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Blkbrd Shoemaker Review: Quality Hand-Welted Shoes From India

Blkbird Shoemaker Review Moctoe Dallas BootsMy First Moc-Toe Boots

Today I wanted to talk to you about Blkbrd Shoemaker and more specifically Review one of their Boots.

Hand-welted Shoes with Horween CXL Leather and a High Quality Vibram Sole for just under $300 USD?

Sounds too good to be true?

Let’s find out if they are really as good as they seem.

Remembering How To Do This

I will not bore you with details, but there’s been a lot of private things I am dealing with for the last 2 months.

It’s also the first proper shoe review outside of my store in quite a while.

Since the last time, I had a lot of time to reflect about cost, value and comparisons.

Many thought I was quite harsh comparing Bridlen to high end shoes, but in reality they took all the feedback and continued improving.

As for Blkbrd Shoemaker their reputation had a steady rise in the past few years (especially on Reddit) so it was great to finally be able to write a Review.

They were kind enough to reach out to me offering a pair of my choosing so I am thankful for the opportunity.

This doesn’t mean they are off the hook though, since I will be taking a very serious look at their boots.

Blkbrd Shoemaker: Brief Introduction

Who is Blkbrd Shoemaker?

It’s a small operation producing leather shoes by hand based in Agra, India.

For the unaware, India has its fair share of shoemakers and is the region of the popular Taj Mahal.

Unfortunately, my last experience from the region was with Lethato Shoes which was an incredibly hilarious experience.

Thankfully, there are some major differences here since Blkbrd Shoes are actually made by hand.

Hand-lasted, Hand-welted and from what I see in other Reviews the soles are also stitched by hand.

Of course they close the uppers by machine (like everyone does) but still stitch aprons by hand as well.

That’s quite impressive indeed for an MSRP of $300 USD and much lower in some cases.

You can get Blake Stitched entry shoes for just $100 USD and there’s even $120 USD Hand-Welted Shoes.

Obviously corners will be cut in those price points such as leather quality but it’s still astonishing.

Labor is much cheaper in India but they would source cheaper, basic quality leather from countries such as Argentina, Ukraine or locally.

Still, a far more exciting choice than the cemented rubbish you would buy from the average store.

Communication, Delivery, Website

I would like to begin with some things that I feel I need to mention.

In certain channels such as Reddit, some people complained about lack of communication, delays and unrealistic delivery times.

The representative of Blkbrd acknowledged this but it is something you potentially need to be aware of if you order a custom pair.

During the making of my boots, they contacted me to tell me that there was a defect and if I could change the leather or color.

I placed my order in early February, hoping I could receive the boots during the colder season.

We talked about sizing that involved measurements and if I had not stepped in with my experience it would have been very wrong.

More on that later.

The remake in the new leather began on the 27th of April and delivered on the 5th of June 2024.

Even with the remake I would say it’s still a good turnaround for Made to Order.

The website is easy to navigate and responsive with a bunch of helpful information making it easy to browse.

I think an improvement would be adding geolocation as the default currency was Indian Rupees for me.

The photos are decent and from multiple angles as well while there’s a plethora of models and styles.

Arrival, Imports & Unboxing

Blkbrd Shoemaker Box
The Blkbrd Shoemaker Box Experience

Blkbrd shipped to me with DHL Express and even though they marked it down, I still paid about 35-40$ in import duties.

This seems to be very common in Italy and parts of Europe, but it is something to keep in mind.

The packaging was good and the box is sturdy and pretty big.

Nicely packed shoes with quite a bit of paper for protection both inside and outside the shoes.

An extra pair of leather shoelaces and even a shoe horn was part of the deal.

Admittedly, I don’t know if this is standard in every package or the higher end models or they gifted them to me.

They even wrote the details and my name by hand on the box, a nice little touch.

The Dallas Moc-Toe

Blkbrd Shoemaker Dallas Moc-Toe Review
Blkbrd Shoemaker Dallas Moc-Toe Review

Let’s talk about the specifications and choice of shoes.

This is the Dallas Moc-Toe, which draws inspiration from the iconic Red-Wing counterpart.

I am wearing suits and formal clothing far less now so while building my casual wardrobe realized I lack some cool informal everyday boots.

So here’s what I ended up with:

  • Brand: Blkbrd Shoemaker
  • Model: Dallas
  • Style: Moc-Toe Boots
  • Last: BOBBER
  • Leather: CXL (Horween)
  • Construction: 360 Storm-welt (Hand-Welted)
  • Apron: Handstitched
  • Eyelets: 4 + 3 Speed Hooks (Brass)
  • Interior: Full Sockliner & Partially Gusseted Tongue
  • Sole: Vibram Christy Newflex
  • Size: UK 8/US 9D/EU 42
  • Price: $300 USD
  • Made In: India

It’s quite impressive thinking about the price, leather and features overall.

Then again, just like Bridlen specifications alone do not make a great product.

I do have a few things to nitpick, but honestly I can tell you this is a pretty good shoe already.

Aesthetics & Inspection

The Redwing Classic Moc ToeI you didn’t figure it out yet, these shoes are really similar to the classic Red Wing Moc-Toe.

There are minor differences when it comes to the storm welt, some stitching on the back and the Vibram logo on the sole.

It’s not a light shoe to hold and certainly feels hefty, but also sturdy.

Then again, it’s 6 inches tall with a substantial sole so it’s right where it should be.

Stitching is overall consistent in the uppers, other than some minor irrelevant areas.

The edge of the facing has no coloring and is raw which is not my cup of tea but they confirmed it’s intentional.

Just to make sure, I checked the Red Wings as well and they seem to do the same.

Great sole, nice looking leather (by Horween) and a few rugged edges here and there on the lining.

The shoes unfortunately have a full sockliner so I cannot see handwelted marks unless I rip them off.

As for the actual aesthetics, it’s a nice casual boot with a very round toe and pretty wearable for 2-3 seasons per year.

Some jeans and chinos should pair well with them.

Leather By Horween

Given the price, it’s pretty impressive that the shoes are made by hand and also use a pretty good leather.

This model uses CXL (Chromexcel) from the famous Horween Tannery in Chicago.

Chromexcel is a durable and quite strong leather that ages beautiful with time the more you use it.

It’s also requires quite an extensive process to produce it with Horween quoting 89 processes in 28 days around the clock.

I read a bit more about Chromexcel and it’s quite fascinating, having to “cook” the leather at some point to correct certain things.

If the name was not a hint, Horween uses Chrome salts and goes through impregnation of the hide with oils and waxes.

These oils result in the lightening of the hide when you pinch it (known as Pull-up).

As far as these particular boots by Blkbrd shoemaker, the leather smells and looks good and helps me start the Review on the right foot.

It feels quite thick, but running your finger down the leather it’s supple.

Upon closer inspection you can see the grain and it does look like it will last you a while.

Time will show how it will crease and perform but as always, I will be here to report on it if there’s a problem.

As for taking care of them, I would recommend Neatsfoot oil or Saphir Greasy Leather Cream (Horween Recommendation).

Tip: You can learn more about The Types of Shoe Leather in my Extensive Guide (Link)


Some people like to know small details such as SPI (Stitches per Inch) which I suppose does make for a more beautiful viewing.

I was not expecting super-tight stitching densities on such shoes, nor should you.

There’s a modest and fair 6-7 SPI across the board which I find appropriate for this style of shoes.

The pinched handstitched apron is also very well done.

Here is where you can really nitpick and find some little things that could (but don’t need to at this price point) be better.

The stitching at the end of the facing just in front of the eyelets can be a little rough.

Then if you look at the welt area, it’s actually pretty good though there is one point where I couldn’t figure it out well.

It’s a 360 construction with a storm welt, so there should be one large strip of the leather welt with a “welt joint”.

I can see that and it’s pretty clean actually, though on one boot there seems to be an extra joint for a lack of better word.

It’s like the welt ran out and they had to add an extra piece there.

There’s a couple inconsistent stitch marks and distances but it’s a drop in the ocean.

Pretty impressive work honestly.

Interior & Lining

I don’t have much to say here as usual, but there are some points to make.

The lining is totally fine, if not a little rugged at the top edges.

The boots also have a semi-gusseted tongue, which is a feature some of you will appreciate.

I think some of you might call it locally “Bellow’s Tongue”.

As aforementioned Blkbrd also uses a full sockliner, which we commonly refer to as full insole.

My friend Justin Fitzpatrick correctly pointed out many times that the insole is the actual spine of the shoe and what we put on top is the sockliner.

Most companies will do a half “insole” and especially in hand-welted shoes it becomes easy to see the bumps indicating the handmade process.

Here I would need to rip it out in order to do so.

One thing I want to mention is that there was no chemical smell which was really potent when I reviewed both Bridlen and Yearn Shoemaker.

Vibram Sole

Now let’s speak about the sole a little.

It’s a cream type of rubber sole with treads by Vibram, which they call Christy Newflex.

Quite solid and uniform, it makes a cool contrast with the darker uppers.

Knowing that we live in the age where casual pretty much won and people buy dress shoe sneakers with white soles, it’s spot on.

I like it, it looks nice and feels grippy.

It’s also Vibram which I consider slightly superior to Dainite counterparts.


Last & Shape

This is a really round shoe, staying true to the Red Wing Tradition.

Honestly, this is the only shape that would work on this model anyways.

They call this last the BOBBER and it’s the definition of a true round shape.

If you offered me any other shoe on this shape I would be “no thank you”.

But this is exactly how it needs to be and I am also trying to step out of my comfort zone.

I should mention that I looked into the “Our Lasts” section of the Blkbrd website and could not find this last there.

Fit & Sizing

Figuring out the sizing was a little bit more of a confusing experience, since they asked me about my measurements.

I even gave them my Stefano Bemer Sizing (UK 8.5) and they recommended a size UK 9 which would have been a disaster.

I am usually a UK 8 (US 9D) and I strongly recommended we go forward with that size.

This proved to be very correct as the fitting is just right.

I tried them on with thicker socks as intended of course.

The width is just right and my little toe has room to breathe.

My toes also rest quite close to the toebox but I feel like this is intended.

My instep is generally a bit higher so it’s quite accommodating in there.

The standard laces are a little short and just clear the last speed hook.

I would say the biggest challenge with fitting such shoes is the stiffness of the shaft.

It’s quite thick and your ankles might struggle until it softens up and breaks in.

For me personally it was quite noticeable when I walked and my foot runs into the tongue and front part.

I can alleviate this by maybe doing the laces a bit looser I suppose.

Overall, this is the right size and I would really recommend you to get your usual size or tell Blkbrd what sizes you usually wear in dress shoes and boots.

Going by measurements alone will most likely lead to a disaster in this industry.

Final Thoughts

Thinking about the price, the shoes, the construction and the leather, it is mighty impressive to have a shoe made by hand just under $300.

India and other Asian countries are progressing rapidly and focusing more on quality rather than quantity if you know where to look.

Yearn is focusing more on dashing shapes, Bridlen on classic British Shoemaking while Blkbrd has a more rugged, everyday niche that I feel certainly appeals to the USA.

I always recommend you to read multiple reviews from real people and also temper your expectations if you by Made to Order.

Blkbrd knows they need to work on their communication and estimates and hopefully they will do so.

But as actual shoes, it’s pretty impressive and it makes you wonder where they will go next.

I mean, seamless wholecuts for less than $400 is crazy.

Honestly, it’s a good job here and I look forward to wearing and testing them more.

Let me know what you think in the comments down below!

Thank you for reading,

Kostas Mandilaris,
Misiu Academy


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Comments (2)

My experience with BLCKBRD was pretty negative. They might have improved in the last year or two, but I would never try them again. Their handstitched outsole was really bad and I’d prefer a machine stitched instead.
And overall Meermin is a much higher quality and you don’t need to pay 50% in taxes if you live in EU. They declared a full price for me.
So I am taking your review pair with a huge mountain of salt – obviously they tried to impress you as an influencer and I don’t expect the average Joe to get the same level of work.

Kostas Mandilaris

I have already had done my due diligence on this brand. In fact I had already found your review online. Not many would sign off as Dmytro V. so I was sure it was you. I am not (nor I want to be called) an influencer of any kind. The shoes I received are pretty good (so far). I mentioned the import duties in EU, which will not make sense to anyone here indeed. I would rather eat cardboard than buy Meermin again. Sometimes I find it hard to get. I lambast Bridlen for quite a few issues, people tell me that I compare them to Bespoke. I speak good about a better experience I (keyword I) had here and they try to get on my good side. I could not care less for handstitched outsoles to be honest and I find it a waste of time (1.5-2 hours it takes me to stitch 2 soles by hand during Bespoke) so believe me I would rather have a good machine sole rather than a poorly made handstitched one. Would I ever buy myself as a European this brand over 7L, CS etc? No I would not. Are the shoes I received good? They are pretty good actually at least my pair has no real imperfections. I will wear them this winter and maybe I will cut them in half later, see what’s what.

You know what also, I have been promoting over the last 2 years Luca Faloni on the Blog because at the time, I was impressed. I have bought at least 8 articles from them (nothing free). 6 have now failed multiple times. I am going to rip them a new one very soon. Nobody is safe if they unreasonably fail the long term test.

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