A New Era Is Here!
There’s not much to say about this, but unless you are a new user you should spot the difference immediately! I spent my entire weekend redesigning Misiu Academy and I am very happy with the results. What I am even happier with is the Best Looking Black Oxford Under $500.
Which one is that? But of course a project I worked on for The Noble Shoe since the turn of the year. The 9899 Handgrade Oxford in Black Calf. However it is not just ANY Black Oxford since it has a unique trait. It has Reversed Stitching which gives it a unique, clean aesthetic.
In today’s article I will showcase it to you and hope you will love it as much as I do. Fasten your seatbelts!
Who Is Carlos Santos?
Carlos Santos is the man that changed my life. The man that began his shoemaking adventure in 1942 in North Portugal. His creations were the catalyst for me changing my career and pursuing my newfound passion of shoes.
Many will consider Carlos Santos to be the best value shoemaker in the world for many reasons. Because of the fantastic value/price ration and all the features you get it is rather true. I covered a lot of Reviews & Showcases over the past year on the blog. However it is always worth mentioning that Carlos Santos has 4 Main Lines:
- Green Label: Blake Stitched Entry Line (around the $200 mark)
- Goodyear Welted: Classic, Open Channel Soles ($285-350)
- Handgrade Line: Higher End Finishing and Close Channel Soles ($385-400)
- Handcrafted Line: The High End Line with Handmade Details and Fiddleback Sole ($600+)
Instantly you see that there is something for every budget. Today’s poster boy is the Reversed Stitched Black Oxford from the Handgrade Line.
Who Needs A Black Oxford?
This is a very tricky question to answer. A Black Cap-Toe Oxford is the pinnacle of formality in the dress shoes hierarchy besides Black Tie and even then it is sometimes acceptable to wear it. You honor your peers, loved ones and yourself by wearing them in your most important events of joy and sorrow.
An Oxford (easily identified by the closed lacing compared to a Derby’s open lacing) is definitely a shoe that needs to be in a man’s wardrobe. Which color can be a topic of furious discussion but the only real choices are Dark Brown and Black. While I agree that the Dark Brown is a more flexible shoe in general there is no question about which shoe I would choose if I had to pick just one formal dress shoe.
That would be the Black Oxford and every gentleman should have a good one. Not a cheap, cemented, square toe from Zara. Keep the cement for your walls and off your soles.
A few occasions that you could use a Black Oxford:
- Black Tie
- Board Meetings
- The Office
t seems pretty clear to me that it has its place in many cases. You might not do these often yourselves, but remember that a great outfit becomes terrible with bad shoes. Make the correct choice.
Before we get to why this is the best looking black oxford under $500 I always start my showcases with specifications. It gives a good overview of what to expect:
- Brand: Carlos Santos
- Line: Handgrade
- Model: 9899
- Style: Cap-Toe Oxford
- Color: Black Calfskin
- Leather: Full Grain
- Origin: Portugal
- Construction: Goodyear Welted
- Sole: Closed Channel Leather
- Last: 445 Soft Almond
- Fitting: Regular Width (F)
- Eyelets: 5 Blind
- Lining: Genuine Leather
- Price: $385
- Availability: Exclusively at The Noble Shoe
This is like the the Marvel Avengers movies with a star studded cast! Not only it is a model you will not find elsewhere at the time of writing, but it also comes with Free International Shipping for just $385. Additionally, you get personal contact and service by me instead of reaching out to HR and wondering why they don’t reply.
Note: This is a very popular model and I am currently restocking it at the time of writing. You can pre-order normally through the link!
What Does It Come With?
All Carlos Santos shoes come with a very nice sturdy box. It is black and has some nice texture on it instead of a plain surface. On the side you will find a sticker with your size, last, color and leather which is always helpful.
Inside there is a fancy houndstooth textured pattern and your shoes are always packaged neatly with foam, paper and bubble. Of course you get high quality black dust bags for storage and a branded plastic shoe horn. It is a nice touch and does the job even though it is not of the highest quality.
The true star of course is your shoes and the most exciting part of every unboxing. Believe me I would not bother calling it the best looking black oxford if I didn’t believe it. It is exciting, different, elegant.
There’s no better place to start than the elephant in the room. The 9899 is a classic Cap-Toe Oxford developed by Carlos Santos in 2020. The proportions are excellent while I really like the location of the Cap-Toe. The Reverse Stitching is what makes it stand out though and is a feature with inspiration from John Lobb and Enzo Bonafe. We will talk about it later in more detail.
The lining has a lovely amethyst tint to it instead of the classic orange/tan most shoes use. In my opinion it blends in better with this style of shoe and creates a uniform look. Turning it around reveals the hand-painted sole with hidden stitching. I pat myself on the back for making this without any shame!
The Stitching Is Unique
Who said a Black Oxford has to be boring? The truth is the market is very saturated with tons of classic generic designs. Now if you were to wear this in a room full of others wearing a classic Black Oxford you would be the one to stand out. It is possible due to the invisible stitching on the top which we refer to as “Reverse Stitching”.
This is not only noticeable on the Cap-Toe, but also along the quarters and the facing of the shoe.
It fascinates me how such a small detail can create an entirely new visual composition. I am quite the minimalist and I like clean, simple lines. And this has them all yet manages to captivate me.
This is the section where I usually speak about how consistent the stitching is on the shoes but there is none on the uppers apart from a tiny seam at the back. The welt is trimmed and fudged without any loose threads or inconsistencies.
An often overlooked area is the lining and insole. Most shoes, including the base Goodyear Welted Carlos Santos Line come with a tan/orange lining. It works and is functional but does make a big contrast aesthetically. On the Handgrade Line they use a higher quality leather material with a more “sueded” feel.
As aforementioned it comes with a dark purple/amethyst kind of color which makes the shoe even more elegant. I also feel that the support of the insole is slightly better but I don’t have evidence to back it up other than my own experience.
The Sole Is A Marvel
To find a RTW shoe that costs $385 and has closed channel soles is quite the feat these days. Cobbler Union, Carmina and TLB are some of the brands that do it but non of them have a hand-painted finish.
We often neglect our soles since we don’t see them or they wear out but brands like Paolo Scafora manage to leave their mark. The Handgrade Line has a mild mustard color tint to it with all the lovely signs of hand-painting. The color is not for everyone and I wish there was a way to customize the color but it would cause many logistic problems.
Regardless it is a joy to behold as the shoemaker cuts a small channel in the sole to do the stitching while carving the waist. They then proceed to cover it creating this wonderful crisp looking sole.
On A New Last
The moment I saw the new 445 Last in the factory during my visit in January I knew this has to be the one. Perfect for this style with a very soft almond shape it is not round nor chiseled. Most importantly it reminded me of a timeless classic from a famous English Shoemaker.
After you stop marveling at my incredible Photoshop skills, notice how similar the 445 is when next to the iconic 82 Last of Edward Green. The latter seems to have a slightly more beveled waist but the similarities are clear.
It fits very similar to the 401 Last by Carlos Santos with a slightly more generous instep but maybe a little narrower heel.
How Should I Size For It?
The most common question is of course sizing. If you are a Carlos Santos veteran you will take the same size like on the 234, 362, 389 and 401 Lasts. However if your comparison is the 316, 333 or 397 then you will size up half.
For those that are new to the brand they fit rather True To Size (TTS). As this is an F Width remember to size down a full size from your regular US sizing as they are always in UK numbers. To illustrate better, if you are a US 9D then you would take a UK 8.
Here are some more comparisons:
- Allen Edmonds: Take your regular Park Avenue, Strands or McAllister sizing
- Carmina: Your usual Rain and Forest
- Meermin: Choose your Hiro sizing
- Crockett & Jones: 341, 348 fit pretty similar to these
- TLB Mallorca: Take your TTS size
Pretty easy huh?
Regular Line Vs Handgrade
This is a question I hear a lot and I really mean a lot. It is mostly due to the fact that before I picked up the brand there was not much information about the higher end. I am here to put them on the map for everyone though.
Some of the differences we already talked about. Better Lining, high quality Closed Channel Sole with Patina are a few of them. When it comes to the quality of the leather I don’t have any evidence of inferior or better quality. After all the leather comes from the Hermes owned Tannerie Du Puy. I do feel the finishing is more polished on the Handgrade Line but only in the Patina versions. Another small detail is that they use flat laces which is a great add on. Lastly, there is more manual handmade labor in the process of making a pair.
When it comes to durability, I find that the Handgrade sole is a little thicker and protects the stitching better.
So How Do I Style It?
The best way to match black is with grey. Period, no debate about it. Few things will look as good and powerful as a Charcoal Grey suit or even a Light Grey as you saw before.
It looks rather fine with Navy Blue as well! Colors to avoid are shades of Brown as they clash with the color and the formality.
Taking Care Of Your Shoes
You really only need a few components but they will greatly prolong the life of your shoes. First of all you should always rotate your shoes and let them rest for 24-48 hours. If they get wet, never let them near a heat source such as a radiator or the sun since the leather will become dry and crack. Instead wipe the water gently with a cloth and let them dry naturally.
As for maintenance you need a horsehair brush to remove dirt and buff polish. You can use Saphir Renovateur to nourish the leather but use it with care and not too often. Finally, use black polish to condition your shoes followed by neutral wax to attain the level of shine you want. Do not over-polish as it will cause dry dull leather and white spots everywhere. I also advise you to only wax the Cap-Toe and the edges only because the mirror shine will crack in the areas your foot bends.
Want To See More?
You can’t get enough just like me? Or maybe you want to see a real life comparison instead of still pictures? Then watch Vladimir Riche unbox them with some glorious quarantine hair.
This concludes my self-proclaimed showcase of “The Best Looking Black Oxford Under $500“. Certainly a very unique shoe with great features and an even greater price tag. Maybe it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it is sure to stir up some conversation. I am very glad I got the idea to make this!
This is a very surreal year so far. Spending months in the house is difficult at times but it has its merits. I had a lot of time to focus on my shop, to redesign the blog and get ready for my foray onto YouTube. That’s right! I will be doing videos hopefully soon and I have a lot of content to show you.
Thank you for reading,