bit large, the shoes are well-made, super stylish, and very reasonably priced. Definitely recommend."Rating: 4.0 ★★★★
Note: Undandy gave Bespoke Unit these shoes to review free of charge, less shipping costs.