As you may have noticed, these J. Fitzpatrick Madrona single monks have been taking over my feed lately, so I thought I would do a review to share my thoughts with you in more depth.
I've been a fan of J. Fitzpatrick Footwear for some time, and frankly, I was looking for an excuse to buy a pair. So when Justin put several styles from the S/S18 season on clearance a few months ago, I jumped at the chance to snag a pair. I first contemplated a Sebastien U-cap in copper museum calf, an undoubtedly beautiful shoe, but I was dissuaded from purchasing them by its LPB soft chisel last. I know many people love chiseled lasts, but I can't seem to appreciate them (yet at least).
Then I spotted these dark brown suede Madronas. I didn't yet have any monks or suede shoes, so they seemed like the perfect pair to round out my shoe collection a bit. They also happened to be made on the NGT last, (what Justin calls their "smart round" last), one of three J. Fitzpatrick lasts that I think fit both my style and last shape preferences (the SEA and TMG being the other two). As I am always a few pairs of shoe trees shy of my needs, and their trees are not only lasted and sized but come in a very attractive red stain, I added a pair of alderwood shoe trees to the cart as well. After that, I clicked purchase and eagerly awaited my new shoes and trees.
The shoes were $230 and the trees were an additional $48, for a total of $278 and a steal of a deal.
Shipping & Packaging
Despite shipping from the UK (this was before the establishment of their US store, which has made shipping even faster) shipping was surprisingly fast. The shoes arrived in great shape with no damage to the red pullout shoe box or the shoes inside. The shoes shipped with the shoe trees inside and came with a red, plastic shoe horn and a pair of branded red felt shoe bags.
Monks are a shoe intended to impress others with their differentness and sleekness, but too often monks are ruined by poorly designed straps and buckles that make them appear chunky and more rustic than they should. I particularly like these Madronas because they avoid that mistake. The strap has a slender shape that curves beautifully from the body of the shoe and is closed with an oval buckle which adds a touch of elegance, compared to a more typical square buckle.
Despite their unique design, I've found them easy to pair with just about anything, from suits to jeans. I think having them in suede instead of leather has helped with this versatility.
Construction & Wear
The shoes' construction shows a fine attention for detail and ingenuitive design. The buckles are attached to the uppers with an elastic band, which eases buckling and makes them a bit more comfortable. The suede seems to be of fine quality and I could not find any flaws.
The shoes have what Justin calls a "flex sole" which is supposed have more give and thus be more comfortable than traditional goodyear welt shoes. I'm not sure that I've noticed any additional flexibility, but the shoes are comfortable. The soles were attached with a closed-channel goodyear welt, the seam of which was nearly invisible. The soles arrived unblemished and the J. Fitzpatrick logo stamp was elegant in its concision. The stitching is quite close the edge and finished nicely. The heel is part rubber for extra traction, and there are ten brass indented nails in the heel and five on the toe. I noticed some minor problems with spacing consistency, but nothing too egregious.
I've had the shoes for a few months now and worn them twice to the office and twice walking around D.C., including one rather adventurous walk through the Arboretum. They have generally held up well through these somewhat unconventional uses. I was worried the suede might scratch, but they were unscathed despite several hundred feet of off-path walking. However, I did strike my toe on a upturned brick on one of D.C.'s side walks, which tore a small sliver of the sole on the toe and popped out two of the brass nails. I, like many men, am a bit prone to do this, so I was disappointed that the sole tore so easily. I am aghast to say so, but a design with several layers of brass nails on the toe, similar to Paul Evans may be better at preventing such occurrences. Nonetheless, I blame D.C.'s ill-kept sidewalks and will use this as an opportunity to have my first set of metal toe caps installed.
Here are what the shoes look like after this wear:
As you can see, the shoes held up very well, except for the toes which show some moderate wear & tear.
Finding the right dress shoe size for me has been a bit of a challenge, as I primarily buy shoes online without the ability to try on first in the store. As happens with most guys, my first few purchases were sized too large. Trying to arrest this trend, I purchased this pair in 7.5UK and it seems to have been the right choice. They are snug, but not uncomfortably so, and fit very similarly to the Edward Green pair I was sized into by Leffot Chicago.
Justin describes the NGT as "refined... in terms of fit... that is better suited for narrow to medium width feet," and having worn them, I believe him. I have smaller than average feet than most, so a true-to-size fit worked for me, but if your feet are wider or even just a bit larger, I'd go up a half size.
As a reference, here is a list of my sizing in brands I own or have tried on (rather limited and uninspiring though it is):
Brannock: Left - 8.5D Right - 8D
Allen Edmonds 1943 Last: 8.5D Beckett Simonon: 8.5D
Edward Green 202: UK7E
J. FitzpatrickFootwear NGT: 7.5UK PaulEvansNY: 8.5D
J. Fitzpatrick Footwear produces beautiful, high-quality shoes that have an elegance and creativity of design that all too many shoe brands lack. They are a good deal at full price and an amazing deal on sale. I fully intend to acquire a few more pairs as soon as I can. Maybe these apron oxfords or even a pair of button boots.