Hello everyone and welcome to another of my reviews. In this article, I’ll be reviewing the new Rafael Denim Tassel Belgian Loafer and Santiago Patina II Vintage Leather Messenger Bag from local accessories label Arden Teal.
I’ve previously reviewed Arden Teal’s bag offerings here, and its loafers here. Since then, the brand has innovated and refined its offerings, and sent its latest bag and loafers to me for review. Let’s see if they are any good.
Arden Teal – the Brand
I’ve previously covered the brand story of Arden Teal in my first review of their shoes. For those interested in learning more about Arden Teal, do check out that article here.
Arden Teal Santiago Patina II Vintage Leather Messenger Bag – Review
Let’s start with the Santiago Messenger Bag.
Like most of Arden Teal’s shoes, the Santiago Messenger Bag is crafted from Argentinean full-grain leather. For the uninitiated, leather generally comes in three quality tiers – genuine leather, top-grain leather, and full-grain leather, in ascending order of quality. Being full-grain leather, the Santiago Messenger Bag is soft to the touch yet durable, and will undoubtedly patina beautifully over time.
However, the Santiago Messenger Bag actually features a pre-patinaed effect – Arden Teal says the bag is handpainted and manually darkened at the edges for a vintage look. Its gradient effect reminds me of my Custommade (now defunct) UNO loafers, with both having a sophisticated feel.
I was impressed by the tidy stitching too, with no fraying or loose threads to be seen.
The Santiago Messenger Bag is not just all looks however – it also has plenty of functionality. Firstly, the bag has a front zippered compartment that features magnetic buttons for a more upscale touch.
I personally treated it as a quick-access compartment and used it to store my power bank, earphones, tissues, wet wipes, etc.
There’s also a zippered compartment at the back, which I used to store the accompanying sling when not in use (more on that later).
Meanwhile, the inside features two internal zippered compartments, as well as another unzippered compartment (bottom of the bag). The interior is lined with canvas – instead of cheap polyester – resulting in a more premium look and feel, as well as enhanced durability.
The centre compartment fits laptops of up to 13 inches. However, my laptop (and I suspect most people’s) is 14-15inches, resulting in it being a tad too big to fit. That’s a shame, though the laptop can still fit in the messenger bag with ease.
The handles are accentuated by a full-grain grip, which is fastened via magnetic buttons. This leads to a more premium and comfortable carrying experience, though it also makes accessing the bag a tad inconvenient as one has to unfasten the grip first.
Should the bag get too heavy to carry by hand, Arden Teal also includes a sling to make life easier. Work is hard enough – your bag shouldn’t be adding to that burden.
The sling is attached to stainless steel hooks at the sides, which are bolted to the bag. In other words, the hardware is sturdy and should not come apart even after repeated months – or years – of heavy use.
All in all, I really like the Santiago Messenger Bag. I really like its patinated aesthetic, and there’s an old-school charm to it that’s rarely seen in the bags available locally. Its rustic charm reminds me of my Cincinati Leather (also now defunct) Briefcase, albeit with better functionality. Although I wish the centre compartment was slightly larger to accommodate my laptop, the Santiago Messenger Bag isn’t really one you would take to the office daily. It’s better as an option for smart casual occasions, where you want to appear dapper but still need to lug some documents around. And for those scenarios, the Santiago Messenger Bag really shines. After the promo code below, it can be had for just $209, making it great value for a hand-finished, full-grain leather bag.
Arden Teal Rafael Denim Tassel Belgian Loafers – Review
That being said, dress shoes are still Arden Teal’s bread and butter offerings.
Contrary to its name, the Rafael Denim Tassel Belgian Loafers are actually made of Egyptian linen. As linen is a natural material, the loafers are breathable and comfortable on the feet. In my experience, they also don’t really wrinkle – a usual complaint of linen. Here, the linen has been textured to resemble denim, which is an interesting aesthetic, to say the least.
I previously reviewed the Olavarria Penny Loafers, so I was happy to review a tassel loafer for a change. As compared to the penny loafer, the tassel loafer is slightly more casual, yet with a debonair feel that few dress shoes possess. Due to its design – along with the unique denim blue hue – the Rafael Denim Tassel Belgian Loafers will look great on all sorts of smart casual occasions.
However, the Rafael Denim Tassel Belgian Loafers is cemented in its construction. Shoes generally come in three quality tiers – cemented, blake-stitched, and Goodyear welted. In other words, the cemented loafers aren’t going to be as durable as a blake-stiched or Goodyear welted pair of boots, but those would cost significantly more (I doubt you can find a pair of blake-stitched loafers for under $150).
The sole is made from rubber, and features an anti-slip outsole to provide maximum traction while walking. In addition, the sole has been fashioned to resemble a leather one, with the machine-stitching providing the sole with the facsimile of a blake-stitched shoe. In other words, the sole looks more atas than it actually is, and belies the affordable price tag of the Rafael Denim Tassel Belgian Loafers.
Another premium touch comes in the form of its leather lining and leather padded insole. Like linen, leather is a natural material, and is thus more breathable – and comfortable – than the polyester linings found on cheaper dress shoes.
I found the Rafael Denim Tassel Belgian Loafers to be comfortable on the feet – no complaints.
However, my favourite aspect of the shoes is that they are eminently stylish – just look at the photo above. They pair perfectly with a pair of cuffed trousers. At just $121 (after the promo code below), I would say that they are bang-for-buck. And if you’re not a fan of denim, the Rafael Tassel Belgian loafers are also available in Black, Blue, Brown, and even Mahagony.
Conclusion – so Arden Teal Loafers and Bag “shiok” or not?
Definitely so. I really enjoyed both the Santiago Messenger Bag and the Rafael Denim Tassel Belgian Loafers. The former has a lovely vintage charm and rakish vibe, while the latter is strikingly uncommon. Both are also fairly value-for-money, making them great additions for those searching for a left-field bag/shoe. If you want to stand out, definitely consider the Santiago Messenger Bag and the Rafael Denim Tassel Belgian Loafers.
Those interested in purchasing these can use the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy 10% off the Rafael Denim Tassel Belgian Loafers, and the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK25” for a whopping 25% off the Santiago Messenger Bag. After the discounts, the loafers can be had for just $121, while the bag would cost a mere $209, making them great value propositions.
P.S: Check out The Shiok Store here – it serves as a curation of my favourite products from my favourite brands.
P.P.S: Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wah so Shiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.P.P.P.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.