Product Review: John Doe Shoes

If I could change one thing about men’s dress it would their shoes. I was talking to a friend, an older gentleman whom has incredible taste, and he made a reference to shoes. To paraphrase, he said, ‘the first thing I notice is shoes. You can tell a lot of a man by their shoes’. I do not how true this is personally, but he has a point. When you see a man all dressed up, you take notice. However, nothing ruins an outfit more than when you pan your head down to take notice of a terrible pair of shoes. I am talking those discount specials with the poor quality leather, or even worse, plastic. What shoes a man wears, can make or break an outfit that much I will agree with.

Now, shoes can be an expensive purchase. This is a case where the more you pay, the more you get….usually. At John McNabb Clothier, we have been looking at broadening our shoe selection. Finding good shoes in Canada can be a frustrating exercise. Take for instance my grandfather owned and operated a shoe store that had a special emphasis on men’s shoes back 40 years ago and that was in the small town of Midland, Ontario! Oh my how the times have changed. Nowadays, unless you are willing to go to one of the larger cities, you are left with few if any options for higher quality, classically designed dress shoes. Right, right, right, this is supposed to be a review, not a rant. Well, enter John Doe Shoes.

I had read a couple of reviews online about John Doe Shoes and it piqued my interest. They are a newcomer to the market that is looking to fill the niche market of higher quality, classically designed shoes that will not break the bank. An admirable feat if I do say so myself. The company was started by two brothers, Cuitlahuac and Anibal Ortiz and their father Francisco. I have been in contact with Cuitlahuac and he was gracious enough to give me a little bit of the short history of the company.

(Below is verbatim except for spelling & grammar corrections)

JMC: Why men’s shoes? It can be a tough industry so what made you decide to build, from scratch, a men’s shoe company? Do you or your family have experience in the market, or is it just a passion that came about?

John Doe Shoes: It was men's shoes because we saw a huge opportunity there. A few months ago there was a big gap among high quality shoes and the rest of shoes. High quality shoes would either be made on top notch workshops or artisan ones, with very good leather and materials, by people who have been making shoes for years. Of course in order to get this kind of shoes you should pay at least $400 or so. Then there were the rest of the shoes, here it is a territory controlled by all the massive shoe companies – I won't say brands but there are many of them. Shoes in this range are mass produced, many times in sweatshops, using materials that were not of the best quality. The idea here is to give people a shoe that will do the work for a year or a year and half for usually a good price (especially considering the many sales all these shoe companies run along the year) something that makes you wonder if those shoes are really worth $150 dollars when four months later you see them on sale for $80.

That's when my brother and I came with the idea to shrink that gap of quality and price between high quality shoes and your regular $120ish shoes. We found a family owned artisan workshop in Mexico, right now under the third generation of shoemakers. So that's how we took care of the construction. We offer Goodyear welted shoes with great craftsmanship. However, that's just a part of it. We would have to take care of the materials used in the shoes, since the ones they originally used could be improved. Good leather is expensive, so in order to keep our friendly price idea, we had to buy a lot of this good leather. All shoes are now made using USA full grain calf of the highest quality. As for the operational costs, we have been doing everything by ourselves, the website, pictures, marketing, and logistics and so on.

JMC: What have been so of the biggest obstacles with the business so far?

John Doe Shoes: Well as you said since we had to start the company from scratch I would say it has been a road full of obstacles, yet quite rewarding. Some of the major obstacles have been to get the owner of the workshop to do our shoes, especially in the first couple of months when we were not known at all and had no sales. In the first couple of months our website traffic consisted of a couple of friends, my aunt and me. That's when we sent some samples to fashion and styles bloggers. They liked the shoes a lot. Also, another hurdle was to buy the new USA made leather. We had to make a big gamble, since we had to invest all of our remaining resources into it. Fortunately, things are getting better month by month and we are on a steady sales growth rate.

JMC: Where do you see the company in say 3-5 years?

John Doe Shoes: Our mission is to be recognized around the world as a very smart choice for buying shoes. In order to achieve this we have to keep our attractive prices yet aiming to the quality of a $400 shoe. We plan to grow our presence around the world thru social media, marketing and distributors.

JMC: Any new styles you are looking to add in the Spring or within the next coming calendar year?

John Doe Shoes: Actually we are just a couple of weeks away to release 3 new styles. A penny loafer, a pair of double monk straps and also a split toe blucher.

I can tell you, while it may seem fun at times, starting a shoe company in a market that is notoriously highly competitive and always looking for a way to cut costs to grab consumers, it must be a nightmare some days. However, it seems that the Ortiz family is taking it all in stride. And I for one am glad they are. The market, in my humble opinion, does need a shoe that is classically designed, made of quality materials and construction methods, and is at a price that is accessible to the average man. Cuitlahuac & Co. were kind enough to send of a sample of their new BONUCCI OXFORD (see pictures below) to help us get a better feel of the product and what they are trying to accomplish.

The first thing I did when I took them out of the box was check the weight. Cheap shoes are notorious for being lite. Due to their lax construction, the shoes will provide little support and wear out (the guts of the shoe) and leave you with sore achy feet and an empty husk of leather in only a short period of time. The shoes, while not as very as a pair of Allen Edmonds, felt substantial enough – and so they should. John Doe Shoes are Goodyear welted. I will not go in to detail of Goodyear welting as many will not be concerned, just know it is considered the Holy Grail of shoe construction for those in the know. Goodyear welting not only provides a better product out the box, it also allows the shoes to be repaired more often and with better success. The shoes also sport a leather lining, EVA, cork and leather midsoles and beautiful all leather souls. The colour is a beautiful caramel brown (well as I would describe it). The all leather uppers (that they have recently changed due to earlier reviewers concerns) are sourced from an American supplier and felt supple and significant. I have had them on a couple of times and so far have no complaints, well one, but that is my fault. I have both narrow and shallow feet so the shoes seem a tad big, but once again, not their fault.

So what are my thoughts? I like them. I have not worn them enough yet to exactly know how they will hold up over the long, but I know I will, and will make additions to this review over time. I must say that I like the way they look, the way they feel and their associated attributes. I also like the story of the family behind it and their reason for doing it. I know they are out there to make a buck like everyone else, but they are doing it their way. Now, are the shoes the caliber of a say an Allen Edmonds or a Peal & Co? Nope – but that is not the market that John Doe Shoes is going for (nor are you paying those prices either). I believe what they are trying to get is converts. Many men out there are conditioned to think shoes are disposable. For as environmentally conscious as our Western society says it is becoming, we sure look at our clothes as completely disposable. These shoes are a great entry point for men that want to step up their sartorial game. Most men are not going to take the leap from buying cheap shoes at discount retailers to paying well over $400.00 based on being told that they should. They need to edge in to the water. A pair of John Doe Shoes will allow them to do so without putting down a significant investment. I am also happy that they are steering men in the right direction with their shoe choices as well. While their current selection is limited by some estimates, all the shoes they offer are both extremely wearable and versatile. This will only get better with the three new additions including the ever versatile penny loafer.

So final judgment – I think they offer a good value to our customers here at John McNabb Clothier. Starting at around $160.00, I do not think that there is anywhere around that offers something like this, especially not in the immediate Barrie area. What we would like though, is to hear from you, our lovely customers. Would this shoe be something that you would be interested in? Does the $160.00 price seem in the ballpark? We want to know. If all goes well and the response is good, we will most likely be getting in an order in the Spring. So, until that time, send us an email with your thoughts or shoot us a message on Facebook.

Jason Byron Reynolds

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