Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singaporean review! On this shiok Sunday, I’m reviewing two pairs of shoes from local shoe label Jonathan Abel.
Jonathan Abel – the Brand
Jonathan Abel was founded in 2017 by Teresa Chong. Perhaps the only female entrepreneur in the local shoemaking industry, Jonathan Abel has nevertheless been growing from strength to strength as the brand seeks to carve out their own niche in the market. Even in the disaster that was 2020, Jonathan Abel was able to introduce multiple new collections (such as their high-end Savatier collection, and the Goodyear Flex collection reviewed below), and move into a new physical showroom right at the heart of the CBD.
The unique story of Jonathan Abel has resulted in the brand being featured in many esteemed media outlets, such as Esquire Singapore and Channel News Asia. According to Jonathan Abel, their mission is to “enable confidence” in their gentlemen customers. To that end, the brand partners with small family-owned factories in Europe to deliver Goodyear welted shoes at an affordable price point.
Without further ado, let’s delve into the review!
One of the most striking shoes I’ve reviewed till date, the Jonathan Abel Alexander is definitely something for the more stylistically adventurous out there.
The leather quality of the Alexander is superb. Jonathan Abel uses full-grain leather from renowned German tannery Weinheimer Leder. For those uninitiated in leather, leather generally comes in three quality tiers – genuine leather, top-grain leather, and full-grain leather, in ascending order of quality. More information about leather quality can be found in this article here. However, not all full-grain leather are made equal. In my experience, those from esteemed European tanneries are noticeably superior to full-grain leather from Asia or Latin America. I would say that the leather on the Jonathan Abel Alexander is one of the best I’ve encountered, right up there with the Enzo Monkstraps I reviewed from La Patine recently, which uses full-grain calf leather from renowned Italian tannery Mastrotto.
In addition, the Alexander features a Goodyear-welted construction – a rarity at this price point. If you’re unfamiliar, dress shoes typically come 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. 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. In other words, Goodyear-welted constructed (much like a full-canvassed suit) is the crème de la crème of shoe construction. When first worn, a Goodyear-welted pair can be uncomfortable because of the “rib” stitch on the insole, but they are among the sturdiest shoes and are easy to resole. Once well-worn, Goodyear-welted shoes can be among some of the most comfortable and most durable pairs. Indeed, I did find the Alexander to gradually become more comfortable as time went on.
The Alexander comes with a full-grain leather outsole, which is generally only found on more expensive shoes since the material cost is significantly higher. Not only is it more durable than the regular rubber outsoles, but it also makes an audible “tap tap” sound when walking – if you’re a fan of traditional dress shoes, you will love it. In addition, due to the Goodyear-welted nature of the shoes, the sole can be restitched if necessary as well. However, do note that shoes with a leather outsole often feel slippery when first worn, though its traction will improve over time (and friction).
Moving on to the aesthetics of the shoes, the Alexander is simply stunning. A key reason is its unique brush-stroke patina effect, which gives the shoes a lovely artisanal feel. Just look at the brushing in the photo above! One can immediately tell that the finishing was hand-applied due to the uneven nature of the strokes. On this Midnight Blue variant, the patina effect comes out much stronger than the alternative Burgundy colourway – I will definitely recommend this Midnight Blue one. In fact, Teresa herself stated in the Esquire Singapore interview that the popularity of this Midnight Blue Alexander caught her by surprise.
The Alexander is also a wholecut oxford, which is one of my favourite styles of dress shoes. One of the most formal styles of shoes, a wholecut is fashioned out of a single piece of leather, giving the shoe an air of refined sophistication. It is often hard to construct – many shoe brands (such as Earnest & Collective) do not carry a wholecut – as the leather used needs to be of consistent texture and unblemished. If you want to make an impression, a nice pair of wholecut shoes is the best way. Here, the wholecut nature of the shoe allows for the striking brush-stroke patina to shine and be admired in its full glory.
Unconventionally, the Alexander features side laces. Visually, it reminds me of the side fasteners of a Chinese qipao. The side laces definitely add a high fashion feel to the shoes, one that separates it from the masses of dress shoe designs out there at this price point. It’s an aesthetic that is bound to be a conversation starter, and thus perfect for gentlemen that prefer to push the boundaries of their style game.
All in all, I really love the Jonathan Abel Alexander. Made from full-grain leather from renowned European tannery Weinheimer Leder, the leather quality is excellent. At less than S$300, it’s one of the most affordable Goodyear-welted shoes in the local market too. However, the aspect that I liked the most was the aesthetics of the Alexander. The uncommon Midnight Blue colourway, combined with the artisanal brush-stroke patina and unconventional side-laces, results in a stylistically dapper package that is bound to appeal to any sartorialist. If you like to dress to impress, the Jonathan Abel Alexander will likely be the perfect finishing touch to your outfit.
For those looking for an everyday pair of shoes, check out the Jonathan Abel Chicago!
Like the Alexander, the leather used on the Jonathan Abel Chicago is sourced from a reputable European leather tannery – France’s tanneries d’annonay, which is a subsidiary (and supplier of calf leather) of Hermes. In other words, the calf leather found on the Chicago comes from the exact same tannery as the calf leather found on Hermes leather products, and should thus be of similar quality. Once again, the leather is full-grain, and should patina beautifully over time.
The unique trait of the Chicago is its construction, which Jonathan Abel terms “Goodyear flex”. It is essentially a variation of the regular Goodyear-welted construction that we saw on the Alexander. Unlike traditional Goodyear-welted shoes that possess a rigid metal shank, the Goodyear flex Chicago offers a flexible sole without the shank, resulting in a more comfortable wearing experience. Jonathan Abel states that the Goodyear Flex retains the durability that Goodyear-welted construction is known for, but dramatically increases initial comfort, with a much shorter break-in period than Goodyear-welted shoes like the Alexander.
As the Chicago is meant to be the brand’s most comfortable shoe till date, the Chicago features a rubber sole that arguably is more suited to Singapore’s monsoon climate. While leather soles are often perceived as more premium, they do require some time to break-in, as they can be quite slippery and stiff at first. With the Chicago, the rubber sole even features a “Dainite sole” that provides additional traction and grip. Due to its Goodyear flex construction, the sole can be recrafted time and time again when the rubber inevitably wears out.
Aesthetically, the Jonathan Abel Chicago is definitely more muted than the Alexander. We don’t get the artisanal brush-stroke patina. Instead, what is delivered is a classic penny loafer style with a round toe-box. It’s a design that will never go out of style, though one that is admittedly also available at other local dress shoes brands.
Overall, I enjoyed the versatility and comfort of the Jonathan Abel Chicago. The Chicago is a great everyday office shoe, one that I can wear without any qualms. Due to its Goodyear-flex construction as well as its rubber sole, the Chicago is comfortable on the feet – important if you’re wearing them Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. The leather quality is top-notch too. At S$315 it is not cheap by any means, but it is certainly a pair that you will get a lot of mileage out of.
Jonathan Abel Chicago – Video
For those who would like to see some hands-on footage of the Chicago, do check out my Youtube video below!
Conclusion – so Jonathan Abel “shiok” or not?
I certainly think so! Jonathan Abel offers outstanding value for the price. I don’t think you can find Goodyear shoes – made with leather from esteemed European tanneries – for ~S$300 anywhere else locally. If you’re a discerning sartorialist who’s looking for affordable Goodyear-welted shoes, Jonathan Abel is the place to go. Furthermore, the brand possesses both style and substance. In particular, the Alexander is immediately striking, with its brush stroke patina a wonder to behold on its unique Midnight Blue leather. Meanwhile, the Chicago is a great option for those who have always wanted to try Goodyear-welted shoes but was put off by their reputation for being unforgiving.
If you’re interested in purchasing a pair of Jonathan Abel shoes, you can use the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy 10% off all Jonathan Abel shoes online! After the discount, the Alexander would cost just S$298, while the Chicago would be $315. Finally, the brand tells me that they are launching a line of sneakers soon, and are also in the process of revamping their Made-to-Order system – I can’t wait to see what else Jonathan Abel offers in 2021!
Jonathan Abel’s Fit Store:
101B Telok Ayer Street #03-04
* 2 min walk from Telok Ayer MRT; above Manna Korean Restaurant. Enter from New Century Group lift lobby
M-F 11am – 8pm
Sat 11am – 3pm
Closed on Sundays & Public Holidays
Ready to wear, made to order services, sales
Shop online, pick up instore
Shop instore, deliver home (for orders above $100)
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.S.S.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.