Austen Heller Victors Driver Loafers
The first thing you’re going to notice about these beefroll loafers is the price tag. Somehow–I have no idea how–Austen Heller produces quality loafers in European, family-run factories with high quality materials for less than two hundred bucks. In theory, you could pick up a pair of Cole Haan LunarGrand Loafers for around the same price, or even a little less, from a Nordstrom Rack or the online equivalent, but you shouldn’t. Here’s why:
Austen Heller has way more color and material options. The materials just feel better on your feet. They’re durable. They beat up nicely. They’re lined with calfskin and have an extra-cushioned insole. They’re handsewn… for real. You should also consider the fact you’re helping a small business started a guy pretty similar to every one of you reading this and the fact that all your style-inclined friends don’t already have a pair of Austen Heller loafers.
This particular pair is of the Victors Driver variety. What the hell does that mean? That means it’s a supple navy blue suede with a yellow rubber sole that’s been redesigned to be a little thicker for driving comfort and durability. It sounds completely ridiculous that a slightly beefier sole on a beefroll loafer would make the difference when you’re driving, but it does. It’s hard to recommend a full-on driving shoe because commuting with an automobile in Chicago is not fun times, but your heels will thank you even if you’re just putting in high miles on the sidewalk.
Even in the snow and salt filled apocalypse that doesn’t show any signs of loosening its stranglehold on this city the Austen Heller loafers perform. Yes, I wore these shoes outside during what can only appropriately be referred to as bullshit weather. I’m not gonna lie, my feet were a little cold, but that’s probably because I wasn’t wearing socks either. [The things I do for you people.] You’ll notice a little salt staining on the toe boxes, but that would be easy enough to scrub off with a shoe brush. I chose not to do that because I personally feel like it adds a little more character and attests to the durability of these blue suede shoes. If you want to keep them perfect, pristine and pretty, feel free to put them in your ivory tower of shoes, but that kind of defeats the purpose in my opinion. If you’re not going to wear them, what’s the point of having them?
If you’re not wearing them you’re also not going to get compliments from people at work, your better half and/or random passersby. In addition to getting so comfortable you can wear them around the house like a pair of slippers, the other biggest thing you’ll notice is actually how many other people notice the shoes. Yes, supposedly the contrast sole has gone the way of the dodo, but it still plays in the real world. Besides, if you want to walk in Elvis’ shoes and stay grounded with yellow rubber, go for it.
After reading all of that you might think that these shoes are perfect. They’re pretty damn close, but they’re not without some issues. The yellow sole could be brighter. It’s not as bright as it looks in the stock pictures. I can’t confirm or deny the brightness of any of the other options, but the yellow is not as bright as the sun. Because they’re handsewn, you might have to trim some threads or else they’ll eat your feet up if you go sockless. Since they’re traditional beefroll style, if you go the Gold Bong route you’re going to have to give them a wipe down on the seams.
All things considered, this is a fantastic pair of shoes. They’re even better when you consider the handmade aspects and the fact that you’re getting it with European quality for a price that seems completely unsustainable from a business perspective. Every man needs a good pair of loafers. Since they also offer free shipping and returns, Austen Heller should be your first stop. Quite honestly, it will probably be your last.
[Disclosure: This product was sent by the manufacturer for review. This does not affect my opinion of the product as much as possible, and positive commentary is not guaranteed for sending free products.]