Reaching The Top
I have an addiction to all things Carlos Santos. I quit my job to work with this brand after all. It also enabled me to realize that behind a convoluted marketing strategy lies a multi-layered iceberg of wonders. Back in January I visited the Carlos Santos factory and that was when I finally saw the Carlos Santos Handcrafted Range.
No, this is not a typo or another way to say Handgrade. The Handcrafted is Carlos Santos’ Highest Line and as its lower priced brothers delivers an astonishing value/quality ratio.
Join me today in possibly the first in-depth showcase of the Handcrafted Line ever. More specifically, a gorgeous Adelaide Oxford in Norte Navy Blue Patina.
The Carlos Santos Handcrafted
One of the biggest issues I had with Carlos Santos when starting was the severe lack of information. For a brand that offers so much value and quality for the price and has tons of models and styles since 1942, information was rather scarce.
In the beginning, I could only find out that they had a Blake Stitched Line (Green Label) and the classic Carlos Santos (Goodyear Welted). After a lot of research I saw many times the words Handgrade and Handcrafted thrown around. I concluded that Handgrade was their top line of shoes while Handcrafted was just another word for it.
That’s exactly how I got my hands on the Handgrade Adelaide in Guimaraes which is still one of the backbones of my store. Ok ok, I made it in Wine Shadow for more appeal but the model is the same. Researching the keyword “Handcrafted” though yielded different results and a beautiful sole that looked incredibly tight and high end.
My Factory Visit in January confirmed my suspicions that there was a higher end line to the Santos family. You could only see how my eyes lit up when a special client from the US commissioned a special Handcrafted MTO. Not only that, he allowed me to keep it for a few more days to take enough pictures and even shoot a video! Thank you Troy.
What Are The Differences?
Let’s get the thing I am not so fond of out of the way. These days many use the word Handmade, Handgrade, Handcrafted and more to appeal to the consumer. I urge you to read my article, but very few shoes outside Bespoke are really Handmade.
So to address the elephant in the room, the Carlos Santos Handcrafted is NOT made entirely by hand. It is in fact Goodyear Welted (not Hand-Welted) and lasted with a machine. This makes it a buzzword albeit a very appealing one right? Does this diminish the quality of the shoe? Absolutely not as even Edward Green and Gaziano & Girling are machine made. Then again the Santos shoe costs half their price.
I base my life and work on transparency and honesty and I feel this was the only correct way to begin this showcase. Now that it’s out of the way let’s talk about the good stuff!
The biggest difference is in the sole. As you will see it’s magnificent. One of the best soles up to 700-999$ in fact in my opinion. Extremely tight with a fiddleback they carve during production. It takes more effort than simply sewing the welt with the traditional method.
You also get upgraded lining, laces and in my opinion better finishing and leather quality. More manual labor goes into the shoe as well, especially on the midsection which is stitched as opposed to cemented. Add to that a superb new box and you get an excellent pair of shoes for around 630$. More on everything later.
Let’s see what we got today! This is an Adelaide Oxford alright with discrete broguing, no medallion and a lovely navy blue patina.
- Brand: Carlos Santos
- Shop: The Noble Shoe
- Style: Adelaide Oxford
- Model: 8618
- Last: 389 Soft Square
- Range: Carlos Santos Handcrafted
- Construction: Goodyear Welted
- Uppers: Crust Full Grain Calfskin
- Color: Norte Patina (Navy Blue)
- Sole: Closed Channel Leather
- Eyelets: 5
- Lining: Genuine Leather
- Origin: Portugal
- Width: Regular
- Price: $632 (€559.99/£499.99)
Not bad. I feel compelled to remind you that this model was a special Made to Order. There is currently a GMTO of a Handcrafted model on the website but for special requests make sure to E-mail me!
I previously mentioned that the Carlos Santos Handcrafted comes with a new box. The original box is actually really good and better than say Crockett & Jones. This one steps it up one notch as it has some nice wavy texture and comes in Beige.
Inside you will get the usual goodies (a branded shoehorn) but higher quality shoe bags. They have a maroon color and feel better to the touch than the plain black ones on the other ranges. You also get fancier salmon colored tissue paper and better protective foam. It’s nice to see they put more effort in the box as well.
This ladies and gentlemen is an Adelaide Cap-Toe Oxford. Essentially it is a classic Oxford with broguing all the way to the back of the shoe and a punched Cap-Toe. We call it an Adelaide due to the “U” shape of the yoke around the lacing.
At first glance, the shoes are simply stunning and I think the navy patina plays a big role in this. These are a little busier than the TLB Mallorca Artista I have but the broguing is very discrete compared to say Allen Edmonds. Additionally, I am a big fan of Cap-Toes instead of Plain Toes.
I always love the seamless burnishing on the edges and the darker inner lining, it just makes the shoe look better than the contrasting orange one. The sole is a true marvel and this is one of my favorite lasts of all time. You guessed it, I am a huge fan of soft square lasts.
The 389 Last
There’s something about the 389 Last that mesmerizes me. I love these aggressive sharp toe shapes from mainly Italian manufacturers like Meccariello, Paolo Scafora and even Gaziano & Girling. I can understand it is not for everyone, but it is a very tight fight between this and the 401 for my favorite last.
This particular one is very rare actually. In fact Carlos Santos does not have many of these in stock so this is why the Adelaide takes longer to produce in bulks. It has a very sharp looking toe with an aerodynamic shape like an Italian supercar. I find the sides a little more structured and the heel cup sits nice and tight.
As we mentioned, this is an Adelaide Oxford so there is broguing all along the yoke and around the back. There’s no medallion but the cap-toe has broguing.
What I like about the way they do the broguing is the edges. More discrete and lacking that distinctive jagged edges that you often see on Allen Edmonds for example.
Stitching & Welt
If you read my previous entries on Carlos Santos you will notice that the stitching is generally very consistent and well-executed. This one is from the Handcrafted Line which means I would not be as happy to see worse quality in any of these areas.
I handled over 500 pairs during the last 6 months and only once there was a small defect with the welt, which I resolved by sending the pair back to the factory.
The welt has fudging with a wheel although this is a feature showing up more and more these days. I think it is excellent for a shoe like this as it gives it a very clean, polished finish.
The Perfect Sole-Mate
I couldn’t hold myself! If you thought the Handgrade sole was good, this one is absolutely fantastic. Very tight with a nice fiddleback and visible carving around the beveled waist. The finish of the sole follows the more traditional high-end sole markings you see with black and natural colors.
Of course this sports invisible stitching with a closed channel. This means that they leave a small patch of leather and carve the stitching underneath then close it. It is more of an aesthetic thing but in my opinion the sole is a bit tougher and it offers more protection to the hidden welt-stitching.
This part of the shoe is exactly the same as in the Handgrade. It is already good so I don’t see how they could improve that though. The choice of brown color is nice and the sueded heel cup helps with a tighter grip.
If you look really closely you can see the skiving on the lining but honestly I don’t have as deep knowledge to lining making. The only thing I can do is compare with other brands and I am very happy with what I get here.
How Would I Size?
Since this was a client’s shoe I can only give you his comparison but also tell you about my own experience with the last. Troy got the same size as his 387 and 401 and it fits him perfectly and I can say the same. The 401 can be slightly more generous on the instep in my opinion.
In fact Troy got the same model in Algarve from the Handgrade Line and made a very interesting observation. The fit was ever slightly different on the Handcrafted model which is maybe due to the extremely tight waist offering better support to the foot.
Regardless, if you plan on getting any of the 387/389 Lasts I would advise you to go true to size. Allen Edmonds Park Avenue or Carmina Rain make for a great size comparison.
What About Maintenance?
I get this question all the time. Since Patina is handpainted on crust leather and not aniline/chromed conditioners tend to be harsh. I would avoid Renovateur and if you really want to condition the leather use Bick4. As for wax and polish all you need is a Saphir Neutral 02.
If you get a scuff or a scratch then you can use colored pigment. Find the polish that has the closest color to the spot you want to treat and gently work on that area.
Of course when it comes to shoe care you also need a chamois or just a plain white cloth like an old T-Shirt to apply the products. Always use shoe trees and don’t forget to get a nice horsehair brush to buff and remove dirt from your shoes.
Tip: You can find most of these things in the Accessories Section of The Noble Shoe!
But I Want To See Them In Real Life!
Aha! Lucky for you, I managed to shoot a small unboxing/showcase video on my new YouTube Channel! I would appreciate greatly if you subscribe or leave a comment with your thoughts! Apologies for a small bug during the video’s end.
Handcrafted For Leading The Way
That’s the motto of Carlos Santos. I kinda like their cute way of speaking English. But even more, I absolutely adore their shoes. Alas this was the Carlos Santos Handcrafted Showcase and I hope you enjoyed it.
The whole idea is that I can bring you the most amount of content I can and familiarize you with the brand and more in-depth examples. It will hopefully serve as a great guidebook for those that particularly search for Carlos Santos. And hey, you might as well support a little business along the way (The Noble Shoe)!
Thank you for reading,