In today’s article I will Review not one, but two shoes from Bridlen.
Bridlen is an Indian Brand trying to produce quality Goodyear Welted Shoes and shake the stigma of the “Made in India” tag.
I will be reviewing and comparing two of their different ranges, the Founder’s Line and Goodyear Welted Line.
As always, the Review will be as in-depth as possible to allow you to make educated purchase decisions in the future.
Let’s see if this is a new gem or just another shoe brand.
Update: The Winners Have Been Picked! Congratulations!
Bridlen Shoes were kind enough to send me two Pairs for Review Purposes.
However, since my wardrobe is currently full of shoes, it did not feel right for me to keep them.
Therefore, I am creating a FREE Giveaway for both shoes that will run until September 14th 2022.
Make sure to read the notes and requirements and that you are actually entering for the correct size.
The winner will be contacted within 7 days and if there is no response, redrawn.
Shipping costs and import duties or taxes are a responsibility of the winner.
If there is a problem with the Giveaway please contact me!!!
Who Are Bridlen Shoes?
The first time I heard about Bridlen was most likely through my friend Jesper or Justin and their Blogs.
An honest company from India trying to produce Goodyear Welted Shoes of good quality and affordable price.
However, it is a collaboration between Mr. Hasan and Mr. Watanabe (Japan) fusing a few elements together.
Both people were passionate about shoes and leathercrafting so they brought a lot of experience to the table.
It was an unfortunate even that Mr. Hasan seemingly passed away in 2019 and I suspect the “Founder’s Line” is a tribute to him.
Hopefully the company is in good hands as the people running it are competent, well-educated with an excellent command of English and shoemaking challenges.
Most importantly they seem to have a clear idea of what they want to do and which elements of different shoemaking schools to apply.
They also seem to have a more ethical approach to the (obviously) cheaper labor in India by providing the right premises, conditions and salaries to the workers.
Lastly, they seem very open to criticism, discussion and overcoming challenges or finding ways to improve their products.
Regardless of how I will like their shoes after this Review, it has been a pleasure to communicate and converse with Mr. Affan, Zahan and the rest of Bridlen Shoes.
I should also mention there is no monetary compensation nor affiliate commissions or links.
Bridlen Shoes Ranges
Bridlen Shoes has a few different lines as every respectable shoe company does.
Other than a few seasonal items or future collaborations, one would say that there are 4 Lines:
- Founder’s Line: Top of the Range Classic Shoes
- Main Line: Classic, Value Goodyear Welted Shoes
- Casual Classics Line: Casual Shoes & Boots with different leathers and textures
- Blake Line: Blake Stitched Classic Shoes
Today I will be looking at the first two ranges.
It’s great to see that they are going a bit outside their comfort range with the casual classics but it is also amazing how affordable their Blake Line is.
For $92 you can buy a pair of decent dress shoes that will be much better than any cemented crap you buy off malls.
If you need a good reminder of what I mean, please check my “Worst Dress Shoes Brands List“.
As expected, both shoes have some slight differences which I will discuss individually later.
If anything is unclear, feel free to ask me anytime via the comments section:
- Brand: Bridlen Shoes
- Model: Austerity Brogue/Cap-Toe Oxford
- Range: Founder’s Line/Main Line
- Leather: Full Grain Calfskin
- Tannery: Annonay Vegano Box Calf
- Color: Dark Brown/Black
- Construction: 360° Goodyear Welted (No Canvas Rib)
- Lining: Leather (Drum Dyed Crust)
- Sole: Leather Closed Channel
- Outsole Details: J&FJ Baker Oak Bark Tanned/Tuscan Leather
- Last: Deus/Zed
- Size: UK 8 (US 9D/EU 42)/UK 7.5 (US 8.5D/EU 41.5)
- Details: Triumph Toe Plates
- Origin: India
- Price: $315/$265
I should also mention that the Black Oxford usually comes in the Zip Last.
However Bridlen are about to launch it in this almond shaped Zed last and wanted to showcase it.
In the price point shoe trees are not included, nor any import duties and taxes.
Let’s begin the in-depth Review.
Small Quick Disclaimer
In this Review as well as any upcoming Review you will see me criticize a lot more things.
As I become a shoemaker I increasingly learn to spot and discuss the little things I never saw before.
Many of the things I will mention in this review don’t deter from the quality of the shoes at this price point.
However, by talking about them a few things happen:
- I learn and gain more experience
- The Brand can use that information to improve certain areas or something they didn’t spot before
- You as a read also learn a bit about the how and why
For you as a reader and a potential buyer, you really need to understand what you are spending money on.
A lot of the critique will be a bit too harsh because this is an entry level shoe.
Most of what I say does not mean that the quality does not match the price.
However, these are things I notice and could maybe become better.
Unboxing & Shipping Experience
It does take a little longer to receive your shoes.
Understandable since they ship with a more standardized carrier.
It is very important to remind you that if you are in a European Country, or any country that often has import duties and taxes you will pay some.
And of course, this is something that is on the customer yet so many fail to properly read a company’s shipping and return policy.
Living in Italy, I paid $150 for clearing both pairs of shoes, which is something I will need to talk about more later.
Speaking about returns, Bridlen doesn’t seem to accept any refunds and instead exchanges your size.
While understandable at some extent, it can be a deterring factor for many people.
In Europe for example this is heavily regulated and for online purchases you are entitled to returns and refunds within 14 days.
Moving on to the actual unboxing, everything arrived in great condition and neatly packed.
There was a bit of a potent smell that reminded me of the Yearn Shoemaker Review and is probably some wax or finishing product.
After unboxing the shoes and letting them air a little it disappeared.
Both boxes have a blue color and are sturdy with great packing and protection.
I have previously seen Bridlen Shoes Reviews & Unboxings and I know that there are a few more goods that I didn’t get.
For example some leaflets and specifications sheets but in my case it is not important.
They also come with extra shoelaces, a shoe horn and nice tartan shoe bags.
Overall a very nice unboxing experience for both ranges.
When I unboxed both shoes, I gave them a very quick look since I was in a hurry.
I spent most of the time looking at the shape, features and looked for pointers or things worth discussing later.
The waist on the Founder’s Line certainly left an impression with a very pronounced sharp fiddleback.
I need to unfortunately admit that the last shapes were not my cup of tea.
In other words I could tell you I was not a fan of the lack of curves on the ball towards the toe box.
However I did not let that initial judgement cloud my thoughts too much and let it to rest before another look later on.
They do appear more appealing during certain angles of the photoshoot.
The heel had a nice shape and most of the little details were good for the price point.
I did not get any wow factor from the shoes, but to be fair I don’t think that is what they are aiming for.
Contemporary, classic is Bridlen’s goal in my book while offering the best materials they can for the price.
We know by now that it’s extremely hard to judge leather quality without using the shoes for a while.
Bridlen uses mostly box calf from Annonay and the vegano version reminds me of the TLB Artista I used to have.
The color is rich enough and the black calf has good depth.
I was not able to detect any major difference between the leathers of the two ranges.
Look them up close and you can see especially on the black pair the pores and the grain which is rich.
According to Bridlen the leather on the Founder’s Line is better so it’s probably from a better cut as well.
Weirdly enough, the clicking on the higher end pair seemed better overall apart from the facing next to the laces.
Just under the wingtip of the right Austerity shoe there is a slightly visible mark in a half moon shape.
When I touch it with my finger it feels like a blemish of the skin, indicating a need for being more careful with the part of the hide.
Is this normal for the price point?
Absolutely but I am here as a growing upcoming shoemaker giving small feedback about what to try and consistently improve.
Overall, the leather looks ok for the price and does take a good shine.
Goodyear Welted Construction
So how do I talk about the construction without becoming too technical?
A Goodyear Welted Shoe uses machines to stitch the uppers, insole and outsole.
When we do the welting by hand, we carve a channel called the Holdfast that connects the welt to the insole and uppers.
In machine made constructions they often use a canvas cotton rib with some glue instead.
Plus, most of the constructions you will see are 270° while Bridlen uses a 360°.
They also seem to carve the insole and not use the rib, allowing for a more stable and secure construction.
To be fair, I haven’t heard many occasions where the rib broke, got displaced or anything like that.
Using a 360° construction doesn’t offer that much of a structural benefit (at least when I made shoes) but it does have an effect on aesthetics.
Specifically, the heel cannot be as tight as in the 270° with a more “defined” and wider appearance.
On the Founder’s Line the heel is definitely tighter and closer to the uppers.
Here I should also mention that they use a faux blind stitched inside part and a more regular exterior part.
It makes the inside of the shoe be more beveled and curvy, as well as sleek.
This is a section I added for the first time in my Reviews.
Machines usually do a pretty good job to accurately and tightly last the leather onto the form.
While inspecting the shoes I did find some things that could use more attention.
On the Austerity Brogue (Founder’s Line) the side stiffeners don’t seem to be flush with the shoe.
Right at the ball area in both sides there are visible bumps that are hard to show on images.
That area is visibly distorted without an even straight look.
It is very noticeable when you spot it and run your finger over it.
This was either not lasted properly, not hammered enough, not skived enough or a combination.
On the Main Line I spotted two more issues.
Specifically, the arch is wavy and on the left shoe pushes in at some point.
It just doesn’t look right to me and immediately stood out.
Another issue I spotted was the back of the heel point that joins the lining and the uppers.
The lining just dips and is not on the same level and just doesn’t look tidy enough.
Especially on the left shoe the outcome is very poor.
Is this something that will affect you? Most likely not but it is a point I need to make.
Here I will not speak so much about the actual stitching quality, which is good.
I will simply mention some differences between the two ranges for you.
The Founder’s Line has a much tighter and high density stitching (20-22 SPI) while the Main Line 14-16 SPI.
Differences continue on the outsole stitch with a 9-10 and 7-8 SPI density respectively.
The fudging on the welt is purely decorative of course with an overall clean look apart from some minor areas near the cap-toes.
With the exception of the lining stitching and lasting issue from the previous point everything looks good.
The outsoles on both ranges look pretty fine.
Both seem to use slightly different leather but the finishing is clearly a bit superior on the Founder’s Line.
It’s a closed channel sole and you can spot the marks of the channel underneath.
On the Main Line the sides of the outsole are pretty fine for the price point.
However, on the Founder’s Line where I expected better there is a part that is not as good.
When I make Bespoke Shoes, I learn to follow the last and keep a straight shape and cut.
No curved bottom, no bumps on the sides.
On both shoes I can run my fingers and feel that it is not even and bumpy on a few points.
It’s certainly an area to think about and polish a bit more with the sanding machine.
Has it always been this way for most entry level brands and I just start to notice?
I am not sure!
The complimentary Triumph Toe Plates are a very nice offer and addition and well-installed.
Important: Once more I am reminding you that these are $300 entry level shoes.
Don’t look for perfection or be upset that there are nuances or such marks. Be reasonable.
One of the special features of the Founder’s Line is the pronounced Fiddleback waist.
After you add the shank at the base of the shoe, you begin filling it with cork.
In Bespoke Shoes we then use shoulder pieces (or extra cork) to shape the fiddleback the way we like it.
It can be rounded, sharp or extremely sharp depending on what shape we give it.
The Main Line has a very gentle bevel but the Founder’s Line goes all out.
A very sharp and actually well executed fiddleback with sharp angles.
It’s a purely aesthetical feature but still impressive nonetheless.
The heel block is stacks and easy to spot on the high end austerity brogue.
When compared bottom to bottom their heel stacks don’t match in shape entirely but that’s nothing you will notice.
It’s a good job and a nice finish on both, with a rather appealing shape of the heel.
The top lift is half-rubber half leather and the second to last layer is also rubber.
One of the nicer features of the shoe actually.
A shoe should be perfectly balanced when standing.
This means that when you put your finger on the instep and move it around it won’t wobble.
Unfortunately the Founder’s Line shoes are extremely wobbly and unstable.
The heel block is not on the ground and the shoe sits at the ball but is not flat enough.
On the Main Line the situation is similar but the heel block rests a bit better.
It’s not something most of you will notice, but I do recommend Bridlen to spend some time and look at the balance of the shoes.
Unless this is a conscious choice of some sorts.
Tip for the Shoemaker: Spend a few more seconds checking the balance of the shoe if possible.
In a quick note here, the interior lining seems to be good.
The insole is also a little bit thicker with what seems to be good arch support and a nice cushion for the heel.
The Deus & ZED Lasts
Bridlen uses a few different lasts in their ranges.
The Deus (God or Deity in Latina) is their popular Founder’s Line last.
Quoting Bridlen, it is a Soft Square Last with a wider EE Body and deep curves.
I have some comments about the shapes of the lasts but all these are a personal preference.
I feel that it is a bit too straight for a lack of better wording in some areas.
Specifically, after the ball towards the toe area.
If it were me, I would add a little more of a curve between the ball and the toe with a sharper corner to accentuate the soft square shape.
The Zed Last on the other hand is a new release rolling out now and has a more almond shape.
It looks to be a mix of almond and round and seems to be a nice mix between contemporary and modern.
If you are a fan of shapes like Alden, Allen Edmonds or Loake for example you will probably like these.
During my initial discussions with Bridlen they recommended half a size down since the shoes run large.
So they would send me both shoes in UK 7.5 since I wear UK 8 (US 9D).
However since my intention was to giveaway the shoes anyways I tried both UK 7.5 and UK 8 to tell you the differences.
I cannot see how the shoes run larger and especially on the Zed (UK 7.5) I struggled to even get my foot in.
The V-gap on my instep was very large and the shoe was too snug on the sides.
On the other hand, the Founder’s Line Austerity on the Deus was a UK 8 and fit me much better.
There was still a gap on the lacing of the instep, but I do have slightly higher instep on the right foot.
It would eventually disappear or be much closer later on.
There was also much more comfort in the side while at the same time my heel and front were sitting better.
If I were to choose, I would definitely go with a UK 8 and my usual size.
That is my recommendation to you but of course reach out to Bridlen for advice.
Should YOu Buy Bridlen Shoes?
Unfortunately I don’t think I am the one to tell you if you should invest in a pair of Bridlen Shoes.
Mostly because they are far away from the style of shoes I prefer personally.
They have a rather contemporary, British approach which American and English buyers should find appealing.
In a positive note, they are building something quite nice here and genuinely put effort into improving.
They took the criticism or advice I am offering which is great.
For the price point, the build, the features, leather and construction is good.
The biggest deterring factor for me living in Italy was that I paid $150 in customs and that drives the value of the shoe down.
I am not sure if you would pay any in the USA for example but at about $400 you can get a more refined shoe such as TLB Artista.
On the lower segment of the Main Line however, if the lasts become a little more European I can definitely recommend them over Meermin.
Once they make some improvements and are consistent, they have potential to be a good entry level alternative.
A fiddleback waist doesn’t impress me as much any more though and I find the Main Line better value at this point.
I also realized that if I was a novice or just was getting into better shoes I wouldn’t notice any of this.
I would most likely see a pretty, well-constructed shoe and that would be enough for me.
To be simpler, if you are looking for a pair of classic shoes around the $300 mark you will most likely be happy.
This is the end of my extensive Review of Bridlen Shoes.
A respectable, ambitious project with potential out of India.
I gave them a harder time but at the same time I feel I was honest, respectful and offered plenty of advice.
Good luck to those of you entering the competition and feel free to spread the word if you know anyone wearing those sizes.
Let’s see what I will Review next week!
Thank you for reading,