Beckett Simonon is a brand I was interested in long before I started Stitchdown. Its shoe designs are largely quite handsome, their price (while it’s climbed over the years) is a very appealing $199 ($219 for boots, $149 for GATs and other sneakers), and I’d heard good things from people who had worn them in the past. So when (full disclosure) they offered to send me a pair of their Durant oxford brogues to test for a review, I did not say no.
Not too long ago, $200 was pretty much guaranteed to net you a pair of shoes were actually over-priced—something featuring second-rate leather, that were glued together, and extremely eager to fall apart, probably quickly.
Today, that’s all changed. If you look in the right place, $200 (and certainly $300-$350) can get you a pretty darn nice shoe, something that possesses real style and will provide comfort, longevity, and all the other things that make a piece of footwear worth its cost. The main driver of this movement is direct-to-consumer business models, which strive to eliminate retail markups (and more often than not, the cost of retail stores themselves)—and as they all will tell you plenty of times, pass that savings along to you, the formerly beleaguered and overcharged consumer.
But of course that doesn’t suddenly make every pair of $200 shoes great. In fact, most are still quite bad! Maybe they market savvily on Instagram. Maybe they’re excellent at taking pretty pictures. None of those things mean they’re fantastic at making shoes. And that’s why Stitchdown is here—to help you find the right quality footwear, whatever your price bracket.
Is it possible to make the best shoe in the world for $199? Unfortunately not. The realities of top materials, construction, and truly elevated design rule that out. But is it possible to get a shoe that you’re quite happy with indeed? Let’s find out.
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The Brass Tacks
Shoemaker: Beckett Simonon
Model: Durant Oxford Brogues in Brown Calfskin
Months Worn: Three
Worn How Often?: Once a week for those three months
How I Cared for Them: Wiped down and/or brushed after use, shoe tress inserted after wear (although not kept in ALL the time unfortunately…I need some more shoe trees. If you’re looking for some, I’ve found these to be great, and they only $16)—that’s about it.
A Bit of Background on Beckett Simonon
Beckett Simonon’s been through some twists and turns since Nicholas Hurtado and Andrés Niño fired up the company in 2012, after previously founding and running leather goods company Hasso. Originally, their shoes were $79 and, as they themselves will admit, not the greatest in terms of lasts, construction, and materials. After almost going belly up—partially because of too much demand—they decided to make much higher quality Blake-stitched shoes on lasts they developed in-house, and also transitioned to a direct-to-consumer, group made-to-order model to be able to offer said shoes at a still very attractive price.
Which essentially means: all Beckett Simonon shoes and boots are essentially purchased on pre-order, in a specific time window (although many of their core styles seem to be available at all times). When the order window is up, they’ll make the batch and ship within six to eight weeks (shipping and returns both ways are free, which is always nice). This helps Beckett Simonon adroitly control their inventory and avoid creating shoes that they can’t sell—which is a big part of how they can manage to offer the prices they do. All those shoes are produced in their factory in Bogota, Colombia, Hurtado and Niño’s home country.
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This shoe is definitely a looker—and it doesn’t look like it costs $199. All of Beckett Simonon’s patterns veer pretty darn classic, especially with their oxfords. The brogue detailing on the toe cap, which also weaves its way around the vamp and heel counter, is subtle, refined, and well-executed. Those toe caps also get a little ridge of sawtooth pinking, and the Blake-stitched leather outsole is definitely low profile. The overall shape of the last is balanced—neither bulbous nor too narrow, especially at the front. Beckett Simonon told me they’re inspired by both British (comfort) and Italian (the sleekness and almond toe) designs. I’m personally not big on an overlay elongated or chisel toe on really any footwear, and the Durant definitely doesn’t display either. Points.
Overall, it’s not terribly inventive. But it’s a dress oxford—it doesn’t need to be. Does it have that extra oomph you see in an Alden or Crockett & Jones or Edward Green oxford? That perfect little something, barely perceptible, that makes the shoe just that much more elegant, and a liiiiitle different from everyone else’s? No, not really. But with oxfords I think it’s smarter to play it safe than to get all creative; Beckett Simonon seems to agree. I like looking at these things on and off my feet, and honestly get more compliments on them than I anticipated, for a shoe without any specific true pizzaz.
While it’s not the shoe itself, I was also very impressed with how my Beckett Simonons were packaged on delivery. The shoebox was very sturdy (yes, I care deeply about shoebox sturdiness), and came packed with some impressively classy dust bags, some thin foam rubber insoles (which I didn’t use, but that almost never happens), and a little booklet providing more information on the brand—all things you see from pricier shoemakers. Presentationally, it definitely left me impressed and with a good feeling about the shoes right from the start.
Rating: 8.5/10—A really handsome shoe, although it’s not going to redefine footwear. But it doesn’t need to.
Sizing, Fit, and Comfort
This section is always going to be one of the most personal, which means certain parts of what I experienced may or may not be the same for any other specific wearer. But for me, the shoes unfortunately don’t fit my feet perfectly. It’s actually pretty interesting—now that they’re broken in, when I slide them on they feel pretty nice. Not quite like my Aldens, or even some of my more broken-in, beautifully molded Red Wing boots. But, comfortably snug like you want an oxford to fit, and ready for the day.
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As that day wears on, though, the comfort starts to have some holes poked in it. I went with an 11, and I’m pretty sure a half-size down would’ve been much too snug up front. But at that size, the shoe feels a little long on me, and I experience a little heel slip, even long after break-in. Also, generally on my walk home (or sometimes on my walk back from lunch, depending on how far away my particular sandwich is on any given day), I’ll start to feel some pressure and discomfort up at the front part of the laces. Nothing I can’t handle, but it’s not like my feet are wrapped in an As Seen On TV memory foam pillow or anything. Not that that’s what I want out of my shoes, but I think you get the point…
Now I’ll say: I walk more in any pair of shoes than most people—usually 4-5 miles a day, on crappy New York City sidewalks (c’mon deBlasio!). I’m not hopping in a midsize sedan and walking around on carpeted office floors all day. If I wore these for a few hours, or just walked less, I have a feeling my feet would feel completely fine. But as someone who does all that walking, I’m always on the hunt for something that feels even better at the end of the day than it does at the beginning. The Durants don’t quite deliver on that, for me, unfortunately.
Rating: 7.5/10—Certainly not perfect for me, but honestly pretty nice most of the day. And in a different life situation, probably a lot nicer.
I’ll caveat this as I will many other dress shoe reviews in the future: for whatever reason, my feet tend to hate new dress shoes. It’s possible that the shoes hate my feet, but I like to view shoes as pure and benevolent beings.
My biggest issue, especially before the soles and heel counters break in, is experiencing a lot of rubbing on the heel, thanks to some little bone protrusions I have there. That happened with these, for sure. Also that pressure on the top of my foot under the laces was definitely worse at the outset. A couple days early on, I had to swap them out for something else for the walk home. Could I have made it? Yes! I’m very tough! And it wasn’t completely intolerable. But as someone who reviews shoes for a living, I always have to wear a pair the next day—which are often in some stage of a break-in phase.
All that said, some level of uncomfortable break-in is part of many (not all!) shoes, and I’ve never been one to fear weathering it. I’d say that switch you just wait to flip probably did around the 8th or 10th wear.
Rating: 7.5/10—Not the worst I’ve ever experienced, by a longshot. But also not like literally walking out of the store in my Alden Indys and never looking back. Of course that’s a 130+ year old shoemaker and a boot that costs 3x as much…
Leather and Care
Beckett Simonon uses Argentinian full-grain leather from Rosinante Lys Royal on for the uppers on the Durants, and out of the box it looks pretty spiffy. Brand-new, it was soft but also a little overly finished and shiny in a way that looked appealing, but also not quite as rich and natural as some of the higher-end leathers you’ll find in more expensive shoes. At this price point you’re simply not going to get top-grade Italian calf leather or something similar, so I didn’t expect that.
Three months in, the leather has held up admirably as far as its overall look and sheen—without any real significant care or polishing regimen to speak of. But it’s creased significantly, and often in ways that I can only term undesirable. The left shoe especially has displayed what I’ll call spiderweb creasing on the vamp above the toe cap (which itself still looks pristine, on both shoes), with creases shooting in all directions. The rest of the shoe, however, largely remains in great shape.
Outside of leather quality, which is also an obvious possibility, there are two things I’ve hypothesized causing the creasing: 1) being caught in between sizes (I’m pretty sure I was), which is always a major culprit for unsightly vamp creases in any shoe, 2) using shoe trees after wear but not always having them in (again, I need more shoe trees). That said, I have a pair of Allen Edmonds Strands that are 10 years old, and which I bought while I was far less caring of my shoes. They spent six or seven years without trees, and definitely don’t show this type of creasing. A one-off example, to be sure, but a worthwhile one, I’d say.
Given that I wanted to see how they aged over three months, my care regimen was limited to brushing the shoes before and after use, and I didn’t use any care products or shoe shine. And aside from the creasing (which no products will correct), they’ve held up very well, honestly. As time goes on, that regimen will change—I’ll let you know how that went in the next update.
Rating: 7/10—I wasn’t expecting the ultimate in leather quality from a shoe of this price, but for the most part it’s held up nicely. That vamp creasing is what nets it this rating.
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Beckett Simonon shoes use a veg-tanned leather sole from Colombia (same with the heel stacks), which has a nice slim profile to match the dressiness of the overall product.
What I can say for sure is that this isn’t a JR sole (or something of similar quality), both because…well, it doesn’t say “JR” on it. And also because of how it’s worn over time. Again, I wear my shoes hard, on imperfect city sidewalks and pavement. But these soles have gotten more than a little chewed up in a short three months, and if I was wearing them 2-3 times a week, every week, they’d be further chewed.
That said, they consistently grip the pavement fairly well, except when things are slippery—conditions any leather soled shoe is going to have problems with. And the coloration on the sole edge is also starting to get knocked off in a couple areas, although nothing terrible, really.
Rating: 7/10—Not the best overall quality I’ve experienced, but that isn’t what I was expecting from $200 shoes. That said, I’ll be interested to see how they hold up over the next 3-9 months.
Construction and Durability
As with many shoes with a slim profile, Beckett Simonon shoes are Blake stitched. Blake stitching is one of a small handful of techniques used to create high-quality shoes (including many of the top Italian makers), and impartial people who know most about shoe construction will tell you that it’s no better or worse than Goodyear welting. It’s just different, largely in that it allows the shoemaker to create a slimmer, more lightweight, more low-profile shoe than they would be able to with a welted shoe.
Overall, the Durants meet all those criteria. They are extremely lightweight, and appealingly un-bulky throughout. One of the gripes some people have with Blake-stitched shoes is that because the outsole is attached to the upper by stitching through the footbed, there can be a bit of discomfort on the bottom of the wearer’s foot. I experienced none of that, and don’t expect to. It definitely seems like everything is put together quite nicely—there weren’t any loose threads or other misalignments in the finishing.
Rating: 8/10—The main durability concerns I have are not from the construction itself, but rather from that leather outsole and upper, as mentioned above.
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A common refrain on Stitchdown is that value is subjective; of course, that’s true! But even if a $600+ shoe or boot can hold extreme value for the right person (myself very included), finding value in more-affordable footwear is often easier.
Beckett Simonon shoes, coming in under $200, are a value buy through and through. There are a scant number of brands even offering footwear in that price bracket, and precious, precious fewer creating shoes with as impressive a design aesthetic and overall look/feel to the product. How will the shoes hold up over the truly long term? The jury’s still out on that, but I’ll be updating this story with how things go over the next few months.
Rating: 8.5/10—The price is incredibly right, although I worry that they’re not going to last, in my particular life, over the long haul. (And for a $200 shoe, unless I really love it, I’m probably not going to spend $100-$150+ to re-sole it).
The Stitchdown Final Take
Beckett Simonon shoes are an extremely strong value buy—although they fall just short of being an amazing one, due to long-term durability concerns I already have at the three-month mark. If you’re wearing dress shoes to the office 3+ times a week, and walk a lot on those days, you might want to consider reaching into a higher price bracket that gets you something that is more durably built, especially in terms of the outsole. And if you’ve been wearing Crockett & Jones or Edward Greens or Aldens for years, Beckett Simonon shoes are absolutely going to be light on build quality compared to what you’re accustomed to.
But I think there are countless people for whom Beckett Simonon shoes would be a rewarding pickup. I feel the ultimate Beckett Simonon buyers are: 1) people getting into the world of quality footwear, who are price-conscious as they come to understand that world and figure out what suits them best, 2) people in a position to pair their Beckett Simonons with 2-3 other shoes, to create a regular rotation throughout a workweek to make them last, and 3) anyone who doesn’t wear dress shoes regularly but has, say, a handful of weddings and other formal events to attend each year, and is looking for a very handsomely designed shoe at a price that would be considered affordable almost universally.
If you’re in one of those groups—and especially at this price—Beckett Simonon in general, and these Durant oxfords specifically, seem very worth a shot.
Overall Rating: 7.6/10