Kent Wang Balmoral Shoe Review
We guarantee the quality rivals shoes twice its price. Kent Wang
I spoke to the gents at Kent Wang at the end of last year in regards to their “Handgrade” shoe line. Mainly because I find it extremely interesting when someone has a shoe outside of the typical English, Italian and Spanish makers. Plus the price tag $475USD excluding S&H for their Balmoral Oxfords.
They offered to send me a pair to try and review for A Poor Man’s Millions.
On their website, you can read the basic information about the style and construction of the shoes, which reads;
Balmoral brogue with our signature ram’s head medallion.
Museum calf leather with a mottled finish. Full-grain, Italian box calf.
Traditional English design and styling. Goodyear-welted construction. Channeled soles. Fiddleback (bevelled) waist.
Made at our handgrade shoemaker, these shoes feature a higher level of finish and superior leather and use different lasts than our benchgrade line.
When I received the shoes the packaging was quite standard (Box, shoe bags and paper filing). Some may ask were the shoe trees and shoehorn are being a handgrade shoe but most of the time the shoe price includes these extra items, thus making the RRP higher.
The shoes are made in Laos, for those who don’t know it is next to Vietnam and Thailand. From past experience, I know that both Vietnam and Thailand have quality shoemakers although not a lot.
So people shouldn’t be turned off by this, as many know you can get some terrible quality from the big three too (England, Italy & Spain).
Italian box calf leather is used in most high-end shoe brands, John Lobb, Vass, Saint Crispin etc.
Full-grain Box calf is a high-grade leather due to the way it has been processed (grain quality, cutting & tanning) with the genuine original grain.
On inspection, the leather is soft and pliable which box calf should be. Whilst wearing the shoes for the first time, the leather comfortably stretches without any major discomfort.
Creases are normal across the vamp where the step part is of your gait, although more prominent creases are usually due to a poor fit. (this being the case with the longer last for my foot).
The soft chiselled-toe last is on the longer side compared to most of the lasts I personally choose. I would say the length is similar to a Crockett & Jones last.
The British styled toe cap is quite nice and not as rigid as a French-style chisel toe.
Sizing-wise I think it is quite “true”, I chose a 9US which is my go-to size (usually between 26.5 – 27cm).
The bevelled waist is quite elegant and fits nicely, I sometimes think this type would suit someone with a high arch better, but as I have a mid-arch it still fits comfortably.
Construction & Finishing
Closed channel Goodyear welting construction, bevelled waist, hand-painted patina and nailed soles.
These are all part of what many call “Handgrade”, the term doesn’t mean it is a handmade shoe. Many brands say handmade as the shoes are controlled by someone’s hands and not on a machine/conveyer belt system.
The construction is very well-done, the stitches clean and formatted across the shoes.
The hole punching (broguing) and heel tabs are the only things visually that were off. The broguing is quite wonky lines, which stand out against the perfect stitching as with the finishing on the heel tabs.
All the other finishes on the shoes are excellent, the binding on the edges of the sock lining opening, sock lining, the toothed edges, stitching and sole.
So the question remains, Can you find a shoe of this quality and finish for less than $475USD?
Well, yes and no. This comes down to the finer details.
There are shoes with closed channel welting and bevelled waists for less but the patinas aren’t done well.
You can also get a high-quality shoe with everything bar the bevelled waist for less too. A personal preference when it comes to visual aesthetics but many prefer a bevelled waist on shoes.
Obviously, there are shoes that are better off without it, but when you need a shoe to make an impression, the one with the bevelled waist is going to do the trick before it’s clunkier rival! – Justin Fitzpatrick aka Shoe Snob
I personally like the shoes and think Kent Wang has done a decent job to produce a quality shoe under $500USD. With a few more refinements it could hold the title of the best.