Maybe I’m getting old or I’ve always had old man sensibilities. I mean, I do wear alot of cardigans and tweeds. I have always had an affinity for split toes. I originally had my eye on a pair of suede Dovers on the 606 last from Edward Green. But I was torn between that makeup and the more common dark oak. In the end, the fantastic burnishing on the calf won and I’ll be saving for a pair of dark oak calf Dovers in the future.
In the meantime my search for a pair of dark brown derbies/apron toes took me in other directions. There’s surprisingly few options. Suede Norwegian split toes (NSTs) can be had from EG (as mentioned), Carmina, Alden, Tricker’s, Allen Edmonds, Crockett & Jones, and Paraboot.
Availability is scarce, however and I could not find a single pair in my size aside from the EG’s. I was about to settle for a pair of plain toe derbies from Alden (also confusingly called the Dover), when I came across a pair of C&J Onslows in suede. The moc toe has a similar asthetic to the NST (minus the split of course), which I think is more interesting than a plain toe. I also like how the vamp sits and creases because of the apron. Unfortunately there was a problem with the site and model wasn’t actually available even though I was able to finalise and pay for my order! My search continues!
A very similar shoe to the Onslow is the Chambord from the French shoemaker Paraboot. Paraboot has interested me ever since I started looking at NSTs. Known for their durability, quality, comfort and sometimes unusual styling, this brand is becoming more well known in gyw circles, but still not exactly a household name outside of Europe. They have two iconic models: the love-it-or-hate-it Michael (I love it) and the Chambord. They also do some NSTs, derbies, brogues, double-monks and loafers. Usually chunky lasted and heavy soled, Paraboot are definitely on the casual side of the spectrum.
I ordered my dark brown Chambords from the Frans Boone Store (it also comes in grained leather for those of you who are suede-averse). As an aside the service was impeccable and my order arrived from the UK in under a week (plus ex-VAT which offsets the shipping nicely). The shoes came with some shoe bags but no trees.
Size-wise I am normally a 9D on brannock and wear 8.5D in the Barrie last. I ordered size 8 UK (only medium width available unfortunately) and it fit very well out of the box. There doesn’t seem to be much break-in (probably helped by the suede) and they have been quite comfy right away.
You can see in the pictures the soles are very heavy duty and have a heavy tread pattern. The tread is quite interesting as the lugs end at the open-channeled stitching rather than go all the way to the edge (it’s not easy to tell from the pics). I have not seen this done on any of my rubber boot soles before but I believe this is seen on commando soles. Grip is obviously excellent and they wear almost like work boots. The rubber sole is quite comfortable but obviously not as spongey as a crepe sole. My only gripe is that it’s a bit cloppy on the linoleum floors I frequent around work but I think it might be a function of the new-ness. The leather heel stack adds some points towards the dressiness side of the equation and it’s hard to tell that the sole is not leather irl. The shoes are also surprisingly light for how heavy-duty they look and feel.
I’m no shoe-making expert but the construction looks to be very sturdy, the heel stack is on straight, the stitching is even and the welt is neatly finished. The shoes are goodyear welted with open channel stitching which you can see in the sole picture. The quality looks to be very good and Paraboot have an excellent reputation (which is good because I am going to wear the hell out of these).
The suede adds points to the casual side of the equation, and these shoes are very versatile. The suede is a rich dark brown colour and the shoes are lined in undyed calf. The lining makes the shoe stiffer than my unlined Allen Edmonds x Massdrop chukkas (which is to be expected). The dark brown colour works better in the colder months and can be worn with everything from denim and cords to tweeds and flannels. I’d probably draw the line at suits as the last shape is a bit on the bulbous side.
I have written about suede before and I really think it is a misunderstood and unrated material for shoes. It is easy to maintain, hard to wreck, and very wearable. And you can definitely wear it in the rain! In short, I love my new suede shoes and will try to get as much wear out of them as possible before the weather turns warm.