Austen Heller, a very new shoe company featuring a collection of unique, handmade loafers. I was kindly offered the shoes seen here to share with you my take on the Austen Heller brand.
A little about the packaging. The shoes arrive neatly packaged with top-notch shoe trees, as to maintain shape and prolong the wearability of the shoes. A note from Gavin Hoffman is included with each pair, explaining the excellent referral program offered by Austen Heller, through which $50 of referral credit may be earned when a friend or family member purchases his first pair of shoes.
Made in Porto, Portugal, Austen Heller shoes are handcrafted to ensure perfect stitching and attention to detail in each step of assembly. Shoes are offered in sizes 8-13, but due to the Portuguese construction, you'll want to consider US vs. UK/Euro sizing here and possibly order a size down. Fortunately, this is made clear to customers under each product description where a size comparison chart is viewable. For instance, generally wear 11.5-12, but Austen Heller's 11 fits me perfectly. What about width? There are no width options, but the last of these shoes is well designed to fit any foot. I'll touch on style in a moment, but in terms of construction alone, the soles of these shoes are fantastic. This rubber isn't of the flimsy composition you'd find in similar loafers or driving mocs, but rather it's quite sturdy while remaining flexible. This composition also provides plenty of traction, a notion often overlooked by many manufacturers (such as Cole Haan or Florsheim) who put out slick, plastic-like soles. The innersole is just as special. Too often I hear leather described as supple or buttery. Well, those words are totally appropriate here. Composed of calfskin, the smoothness of the innersole is guaranteed to make you want to ditch the socks each time you wear these. Since my shoes arrived I've been going sockless in my AH loafers as much as possible, despite the near freezing temps., because only my cashmere socks offer such comfort.
Style? Lots of it. I've always hesitated to buy the new stuff from Cole Haan and Nordstrom's 1901 line because I know I'd be buying color, not quality. These AH shoes offer the best of both worlds. For the more traditional among you, brown suede and leather loafers are available with splashes of color coming from the soles and stitching. When picking out my shoes I said screw subtlety, choosing a vibrant red with navy sole, and a bold blue with kelly green sole. I usually keep my colors muted at church and stick to my best lace-ups but the past two Sundays, while I've remained quiet up top, I've kicked it up (bad pun, sorry) with my AH loafers. The result? Not only at church but practically everywhere I've been, nearly every day the past two weeks I've received great feedback about both shoes.
The best part for me is that I can be truly comfortable wearing these. I'm not a sneaker guy and boat shoes can only get so much run, therefore I'm at ease knowing that after walking around in a pair of AH shoes all day, I feel like I've been walking just a few minutes.
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know I'm all about value, shopping on a relatively frugal budget. However, I believe as much that one should invest in quality when possible. These shoes, priced $175 and $195, are a worthwhile investment. Better still, free shipping and free returns are offered with each order. Happy holidays and happy shopping!