Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singaporean review! On this shiok Saturday, I’m reviewing the new loafers collections from local shoe label, CustomMade.
I’ve previously covered CustomMade before, and reviewed an Oxford from their Made-to-Order collection. If you haven’t already done so, you can read the article here. Currently, CustomMade has ceased making made-to-order shoes, due to production issues as well as slim margins. In the future, they will be pivoting to ready-to-wear shoes, with their debut collection being loafers. Let’s see if they are any good!
CustomMade – the Brand
I’ve previously covered CutomMade as a brand extensively in my previous review. If you would like to know more about the brand and their production process, do read the review here!
CustomMade UNO Loafers – Review
The UNO leather loafers is quite possibly one of the most beautiful pairs of loafers I’ve ever seen.
Let’s start by talking about the leather. Crust calf leather from the Italian tannery Mastrotto is used for the uppers of the UNO loafers, and they are simply brilliant. Mastrotto is one of the best tanneries in the world, with Coach (the luxury brand) even recognising Mastrotto as their best leather supplier. If it’s good enough for Coach, it’s certainly good enough for me!
For those wondering, “crust leather” refers to untreated leather, also known as nude leather due to its lack of colour. On the UNO loafers, the colours are hand-painted on each shoe using Italian Kenda Farben Dye.
The colouring process consists of a few steps. Firstly, the base colour is applied – light brown in the case of this Umber colourway. Next, a secondary colour (yellow in this instance) is meticulously painted on using brush strokes. This creates a beautiful colour gradient throughout the entire shoe. Thirdly, the shoemaker applies burnishing (either black or dark brown paint) to the edges of the shoe, before finally finishing and polishing the shoe to “seal” its colour.
The colouring process is painstaking and labourious, but it undeniably results in a beautiful pair of leather loafers on the feet. The amount of details and subtleties in the finishing of the shoe is incredibly – one can definitely tell it was hand-finished. Personally, I absolutely adore the patina and gradient effect of the shoe. It comes across as sophisticated, and makes me appreciate the amount of effort that has undoubtedly went into the creation of this pair of shoes.
On the inside, the UNO loafers features a suede sheep reverse calf lining, which feels premium to the touch and is immensely comfortable. On lower-end shoes, the lining is often made of synthetic materials such as polyester, and this often leads to one feeling hot in their shoes after prolonged periods of wear. A natural lining, such as sheep calf, is much more breathable, and thus results in better comfort. I also love its velvety red, which I find adds a regal vibe to the UNO loafers.
In addition, the UNO loafers features an Argentinean leather sole. To be more specific, it features a leather sole that has been hand-painted red, a beveled waist, and a closed channel design. These are very technical terms in the world of shoemaking, but nevertheless I will try to explain briefly to those that might be interested. Firstly, the beveled waist refers to the middle portion of the sole where you can see the leather has been beveled, looking like it has been carved away. Generally speaking, the deeper the waist cut, the more sophisticated the shoe. Typically, this is an aesthetic design that can only be found in a handcrafted shoe – you certainly won’t see a beveled waist in your regular departmental store shoes, or even shoes from online stores like Ernest & Collective. Secondly, a closed channel design refers to a sole whereby the stitching of the sole to the welt of the shoe is hidden underneath the leather. This gives the sole a nice clean and sophisticated look, and is often a testament to quality craftsmanship. Again, you’re unlikely to find shoes with a closed channel design off the rack in departmental stores! Overall, I really appreciate the amount of effort and detail that CustomMade has put into the soles of the UNO loafers.
Moving on to the construction of the shoe, the UNO loafers features a blake-stitched construction. For the uninitiated, dress shoes typically comes in 3 forms of construction: cemented, blake-stitched, and goodyear welted. Cemented construction is the lowest quality tier, as it means that the sole of the shoe is simply glued on. Over time, the glue will weaken and eventually result in the sole of the shoe breaking off. Personally, I would not pay more than $150 for a cemented shoe. In blake-stitched shoes, the upper is wrapped around the insole and attached between it and the outsole. A single stitch attaches everything together. This enhances the durability of the shoe (as compared to cemented construction), and also allow for resoling once the outsole needs replacing. In essence, it’s a construction method that ensures that the shoe is made to last. On the other hand, goodyear welted is generally considered the most durable (and also most expensive) form of construction, with many components of the manufacturing done by hand. It employs two-level stitching, which not only makes the shoe more durable but also allows for easier resoling, as well as waterproofing qualities. However, I’m generally not a fan of goodyear welted shoes as not only are they often expensive, they are also rather uncomfortable on the feet initially and requires a lengthy break in period. To me, the blake-stitched construction offers the perfect balance of durability and comfort.
It is often said that the devil is in the details, but here the details of the UNO loafers simply brings me to heaven. Firstly, I love the crocodile embossed “penny” aspect of the loafers, which I find to add a nice textural contrast to the rest of the shoe. I think the stitching is exquisite here as well, with nary a fraying or loose thread to be found. If anything, the UNO loafers look even more beautiful up close!
I should also mention that the UNO loafers come in various different colourways, so fret not if the Umber isn’t your cup of tea! Aside from the Umber, I find the Dusk variant (right most in the photo above) to be quite unique as well.
The UNO loafers are currently my favourite pair of loafers, by far. I simply thinks it looks majestic on the feet, and will help elevate any outfit it’s paired with. For the price – $359, after the promo code below – I think the UNO loafers from CustomMade is a great deal. It’s undeniably a very well crafted shoe, and at a very accessible price. If you’re looking for some of the aspects the UNO loafers possess – Italian leather from a renowned tannery, hand-painted and patined by artisans, sheep calf lining, a leather sole with a beveled waist and close channel construction – you will likely have to pay more than double from established brands. Definitely a great bang-for-buck!
CustomMade Belgian Unlined Loafers – Review
If you’re looking something a little more casual, try the Belgian Unlined Loafers from CustomMade!
The uppers of the Belgian Unlined Loafers are made from Argentinean reverse calf suede. For those unfamiliar with the term, “reverse calf” refers to skin from a young calf, typically 4-6 months old. The skin unspilt, and is strong and supple, feeling finer and more premium to the touch than your regular suede leather.
Despite the lower price, the Belgian Unlined Loafers still features a leather sole for added durability and sophistication. However, due to its lower price, it’s not as fancy in its construction as compared to the UNO loafers. There’s no beveled waist or closed channel construction here. However, I’m fine with that – the Belgian Unlined Loafers is meant to be a more casual shoe after all, and I certainly appreciate its more affordable price tag!
Like the UNO loafers however, the Belgian Unlined Loafers still features a blake-stitched construction for added durability. CustomMade actually calls it a blake-flex construction – Don of CustomMade explained to me that as the loafers are unlined, the shoes will actually feel even more comfortable on the feet than regular blake-stitched loafers (such as the UNO loafers)!
On the feet, the Belgian Unlined Loafers fit like a glove. It feels light, comfortable, and immensely flexible. As such, there’s very little break-in time as well. Due to its unlined nature, Don actually recommends customers to wear the shoes without socks. I really can’t stress its comfort enough – it feels like slipping on a pair of Toms, but elevated and more sophisticated in style.
I love the aesthetics of the Belgian Unlined Loafers too! Firstly, I’m a big fan of suede – it somehow looks sophisticated, yet still casual at the same time. I adore the clean silhouette of the loafers overall. I also appreciate its versatility – this is a pair of loafers that I find pairs well with almost every outfit. I could either wear this with a suit to add a dose of casualness, or wear this with a polo tee and shorts to inject some sharpness into the outfit. A really great option to either dress up or dress down your look!
If you’re not a fan of Belgian loafers, CustomMade also offer them with tassels! There are other colourways as well, such as Maroon (pictured above), Dark Brown, and Navy. I quite like the Maroon colourway as well – the colour and texture reminds me of velvet – though I imagine it would be a less versatile option stylistically as compared to Tan.
All in all, I find the Belgian Unlined Loafers to be great value for money. There’s a lot to love here: the reverse suede calf leather is durable and feels premium to the touch, the loafers feature a blake-stitched construction, the leather sole adds sophistication, and the unlined nature of the loafers just makes them immensely comfortable on the feet. At $225 (after the promo code below), I think they are an amazing value proposition – a similar shoe from an established label such as Crocket & Jones costs nearly thrice as much!
Comparison: CustomMade Belgian Unlined Loafers vs Gaius Walks Paola Nappa Leather Loafers
Previously, I stated that the unlined Nappa Leather loafers from Gauis Walks were the best loafers that I’ve worn. Given that both loafers are unlined, I’ll be doing a quick comparison between the ones from CustomMade, and the ones from Gaius Walks.
Let’s start with the similarities. As aforementioned, both loafers are unlined, resulting in an ultra-comfortable, glove-like fit on the fit. They are light, breathable, flexible, and a joy to walk in.
Nevertheles, the CustomMade Belgian Unlined loafers undoubtedly boasts better features. Firstly, the Belgian Unlined loafers possess a blake-stitched construction, which is more durable than the cemented construction of the Paolo Nappa leather loafers. Secondly, the CustomMade loafers also has a leather sole, whilst the Gaius Walks loafers comes with a cheaper rubber sole.
However, these upgrades comes at a price – the Belgian Unlined loafers costs substantially more than its Gaius Walks counterpart. My suggestion is this: if you have the cash, go for the CustomMade loafers. If you’re on a tighter budget, the Paolo Nappa Leather Loafers is still a terrific pair of loafers, at a significantly more wallet-friendly price.
Conclusion – so the CustomMade loafers “shiok” or not?
Definitely. I really enjoyed both the UNO as well as the Belgian Unlined loafers, and I think they are great value for money. The UNO loafers features hand-patined leather from a renowned Italian tannery, soft sheep calf leather lining, and a leather sole that boasts a beveled waist and a closed channel construction. It possesses the traits of traditional Italian shoemaking, but at a fraction of the prices charged by Italian brands. The Belgian Unlined loafers is no slouch either – it comes in a blake-stitched construction, uses reverse calf suede leather (some of the supplest suede I’ve ever touched), comes with a leather sole and is immensely comfortable on the feet. Personally, I find the UNO loafers perfect for more formal occasions (especially when paired with a suit), whilst the Belgian Unlined loafers – paired with a nice shirt and chinos – are my go-to for a more casual occasion.
For those interested, you can quote “WAHSOSHIOK” whilst at the CustomMade showroom to enjoy 10% off all purchases! After the discount, the UNO loafers can be had for just $359, and the Belgian Unlined loafers for $225. Given the impressive construction and build quality of the loafers, I think that’s a very reasonable price.
Update: Currently, CustomMade is having an earlybird offer for the Belgian Unlined loafers at just $199! If you quote “WAHSOSHIOK” whilst there, you will get a free suede leather protector as well. Whilst stock last only, so act fast if you’re interested!
Read more about the loafers collection on CustomMade’s website here.
101 Telok Ayer Street, #03-04, Stairs 94
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!