Hello everyone! This week, I’m excited to introduce Arden Teal, a local shoe label aiming to provide quality dress shoes at an affordable pricing.
As they are recently established (Arden Teal started operations just a few months ago), I was really keen to understand more about their products and goals. Therefore, I sat the Arden Teal team down for a short interview – to find out more about the brand, do read the interview portion below!
Interview with Arden Teal
1) What led you to start Arden Teal? Was there any reason/story behind the name?
AT: We were growing weary of the traditional retail experience for buying a good pair of men’s shoes. We searched for options that delivered aesthetics at a price we could relate to, but grew needlessly impatient with our encounters. We started this company at the heel of a problem we knew wasn’t unique to us. We wanted to curate products we were proud of. Impressively designed, high quality shoes that could be conveniently accessed at an easy price. Our brand name is basically a chip off the word ‘ardent’ – a constant reminder of the fervent passion that led us to this journey. Teal was a colour that we agreed represented a modern sophistication that identifies with our brand experience and products. That’s the impression we want our customers to have when they receive their shoes in our signature teal packaging.
2) Tell us more about Arden Teal as a brand, and what you hope to achieve.
AT: Arden Teal is about disrupting the traditional shoe industry. The brand’s mission is to marry well designed shoes using the highest quality materials whilst cutting out excessive retail markups by bringing this product direct-to-customer. Men appreciate and know the importance of good quality shoes but, like us, their experience has been marked by exorbitant prices. We hope to be purveyors of men’s style that delivers affordability without compromising quality and appeal.
3) In your opinion, what do you think separates a good quality dress shoe from a sub-par one?
AT: A key differentiator is the quality of its leather. Shoes made from full grain leather have the ability to age well and last for years. Corrected leather has been buffed to artificially remove imperfections. At first sight, the continuity of colour may seem ideal to some, but with exposure and wear the leather will crease and peel over time.
4) Could you elaborate on the leather used in Arden Teal shoes, as well as the craftmanship that goes inside the making of one of your shoes?
AT: Our shoes are made from Argentinean calfskin leather – a country well known for producing top notch leather exported at much fairer prices. We use full grain leather which comes from the top layer of the hide that typically contains all of the grain. Through constant wear and exposure, the leather takes on a burnished, natural patina look that is characteristic of full grain leather. It has also not been sanded or buffed during the tanning process to artificially remove imperfections which ultimately gives it better strength – meaning it’s more supple and durable. We’ve also not just limited the use of leather to the upper of the shoe but have lined them with leather too, indicative of our detail-oriented construction. Lining shoes with leather, rather than fabric or rubber, makes the inners more durable and resistant to odours.
5) What separates your shoes from others in the same price range?
AT: Definitely the quality of our leather and the attention our craftsmen place on details such as the gently punched broguing effect on our intricately designed shoes.
6) Currently, your shoe styles seems a little limited. Are you looking to expand into other styles (wholecuts, single strap monk), etc soon?
AT: Yes we’re definitely planning to expand our range. The launch collection has given us a better idea of market preferences. We will continue to use our customers’ buying behaviour and feedback as a guide to better inform our buying strategy, be it in styles, materials or choice of colours.
As aforementioned, Arden Teal sent me a pair of their Calafate Straight Cap Burgundy Oxfords to me for review. Given their price point ($112.5 SGD after promo code below), I’m actually quite pleased with the quality of the shoes!
Firstly, Arden Teal uses full-grain Argentinean leather in all their shoes. In all my reviews (watches/shoes/bags), I stress my preference for full-grain leather. For those who are uninitiated about leather, I’ve talked about the different grades of leather in my maiden article here. With natural full grain leather, the suppleness is obvious, especially when compared to the standard “genuine leather” offerings. In addition, full-grain leather patinas pleasantly over time, developing a nice, vintage aged look. In contrast, lower quality leather cracks/peels off after prolonged usage, especially those of the “genuine leather” quality. As such, I’ll always advice readers to look out for either top-grain or better yet, full-grain leather in all their leather products. (Unless you’re after the distinctive look of suede, I suppose) As seen in the picture above, I complement Arden Teal for pre-shining their shoes out of the box – not all manufacturers, especially at this price point, go that extra mile!
However, it has to be noted that while the exterior utilizes full-grain Argentinian leather, the interior lining uses merely calf leather, with the backing being made out of suede. In higher quality (and also higher priced) shoes (such as the CustomMade shoes that I recently reviewed), the entirety of the shoe – exterior, inner lining, sole pad, and sole – should be made out of full-grain leather. That being said, the aforementioned CustomMade shoe was $250 SGD – more than twice the price of this pair of Arden Teal shoes!
Moving on to the stitching – the quality looks good, with nary a stitch out of place, nor visible fraying. Thumbs-up on the stitching department from me!
As typical of shoes around the ~$100 SGD mark, Arden Teal uses cemented construction in their shoes. 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. Unfortunately, that just comes with the price point – if you’re looking to get a blake-stitched/goodyear welted shoe, you’re likely going to have to fork out at least twice as much! The good news is that due to the affordable pricing of Arden Teal shoes, you can just buy yourself another pair when the shoes eventually run its course. That being said, I do like the tactile rubber patches deployed at the forefoot and the heel of the shoes. As compared to my similarly priced Earnest & Collective shoes, they are much less slippery. Thus, I have to say that I actually enjoyed walking around in them more than I did in my E&C shoes.
In the looks department, I love the burnishing that’s applied! It really enhances the look of the shoes, and make them appear to be more expensive than they really are. Furthermore, the leather used in Arden Teal shoes are waxed by hand, creating subtle nuances and unique finishes that enhance the original character of the leather.
Overall, I’m mightily pleased with my pair of Arden Teal oxfords, especially considering the $112.5 SGD (after promo code below) price point. They definitely punch above their weight, and are a much better option than similarly priced shoes you can find in departmental stores!
Arden Teal also sent me their Olavarria Navy Penny Loafers – let’s take a look!
Similar to the Calafate oxfords, these Olavarria penny loafers are also made out of full-grain Argentinean leather – and it shows. Look at how beautiful the leather is in the photo above! Such richness is only possible with full-grain leather due to the patina that forms – you won’t get this with genuine leather. Like the Calafate oxfords, these Olavarria penny loafers also came pre-shined, which is a nice touch!
Unlike the Calafate oxfords however, the leather here is hand-painted, and hand-burnished. It’s a subtle difference that only shows itself when looked at closely. Upon close inspection, one sees slight unevenness in the painting of the leather, indicative of human handiwork. This also means that in theory, no two shoes are the same due to the human element involved. Honestly, I think it’s great that one can get a hand-burnished shoe at this price point ($112.5 SGD after promo code).
Like the Calafate oxfords, the stitching on these Olavarria penny loafers is similarly exquisite. No complaints here!
On the feet, these Olavarria penny loafers are comfortable, largely due to the use leather lining and a leather padded insole. It’s still not full-grain leather, but as aforementioned those are features typically seen only in shoes more than twice the price of these!
The rubber sole on these Olavarria penny loafers remain similar to the one seen on the Calafate. The rubber swatches gives the shoes good traction, and the cemented construction is par for the norm for shoes of this price range. However, I would recommend going a size down in these penny loafers – size 44 in the Calafate oxfords fit me perfectly, but I had to go down a size for these Olavarria penny loafers.
Between the two though, I would have to say I preferred these Olavarria penny loafers. The key difference for me is the hand-painted and hand-burnished leather that’s present in the Olavarria loafers collection (as well as the Carlota wholecut collection). Both of these collection features additional artisan handiwork on the shoes – despite being at the same price! The hand-finished leather found on these two collections looks stunning, and can easily compete with the leather found in shoes costing twice as much.
Shootout: Arden Teal vs Earnest & Collective
Given that I’ve reviewed Earnest & Collective shoes previously, I’m sure the burning question most readers would have in their mind would be: “So which is better?”
Both are similar companies in the sense that they have the same aim – both are upstarts, trying to “disrupt” the industry. They do this by cutting out the middleman (retail stores), and sell their products online. This results in them being able to offer high quality products at an affordable price point.
Indeed, there is very little to choose from between the two. Both shoes utilizes full-grain leather for their exteriors, and calf leather for the lining and sole-pad. In terms of construction, both are cemented. However, Arden Teal’s new collections (Olavarria and Carlota) do feature hand-burnished leather, whilst Earnest & Collective shoes do not.
If I only had to buy one, I would probably purchase the Arden Teal shoes. Firstly, the sole of their shoes (due to the tactile rubber employed on the outsole) makes Arden Teal shoes much less slippery than the Earnest & Collective ones – which was my main knock on those shoes! Secondly, Arden Teal do come with accessories (dustbags, shoe horn, see above) – Earnest & Collective does not. Lastly, at $112.5 SGD, the Arden Teal shoes are almost 15% cheaper than their Earnest & Collective counterparts ($129 SGD). In Earnest & Collective defense, they do offer a one-time free resoling, which Arden Teal does not. Nevertheless, due to the reasons mentioned above, I’ll still lean towards Arden Teal in this shootout!
Conclusion – so Arden Teal shoes “shiok” or not?
Definitely a yes from me, especially considering the price point! I genuinely believe that you cannot find a better shoe out there in the market at $112.5 SGD. For readers who stated that $250 SGD was too much to splash on a pair of shoes, Arden Teal is the perfect alternative. For those looking for an affordable pair of dress shoes (students, fresh grads, etc), Arden Teal should be at the very top of your shortlist! Currently, my only knock against Arden Teal is that their style ranges are a little limited (especially when compared to Earnest & Collective) – however, if you are able to find a design that you like (like I did) in Arden Teal’s collection, I’ll say that the value proposition is hard to beat!
For those interested in getting a pair of shoes from Arden Teal, the code “WAHSOSHIOK” entitles you to 10% off! After the discount, a pair of shoes from Arden Teal would just be $112.5 SGD. So please – stop going to departmental stores like BHG or Robinsons to get your dress shoes!
View Arden Teal’s full range of shoes here.
- Waxed Argentinean calfskin leather upper
- Full grain leather
- Leather lined
- Leather padded insole
- Reinforced stacked heel
- Lace-up front, burgundy lace
- Toe and side embossed seams
- Rubber outsole
- Cemented construction
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!