Almost a year ago, I got in touch with Chay Cooper from Alfred Sargent and eventually he sent me a pair of Alfred Sargent ‘Moore’ shoes in Antique Cherry for review. I was particularly excited about their shoes because I have been familiar with the brand for over 10 years now, and while they used to be a good budget alternative to brands like Crockett & Jones or Tricker’s, they decided to overhaul the brand and focus on a more affluent clientele. Hence, they revamped their whole manufacturing process in 2010, improved the quality of their leathers, and redesigned most lasts and styles. Also, they have specialized in Made To Order shoes, which offers a near-bespoke experience in terms of leather choices and the ability to design details.
Currently, Alfred Sargent offers two ranges of shoes : the higher level Handgrade line and the Exclusive line, which we will review today. Of course, at a price of £395 (£329 without VAT) or $745 respectively, even the lower level Exclusive range Sargent is more pricey than many other top of the line shoes. As such, I expected a high quality product. But before I focus on the shoe, let’s take a look at the history of Alfred Sargent.
Alfred Sargent History
Alfred Sargent was founded in 1899 by the namesake and great-grandfather of the current owners Paul and Andrew Sargent, and as such, it is a true family business.
Moreover, it is still located in Rushden, Northamptonshire in England at the same, though extended, premises. As you may know, this area has a great tradition of shoe making in the UK and as such, it is easier to find skilled shoemakers there.
In this picture from 1893 you can see the Sargent family.
On the right, you can see the founder Alfred Sargent. In the middle, we have Walter Sargent, who supposedly worked with Alfred until he is believed to have started his own shoe business. On the left, you can see William Sargent, who was the father of Alfred Sargent and great, great grandfather of Paul and Andrew Sargent, the current owners.
The small boy furthest in the background is Frank Sargent, the son of Alfred and grandfather the Paul and Andrew.
Here you can see the Sargent premises in 1915. Harry Sargent watches how Frank and Alfred Sargent drive a Ford Model T.
Alfred Sargent Shoe Review
When I received and unwrapped the Moore model in Antique Cherry, I was positively surprised to see nicely piped shoe bags and a pair of elegant shoes with a beautiful vintage luster. Although reddish brown with a nice antiquing patina, I would not quite call it a cherry color. However, it does not matter at all because it is a fantastic color.
The Last & Fit
First, I inspected them from the outside, before I put them on. Unlike most other British shoes, I could immediately feel that the tighter fit around my heel. Usually, this kind of fit only comes from bespoke shoes. It also fits more tightly around the middle part of the foot.
The last of the Moore shoe is internally known as 724, and is available in two widths E and F, with the latter being the wider width.
I tested the F width in size 10.5. While not quite a George Cleverly shoe, it reminds me of a chisel toe without the harsh corners. Overall, the Alfred Sargent Moore is certainly a little more avant garde than the classic rounded toe models, but it is en par with styles from Gaziano & Girling. As a consequence, the fit is also a bit tight along the toes in my case. After walking on in them on both a dry day, and in the rain, I would always get a little blister on the top of my right big toe. Of course, one could argue that it is a RTW shoe, and hence my foot simply does not match the shoes. However, I did not experience this on my left foot – yes, I know every foot is different – but when I reached inside with my fingers, the area around the top of my toe was smooth in the left shoe but a bit rougher and uneven on the right. I assume that this was the reason for the discrepancy.
Overall, I liked the tight fit around my heel and the middle part of the foot, which feels more like a bespoke shoe than RTW. On the other hand, I was not too happy with the fact that I would always get a blister when I spent all day in the shoes walking around. If you can, try on the shoes before you buy, but if you do not have that option, I would order them a full size smaller than your current US size.
The double welt of the shoe is very finely stitched by machine and unlike many other English shoes, it is not open but neatly channeled. Nevertheless, the leather strap is shaped out of a long piece of leather shaped and connected at the ends, rather than being cut from a single piece. However, this is the absolute standard in RTW shoe production.
The brogueing on the shoe is good and mostly straight, but not as perfect as I have seen it on the best bespoke shoes. The heel is built up with individual leather pieces rather than a pre-made block. This means when I you stand on your heel, the sole touches the floor where foot’s front arch is located, which is ideal. As pointed out in many other shoe reviews such as Herringshoes, they often do not get that right, so for the extra price of Alfred Sargent, you also receive more attention to detail.
Unlike most RTW shoes, it also features a rolled waist, which is in-between a fiddle back waist and an regular, straight waist in terms of workmanship. It gives the shoe a more elegant feel, in my opinion, but this is simply a matter of taste.
Altogether, the level of workmanship is the highest of all the RTW goodyear welted shoes we have tested so far, but at that price that was to be expected.
The first thing you see is the beautiful patina of the leather, and there are many steps involved in achieving this look.
Many people ask – what is the best calf leather? Well, this is a tough question because leather is a natural product, which means every hide is different and because the process in tanning and dying it is important in developing its qualities. Finally, also the way of shining and antiquing decides what is a good leather and what isn’t. Then, even if you have chosen a top quality hide, without any bug bites, scars and a beautiful aniline dye, the area around the butt of the animal is usually better than, let’s say, the back. So, if you only want the best, you could cut only one pair of shoes per hide. Obviously that would be a huge waste and drive up the price of a pair of shoes tremendously. By the way, this is often one of the reasons why some bespoke shoes are so much more expensive than others.
AS also hangs its leathers in a mulling room after it has been cut, which has a higher level of humidity. The idea behind this process is to ensure the leather stays smooth and flexible before it is pulled over the last. Also, the continuous wetting and drying of leather helps to keep the it in shape, because it has a natural tendency to fall flat again.
Alfred Sargent uses the superior butt piece for the AS Handgrade line of shoes, while the other leather is used for the Exclusive range. Of course, the hides are great to begin with, so you don’t have to worry about the leather quality of these shoes. But the amount of work that goes into the patina is also higher in the Handgrade line.
The Alfred Sargent box they shoes came in was sturdy, though the one from Herringshoes was definitely nicer.
Also, when I wore the shoes with lighter colored socks for the first time, they lining colored off and my socks were almost completely brown! Luckily, the color came out after a few rounds of laundry. Now, they will still color off, though not as much anymore. From a shoe in that price range, I would expect a leather that is either colorfast or not prone to color off.
Overall, the Alfred Sargent shoes is the nicest pair of shoes we have tested so far, although it is not without weakness.You certainly receive more attention to detail, but you also pay more. At the end of the day, it is up to each individual to decide, because I think the 80-20 rule applies particularly for shoes.While you get 80% of a perfect shoe with 20% input, the last 20% require 80% of the effort. Alfred Sargent is certainly beyond that 80% point and therefore considerably more expensive than other RTW shoes we have tested. If it is worth the money to you or not is really not up for us to decide. I hope we shed light on the guts of the shoe, so you can make up your mind.
If you know an interesting manufacturer of high quality products, or you would like to have your products tested on the Gentleman’s Gazette, please drop us a line. Thanks.