The Carmina Shoe Review – Chestnut SEMI-BROGUE Oxfords is made with a beautiful chestnut vegetable tanned leather on their Inca last. The shoe features broguing on the toe cap, vamp, and rear quarters. I really appreciate Carmina’s ability to retain all of the broguing elements one would expect on a semi-brogue without the shoe being overwhelmed or looking too busy. This is achieved with several techniques we’ll discuss in a bit. The shoe retails for $495 with free shipping in the United States. For those located outside the United States, they can be purchased from Carmina’s European webshop for 410€. Cedar shoe trees are an additional $70.
DESIGN The Carmina #80251 Semi-Brogue Oxfords are made in a beautiful, light-brown chestnut vegetable tanned leather on the company’s Inca last. This shoe has all of the traditional elements of a semi-brogue, with its medallion and broguing elements, but without being overwhelming or looking too busy. In fact, for a semi-brogue, it is actually quite a clean looking shoe, which I really appreciate. There is a great balance between the beautiful, open leather pieces and the broguing, which showcases the natural beauty of the vegetable tanned leather. Carmina is able to achieve this balance on the #80251 using several techniques. First, they use single-needle stitching along the broguing. I have seen this done by other makers using double-stitching, essentially creating four rows of stitching along the broguing, and it creates a very heavy look. This is not the case on these Carminas. As with all Carminas, these shoes have only five eyelets, which, when combined with the tighter broguing pattern and single-needle stitching, opens up and elongates the vamp. The front cap is still quite large and balanced, but not at the expense of having a nice, open vamp. The benefit of a large, open vamp is that it allows the shoe to better control creasing and ensures that the shoe does not crease across the cap or other pattern elements.
MATERIAL This particular model is made out of Carmina’s chestnut vegetable tanned leather. Vegetable tanned leather is tanned using vegetable madders, like oak or spruce bark, chestnut wood, etc, and is a more traditional way of tanning. It produces a leather that is yellow or light-beige in color and is softer, more natural looking than chrome tanned leathers. Full leather outsoles are used, with full-leather heel blocks and combination top-lifts. And metal toe-taps can be added at an additional charge if purchased through Carmina’s website.
CONSTRUCTION Carmina is so well-known amongst shoe enthusiasts because of how well their shoes are constructed. All of the elements of quality and craftsmanship that one would expect on a high-quality pair of factory-made, Goodyear welted shoes can be found here. Beyond this price point, you begin to hit the point of diminishing marginal return. But the value here is quite exceptional. The Goodyear welting allows for a pair of shoes to be easily resoled without disturbing the integrity, fit, or shape of the shoe. The outsole can be easily pulled off and a new one sewn back on by a skilled cobbler, like our Kirby Allison Certified Shoe Restoration Program. Another element, and one I find very important is that the outsole is stitched to the welt using an invisible channel, as opposed to an open channel found on shoes like Allen Edmonds. This creates a much more beautiful outsole that conceals the outsole stitching. The outsoles are also dyed and polished to a nice light-brown color. Again, all extra steps in the finishing process.
SUMMARY AND ENDING Carmina is passionate for shoemaking, and everything about how these shoes are constructed and finished is superb. At $450, they are an incredible value and a shoe that anyone could be proud to wear anywhere.