The Adelaide design is a relative newcomer to classic men’s footwear. Although most styles commonly seen nowadays have their roots in the fierce competition between shoemakers of major European capitals from the fin de siècle through to the thirties, the Adelaide did not come about until the seventies. Most commonly attributed to George Cleverley, the design broke with convention by introducing a separate ‘U-shaped’ facing, contrary to the standard oxford facing that follows the line of the quarter.
This style is most commonly found with semi-brogue detailing, fine gimping (texturing of leather edges), and a cap toe that suits the relatively formal nature of the style. In brown, it is the perfect accompaniment to the black cap-toe oxford. For many, these two models may be the only oxfords found in their wardrobe given the lowered demands for formality in the modern workplace. The model is typically found on modern round, almond, and chisel toe lasts, and the style of the last can dramatically affect the overall look of the shoe.
Given the brogueing and unique patterning of this design, shoes are often made with plainer leathers, which show off the design elements without visual overload. Museum leathers - which are given their characteristic mottled appearance at the tannery - can be found on several examples, and look very well in this style.
This is also a style where suedes can sing. Suede oxfords are typically the domain of very sophisticated dressers, as they can at first seem quite a niche style. Contrary to this popular sentiment, however, they are perfect for a range of occasions and outfits and can more easily slide down the formality scale than virtually all other oxfords. The natural environment for this style of shoe is with both formal and casual suits, separates, and even with more casual trousers and jackets if the design is informal enough.
Although still not established as a core ‘must-have’ for most, enthusiasts have flocked to this design for its perfectly proportioned patterning and pitch-perfect propriety for the modern workplace. It is in this vein that it is included in this series. It is a modern design classic that will look fantastic in years to come and will not date if built upon a classic last in quality leathers.
The proliferation of this style can be seen more in ‘enthusiast-centered’ brands than in traditional manufacturers; though with some searching, one should be able to find a beautiful example in any price range. At any level, look for Goodyear-welted construction and the highest possible quality of upper leather, as the sleekness of this model will be relatively unforgiving of lower-quality materials.
As with others in this series, this article will present three wonderful options at each of the Attainable (under $400 USD), Advanced ($400-$800 USD), and Aspirational (over $800 USD) levels. We seek to provide options that are both geographically and economically accessible for all, as footwear sustainability needn’t be exclusionary.
Given the ‘insider status’ of this shoe style, many of the brands providing a model tend to cater to the whims of the small enthusiast community. This is good news, as the priority is on design harmony and quality materials over brand recognition. For this level, you can expect some fantastic options that are Goodyear welted, constructed of premium leathers, and finished beautifully.
At entry-level, prioritise upper materials and last shape over finishing details and unique designs, as these will provide the most return on investment. Suede can be a fantastic upper material at this level and will need little maintenance over time.
Option 1: Löf & Tung Oxenham II in Parisian Brown Museum Calf
This model looks far more English than the Löf & Tung Swedish/Spanish amalgam would lead you to assume. Very classic proportions and details are matched to quite a dynamic shape from the soft square L last. This last exhibits a versatile toe shape, but has quite a pronounced rise to the instep, giving a very refined side profile to the shoe.
The soles are a single leather attached with an invisible sole stitch to a gorgeous upper leather of museum calf, most likely from the French Tanneries Haas. The use of ‘museum calf’ on dress shoes was pioneered by John Lobb and is often referred to as ‘Old English’ leather by other manufacturers.
Befitting this heritage, this pair would look well under a dove grey fresco suit, white shirt, green polka dot tie, and forest green socks for a very English summer look.
Option 2: Loake 1880 Fleet in Dark Brown Suede
A classically styled model from one of the best-known entry-level English manufacturers Loake. This model presents an extremely low-maintenance and highly versatile option.
Made either partially or entirely in the Kettering factory, this 360-degree Goodyear-welted shoe is built upon the very popular Capital last. Although described as a ‘slight chisel last’, it more accurately would be labeled a ‘defined round’ last. With a generous width fitting and unassuming character, it will suit most feet and situations.
The sole unit is the ‘shadow’ rubber, which will provide fantastic grip in wet conditions while maintaining a fine side profile. The dark brown suede uppers will also suit such weather if (as the author suspects) it is made of the highly resistant Repello suede by CF Stead.
It bears mentioning that only the 1880 line and above should be considered from this manufacturer, as the lower levels sacrifice too much to meet their price point. This model would look stunning paired with a navy serge suit, purple socks, blue shirt, and brown knit tie for a playful take on cocktail attire.
Option 3: Carlos Santos 8618 Handgrade Adelaide Oxford in Guimares Patina
From value-king Carlos Santos, this visually arresting model is made in Portugal from high-quality materials to an enviable standard. Hand grade models from any marque typically feature a list of improvements including improved upper and lining leather quality, blind-stitched soles, beveled waists and edges, more aggressive lasts, and hand-applied finishing to upper and sole.
This model meets all of these benchmarks with ease, from the 389 ‘soft square’ last (more of an Italian-style chisel) to the distinctive Guimares patina, named after the beautiful medieval town in northern Portugal. Hand grade models typically start at around $700 USD from other manufacturers, and this shoe compares very favorably to those.
The striking patination of this pair would suit a slightly bolder style, perhaps worn with a mid-blue glen check sports coat, cream flannel trousers, and an unstructured collar shirt.
Advanced level shoes allow a greater selection of upper leathers and last shapes. Although the attainable level presents many compelling offerings, here we encounter some truly ‘handmade’ models and iconic designs from highly regarded manufacturers. Expect a very high level of finishing, flawless upper leathers, and very high-quality internal materials. Leather uppers of this calibre will really reward care and maintenance with a stunning natural patina over time.
Option 1: Crockett & Jones Westbourne in Chestnut Calf
This model by English stalwarts Crockett & Jones has developed a cult following in the passionate menswear community. This is due largely to two factors.
First is the chestnut burnished calf, sourced from an un-named French tannery. Its rich hue and lovely lustre develop a stunning patina, and can be taken in many different directions with the use of pigmented cremes.
Second is the famous 348 last. A thoroughly modern last developed by in-house bespoke shoemaker Dimitri Gomez, its high-walled and elongated chisel shape has won many fans, although it is best suited to narrow or low-volume feet.
The details are finished off with a relatively basic single leather sole and open channel stitching. This classically elegant shoe deserves a similarly restrained style. An obvious choice would be a mid-grey flannel suit and pink oxford shirt, with a charcoal cashmere tie and socks to complete the ensemble in a very understated fashion.
Option 2: Justin Fitzpatrick Sunnyside in Gold Museum Calf
Justin Fitzpatrick has developed a reputation for his unique designs, often subtle twists on established men’s footwear classics. This model is no different, which plays with the traditional format in its patterning, last, and uppers. The patterning has been tweaked with a lack of brogueing around the top line, lending a slightly sleeker look to the shoe.
This is reinforced by the very svelte NGT last, which combines a modern round toe with a high (but low volume) instep and supportive arch. This provides a beautiful elongated shape, but one that may not suit the wider foot.
The final nuance is the use of the gold museum calf from the Italian Tannery Ilcea. This is the home of the original museum calf utilized by Lobb (although they now use another tannery) and has a very striking visual effect, less mottled than the aforementioned Haas version, but having a richer colour.
This factor could be utilised to add a little pizzaz to a more conservatively themed outfit. Trying them with a pair of tan cavalry twill trousers, navy blazer, and tattersall shirt could provide an interesting combination. This outfit could be accessorized by forest green socks and a subtle burgundy cravat for extra individual flair.
Option 3: Antonio Meccariello Principes in Tan Suede
The Argentum ready-to-wear line from Italian maker Antonio Mecariello is perhaps one of the best values in all of footwear, and certainly so within the mid-tier segment. His shoes are made in the Italian region of Benevento using an innovative blend of artisanal and bespoke techniques.
The Argentum line uses the highest quality upper leathers, and although Goodyear-welted, it eschews the traditional linen glued gemming for an integral leather gemming split from the base of the leather insole. This approach gives the longevity benefits of a hand-welted shoe, with the speed and ease of machine Goodyear welting.
This model is built upon the A89 ‘hawksbill’ last, which gives a distinctly high-sided, but more rounded side profile to the toe than a flatter chisel last. This mates perfectly with the upper of premium Janus reverse calf suede from CF Stead. This leather is found only on top-tier models due to its exorbitant price, and somewhat softens the aggressive last of this model.
The lighter tone of the Janus calf would suit a casual suit very well. Worn with an olive green cotton suit, light blue shirt, and Royal Artillery tie, these shoes would provide the perfect foundation for a summer picnic outfit.
At this level, expect unique features and lasts, the highest quality calf (and even exotic) leathers, near-perfect execution, and perhaps just a little soul…
Option 1: Enzo Bonafe 3966 ‘Gatorade’ in Espresso Calf and Alligator
Among the top scorers for best mixed-leather portmanteau (the other being the Löf & Tung ‘Balligator’) is this stunning makeup from Italian shoe producer Enzo Bonafe. Bonafe is known for being a true master of the gentle craft, offering a nearly limitless assortment of designs, lasts, and leathers.
This very fact should suggest that possession of at least a modicum of taste is a necessity for any commissions from this maker, as you the client are the designer… As with bespoke or made-to-order commissions from a tailor, one should err on the side of conservatism so as not to create an unwearable shoe. This model demonstrates perfectly how to mix leathers by using similar tones and letting the texture speak, rather than pushing the visual differences too far.
This model is hand welted over the 946 last, which has a somewhat shorter chisel toe but has generous fitting qualities for most feet. It also features a single leather sole and peaked rear quarter detail which add further visual interest.
As mixed leathers are inherently more casual — despite the darker tone and relative formality of this design — these shoes could work very well under a more casual suit, such as a tobacco brown linen. This could be worn with a blue and white university stripe shirt, a navy grenadine tie, and navy socks to anchor the look and provide a visual link between the top and bottom halves of the outfit.
Option 2: Gaziano & Girling St James II in Vintage Cherry Calf
Gaziano & Girling shoes are known first and foremost for their unique and dramatic lasts, creations of renowned last designer Tony Gaziano. This model is no exception, being built upon the Italian-inspired ‘classic square’ TG73 last. This last features an elongated and defined square toe that softens into the rear quarters nicely, offering a great fit and instant comfort.
On comfort, Gaziano & Girling is the only factory using J&FJ Baker insoles and outsoles on ready-to-wear production models, and this will reward the wearer with increased longevity and a custom-molded fit. The shoe’s details are relatively classic, save a peaked and seamless heel counter that adds to the bespoke feel of these shoes.
Burgundy and oxblood shoes are well known for being an excellent pairing with darker grey suits. Although this model’s ‘cherry’ coloring is slightly lighter around the vamp and instep, the burnishing at the toes and heels is much more of an ‘oxblood’ colour. Thus, a ‘suitable’ pairing could be a charcoal worsted suit, blue shadow stripe Winchester shirt, and burgundy shantung silk tie for a business-appropriate, yet still individual look.
Option 3: Saint Crispin’s 581 Diamond Cap Oxford in French Brown Suede
Saint Crispin’s is not, it must be said, a value-led brand. However, what they may lack in the affordability stakes is more than compensated for in their distinctiveness. This model, a diamond-capped Adelaide oxford with a medallion, sharp-edged facing, and diamond heel counter is the definition of distinctive.
To paraphrase bespoke shoemaker Daniel Wegan, 'it takes some skill to make a well-proportioned shoe in a classic style, but it takes a lot more skill to make a well-proportioned shoe in a new style.' This model harmonises beautifully from the aptly-named CLASSIC round-toed last to the gorgeous French brown suede upper, even the hollow shoe trees are works of art in their own right.
This beautiful shade of brown suede calls out for a complementary toned and textured trouser. A spongy pair of mid-grey flannels, along with an ecru submariner polo neck and navy pea coat would look sublime in winter for a warm and visually coherent outfit.
Hopefully, this article has convinced some readers that an Adelaide oxford is not just a nicety in the shoe wardrobe, but an integral component that will be utilized as much as the black cap-toe oxfords and full-brogue derbies. This model also provides ripe opportunities to play with suede or even to mix leathers, as long as it is done with tasteful restraint. In today’s business landscape, this could be just the shoe to provide a little character, while still being demure enough for most boardrooms.
Disclaimer: Any views represented in this article belong solely to the author and may not represent those of the blog owner. This article is not sponsored by any brands.
Photography: as stated