Allen Edmonds is known for quality Goodyear welted shoes, with their most popular styles being the Park Avenues and the Strands. Their selection, while varied, heavily sways on formal styles and generally does not step into the realm of casual shoes. The Oak Street Cap-Toe Oxfords in navy Chromexcel breaks this tradition and boldly jumps headfirst into the world of informal footwear.
Made using the 65 last, the Oak Street is a true-to-size fit. The aforementioned Park Avenues and Strands use the same last, along with many other Allen Edmonds pairs, and it is the one last that fits all.
The insole is soft and comfortable, with the break-in period being unnoticeable. The shoes also strike the perfect balance between lightweight and heavy, making them sturdy without being cumbersome.
The shoes are a beautiful navy color that generally looks midnight black, though in direct sunlight it shines an attractive dark blue hue. The dye lacks any shading, making the color identical throughout the shoes, which allows for a much easier polishing process.
However, this doesn’t mean that the shoes are bland; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The leather is Chromexcel, a classic American tannage, made exclusively by Horween Leather Co. in Chicago. It patinas very easily with scuffs and wrinkles being more pronounced, which can give the shoes a unique character over time.
The dainite sole is a bold red color, adding to the casual nature of the shoe. Dainite is sturdy and will last a long time, which is preferable for everyday wear; however, the shoes do have a small longevity issue, one that persists in every single pair of Allen Edmonds shoes using a dainite sole — a missing trench.
The trench is a sunken area specifically made for protecting the stitching on the underside of the shoe. Without a trench, the stitching is exposed to pavement which can cause it to rip and tear. Because the Oak Streets lack a trench, after only two wears the outsole stitching has begun fraying. Obviously, light fraying is purely an aesthetics issue, but depending on the conditions, the fraying may develop further which could compromise the construction of the shoes.
It is not impossible to add a simple trench to a dainite sole. If other shoemakers, like Wolverine, can do it, then so can Allen Edmonds.
Another complaint, albeit a minor one, is the stitching size — it varies throughout the welt, with the heel area having more stitches per inch than the area around the cap toe. This doesn’t in any way affect the quality of the shoe nor is it very noticeable, but it is sloppy.
Despite the small shortcomings, the Oak Street Cap-Toe Oxfords are casual leather shoes done right. They are comfortable, they are attractive, and, despite a missing trench, they are likely to withstand long use. As always, Allen Edmonds provides good quality for a reasonable price.