Product Review: Beckett Simonon Dunham Derbies

You guys are probably aware of this already, but I don’t get any commissions or anything for any of the products I recommend.

My regular job (you know, the one I actually get paid for) requires us all to be in-person once in a while. The other day was one of those instances.

While I much prefer to work remotely, trekking into NYC is now somewhat of an amusing novelty since I don’t have to do it every day anymore.

One of the things I enjoy most about it is people watching. Now that I live in a very rural area, I don’t get to do it much, so it’s interesting strolling through Manhattan and seeing how other people dress.

Despite what you may think, I am not judgmental. I may see things I like. Or not. But I don’t make judgments about the person.

Sometimes you see articles lamenting how poorly people dress for work nowadays. Since conservative menswear isn’t as popular in most industries anymore thanks to “business casual” dress codes, it feels like the prevailing opinion is that everyone looks like a slob.

I have not found that to be true. Sure, I don’t see as many full suits as I would have if this was the 1980s, but I hardly ever see anyone who truly looks embarrassing. Even if they are on the more casual end of the spectrum, it’s mostly done presentably and tastefully. I’m talking dark, slim jeans, white sneakers, polo shirt. That sort of thing.

For the men who were more dressed “up”, I noticed they were all mostly identical. White or blue poplin, spread-collar dress shirt tucked into navy or charcoal trousers. It was warm in the city that day so hardly anyone was in a jacket. But everyone looked fine. Nothing embarrassing or slovenly about how they were dressed. I was in a pair of khaki chinos and blue OCBD, myself, so I was right there with them.

It was a sea of sameness, but not in a bad way. The shirts and trousers mostly fit well and were of completely fine make. In all this sameness one thing stood out, however, and not in a good way…

Their shoes.

Nice shirt. Flattering trousers. Terrible shoes.

They looked like cheap, plastic shoes from DSW. Mostly in that muddy, non-descript, brown shade that looks like stale coffee with milk in it.

Now, shoes are challenging. I know. It’s rare when I find a pair of shoes that fit me adequately. Sometimes, we just need to go with what’s comfortable, especially if we have a commute. I get it.

Which is why I am thankful that I have a pair of Beckett Simonon Dunham Derbies.

I felt that, by comparison, my shoes elevated my overall appearance, as opposed to detracting from it, which is what I noticed was happening with many of the other men in the city that day.

As previously stated, shoes are a big challenge for me. I have a hard foot to fit, a challenge valiantly attempted by many an ambitious salesperson only to be eventually thwarted.

Interesting story: Some years ago, after unintentionally frustrating way too many Allen Edmonds sales associates in Manhattan, I ventured into the shoe section of the old flagship Brooks Brothers on Madison Avenue.

I strolled in and was met by a middle-aged employee who greeted me and we exchanged pleasantries. At one point in our brief interaction she looked me up and down and said, “Let me guess… you have a narrow heel, a wide forefoot, and your feet are pretty flat. You sometimes experience pain due to a large vein that runs right over the top of your foot where the laces close.”

I was stunned. I hadn’t given her any information about my feet. She deduced it all simply from looking at me.

And it was all true! Well, except for the part about the vein. I honestly didn’t know if I had a vein running over the top of my foot. She said, “Take off your sock and look. I bet I’m right.”

Sure enough, I did, and she was.

Apparently, this individual had worked in the shoe department of Brooks Brothers since she was seventeen-years-old and was something of a legend within the company. After her impressive psychic demonstration, she offered to help me find some shoes that fit me.

I know that by now you’re thinking, “Why are you telling me all this?”

My point is that even SHE couldn’t find me shoes that fit properly. At least not well enough given the price of the shoes she was selling, which were all at least a few hundred dollars. Not unreasonable, but more than I would spend on something that wasn’t quite right.

She actually recommended I go down the street to Alden and ask them about their alternative lasts (which apparently is when they take two different lasts and moosh them together in the event that none of them fit you well enough). Unfortunately, Alden was also a bit out of my price range, so I left yet another shoe store empty handed.

This brings me back to the Beckett Simonon Dunham Derbies I picked up about three years ago. I needed a handsome shoe that fit me but at a good price. I know I could probably drop a lot of money to find the perfect shoe, but I just can’t do that (and I imagine many of you can’t either).

I had been on the Beckett Simonon mailing list for a bit so I decided to take the plunge on the Dunhams, as they seemed pretty versatile and fit with my usual uniform of OCBDs and tweed jackets. I think I paid around $120 with the first-time-customer coupon.

The way the company works is that you place the order and then they make the shoes. They don’t hold onto inventory, which lowers their overall operating costs, so they can then offer the shoes at a lower price. It’s a nice idea, but the problem is that the shoes take three months to get to you after you place the order. They send periodic email updates, which is good, but the wait is a bit of a bummer.

You know the old saying: “Price, Quality, Speed. Pick two.”

In this case, if I wanted something of good quality at a low price, it was NOT going to be speedy. Oh well.

Anyway, when the shoes finally arrived, I was pleased with their appearance. I chose the Bordeaux color and found the website pictures accurately reflected their actual hue.

Extra insoles were provided, which was nice, as I needed some added padding due to my flat feet. I actually ruined my first pair of insoles by inserting them upside down within the shoe. After they got all crumpled up I contacted the company and they sent a new pair free of charge. I had offered to pay for them, but they insisted payment was not necessary. It’s those little things that make certain companies stand out.

Overall construction seems very solid and I have not noticed any breakdown over the three years I have owned the shoes. Bear in mind, however, that I didn’t wear them for a stretch of time during the pandemic, but they have withstood enough use for me to be confident in their reliability.

A few specific things I like most about them: One, the color is very handsome. There is a deep red shine when in direct sunlight. Definitely eye-catching, but not dandyish. Conservative enough for an office shoe, but not boring.

Two, I like the rubber sole. Leather soled dress shoes are fine, but for my money, there is no down side to a thin rubber layer on the bottom. It doesn’t affect the overall look of the shoe but it definitely affects the performance for the better. And I don’t buy the whole “But leather soled shoes breathe better!” These are the kinds of minute, impossible-to-notice details that don’t make any difference whatsoever in the actual wearability of the item in question and that people on the internet argue in circles about.

Three, I like the middle-of-the-road shape of the shoe. It’s simply a rounded-toe shoe that isn’t so bulbous that you can’t wear it with more conservative tailoring, but also not so sleek that you couldn’t pair it with heavy cords or even slim jeans.

And do they fit my weird foot? Yes… for the most part. They are wide in the forefoot and narrow enough in the heel where I don’t have too much slippage. Since I have flat feet and low foot volume I do find that the extra insoles are essential, as there is a bit of room in the shoe.

Overall, these shoes are comfortable enough for me to overlook the minor deficiencies in fit. And that brings me to my next point.

These shoes are of GOOD ENOUGH quality at a good price and fit well enough. I understand that I will not get perfection at the price I am willing to pay.

Are these shoes the best quality on the market? Of course not. But I think that what a lot of men are looking for is a comfortable, inexpensive shoe that DOESN’T LOOK LIKE an inexpensive shoe. That’s what I feel these Dunhams are. And that’s the crux of why I like them.

I feel that these shoes (and Beckett Simonon, in general) fill a specific niche of the market. That is: men who want to look their best, who have an eye for style, but who also can’t (or don’t want to) spend a large amount of money.

The only real downside with these shoes is the long wait time after ordering. And honestly, that’s what has kept me from placing subsequent orders. The wait time, unfortunately, gives the customer way too much time to think about the purchase and potentially cancel. The shoes aren’t of SUCH high quality that the wait time always feels worth it.

I actually asked the company about factory seconds, or returned items that they could sell straight away. A representative said they were looking into doing that, but I haven’t heard anything further about it.

So, if you are looking for a good-looking shoe at a good price, you might want to try out Beckett Simonon. Just make sure you’re prepared to wait three months.

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