Bridlen’s ❝Founders Limited❞ Line Review

For Those Who Enjoy Cocooning In Opulence

By Mr. Nikhil Choudhary

September 6, 2023

SHOES

Bridlen Founders Limited review

The more time you spend in formal environments, living out of suits (maybe of ❝suitcase❞): something happens to your taste level for the sartorial world. (Tailoring, accessories, details…) It becomes elevated—sometimes too elevated: and there—the ❝too-elevated❞ cliff—is where a splurge over Briden Founders Limited is worth it.

It’s not a physical Need or a mental Want so much as a psychological Satisfaction that will make you see sense in this reading and eventually in this Collection. Be it in Russian reindeer calf leathers or the Shell Cordovan leather

…whatever services that, regardless of ₹50k cost, justify their price tag would feel pointless if your commitment to dress shoes does not extend to build up spending courage, as much as you might want to exit this page. That is fine. We certainly are not expecting these shoes on everyone, dear reader. 

Within the Founder Limit collection, Bridlen leverages its absolute creative, material, and technical resources, rewriting the true measure of its greatness with no area left unbuffed to fade that ₹50k ask into the background. 

The Founders Limit, after all, is the one that has all we’ve ever been obsessed about. And if you tune up and sharpen the sartorial senses, there seems absolutely no reason to put these shoes bluntly—Just…off, apart from a crummy articulation. 

What Really Makes Me Buy These Shoes?

Look Attentively, Gentleman, The ₹50k Price
Would Be The Last Of Your Concerns.

Bridlen shoes review

Living in Rajasthan, I’ve been to their Trunk Shows, a by-invite-only meet Bridlen arranges across the country, plenty of times. Though we love shoes, it takes a lot to sell me shoes: One pair for about half a lakh deserves a little pause. Right?  

“Get your eyes off of the price tag for a moment, and I bet you’ll never think of The Cost again,” says Mr. Afan, Head Shoemaker at Bridlen, as he walks us through the collections in The last Delhi Trunk show. 

That sounds slimy and salesy; being the consummate professional that I am, I didn’t like to be sold, after all! But the power of that statement is also the insight into those shoes. Many of ’em are signs of things to come after a proper breaking-in. 

But what I immediately greeted with was a perfect slice of hand-lasted Shell Cordovan from Shinki Hikaku and a soothing hot tea—all as praiseworthy as the Oak Bark Tanned outsoles from J&FJ Baker

It’s striking yet subtle, to say the least, particularly around the lines. Below, rather than offending you with more technical phrases, I’ll pen: What difference has over half a lakh rupee shoes made to my wardrobe? In me? And most importantly, people around me?  

.01

The Horse Powered Upper

Do Not Slow Down To Land Attention.
The Shell Cordovan Whips Up In A Flash!

The hours I’ve spent shining the toes, poring over details, shrugging my feet in and out of their Main line’s Whole-cut Oxford—I’m not new to the many experiences that one indulges in Bridlen dress shoes. 

Having written year-end pieces on Bridlen Shoemakers annually for years, I’ve learned that no matter how marvelous their leathers and materials get, they never let them outshine their make, proportions, and design aesthetics. 

I expected the Founder Limit to be the most sensational Make and Design experience I ever had―which I eventually did and will get into a bit later on―But the gorgeously potent shell cordovan leather pull on the heartstring was so tight that it faded, for a moment, the subtle nuances into the background. 

What Is Shell Cordovan?

As most likely Unknown, Shell cordovan is made by a special tanning method of the leather from the horse’s rump, where a lot of fat is worked into the muscle membrane called “shell,” giving it a very special slightly plastic character, forming wavy creases.

Instead of buffing the corium, a technique typical in Calf suede, tanneries use the muscle membrane and tan and treat to produce the most non-porous leather known to man. One horse, two shells, and one pair of shoes. Can you see the cost building-up?

Unlike Calfskin, which produced more variation in colors and textures with age, Shell Cordovan gleams on the depth of color, a distinctive, dull glow, a dark masculine luster― that has to be seen to be believed.

It’s something that can’t be achieved with any other material ‘cuase of Shell Cordovan has a very dense grain structure, especially on the hindquarters of a horse, that is not visible to the naked eye.

Instead of creasing, shell cordovan ripples. Since creasing can lead to cracks in the leather, the tendency to ripple rather than crease helps preserve the surface of the leather and, eventually, the overall lifespan of the shoe.

Is Bridlen’s First Iteration In Shell Cordovan
The Absolute Best?

Nothing excites enthusiasts and writers quite like Shell Cordovan. We love to discuss and debate over its darker colors and features, but far fewer long-run chats and online forums are dedicated to the only Tannery that has the privilege to associate a Horse’s Butt with the eminent Shell Cordovan. 

Bridlen, however, is most recognized for its upper-making prowess: a segment it has excelled in so comprehensively that it was producing them for many of its storied English rivals. 

It’s hard to deny the reflection of the lived experience of Founding Father The Late Mr. K. Mohamed Hasan Ji imbued the knowledge of his entire career, which he dedicated to the leather craft, to earn that reputation.

Having established relationships with the finest tanneries around the World, they have the luxury of selecting really good parts of good hides for the Bridlen shoes. 

Though they source leathers from tanneries with centuries of history, Bridlen never pulled itself out of a pit of ignorance using the rope of other brands’ expertise and fame.

Bridlen’s first iteration in Shell Cordovan could earn an added layer of love (and attention) if that Cordovan is from the world-famous Horween Leather Company in Chicago.

However, the label has recently released a video depicting ❝What Shell Cordovan is?❞ to many lesser-informed individuals while advocating their preference for Shinki-Hikaku of Japan over Horween of Chicago. 

Shinki-Hikaku, according to Jesper Ingevaldsson of Shoegazing, is The most famous Japanese tannery and second behind Horween in terms of fame. As cited earlier, Shinki is the only tannery authorized to stamp Shell Cordovan. 

The criteria that make a Horse’s butt eligible for the ❝Shell❞ designation are worth dedicated writing, but from the operational beats, that’s demands decades of experience and could go a year in the tanning; I now see sense in that fifty thousand ask. 

.02

The Original Goodyear Welting

Old-school techniques at Bridlen call into question
some cherished contemporary beliefs about Welting.

How can one speak about the eminence of a shoe without benchmarking it against a course of shoemaking methods that has been largely unchanged for 5,000 years? How can one appreciate a pair from Bridlen without acknowledging the Goodyear Welting traditions that they were raised in? 

I’m expecting the majority of readers from sartorial-y advanced territory. Evolved enough to get animated when discussing What bottoming a shoe with Goodyear Welting means. After all, you are tuning into a shoe that belongs to such sliver demographics, dear reader. 

However, for many lesser informed individuals, we have a writing on the site dedicated entirely to this method―Deliberately the shortest forte into which we could possibly squeeze a book’s worth of information on Goodyear Welting

But to the contemporary way of thinking about Welting shoes, or at least our way of thinking, Bridlen were practically singular. Or, as Mr. Affan put it, “understanding the provenance of what we have and preserving it.”

Goodyear shoes

Bridlen is from very few who do Goodyear welted shoes without gemming

Their method of Goodyear-welting shoes, with thicker insoles from which a rather high holdfast was cut and to which the stitch was sewn, runs counter to many cherished current beliefs about how great welted bottoms ought to be produced. 

Though sartorialists, in general, favor things embedded in records, Is it to inspire contemplation and provoke discussion? Or does it actually produce something better? Stand by the consequences of those beliefs and let Bridlen serve you the most refined example of Goodyear-welted bottoms.

It means that you’ll get a thicker, higher quality insole and that the welt stitch is done directly to the insole instead of to a fabric part attached through cementing. A more compact and more similar to hand-welted shoes, without the large cavity that the gemming creates. 

The Longwing Derby, here, is the most extreme expression of Bridlen’s designated borders of sensible bottom-making: entirely true to the original methods. The label does flex its financial muscles by running the Goodyear welt through a similarly expensive leather outsole from the British J&FJ baker.

From the opinion of setting a rather expensive Shell Corodvan on a matching companion to the ambition of delivering incredibly dense, durable, and water-resistant outsoles that last several times longer than sole that didn’t spend nine months in vegetable tanning pits…

…placing the Longwing derby on J&FJ baker oak bark tanned leather outsoles has a more “Construction” affiliated meaning. A typical fast-tanned leather loses strength and risks breaking apart through the insanely dense seams of up to 10 stitches per inch.

Despite the 360° Goodyear Welt, the delicate pitch of the heel is beautiful and sleek, as is the way it runs up into the heel cup. It curved inwards subtly, as it blends into the waist (most clearly seen when looking at the bottom of the shoe). 

Why A Square (and not a Bevelled) Waist?

The Makers Didn’t Give The Outsole A Proper Present,
But Some Real Reasons To Stay Square. 

Bridlen sole

The surgery is not just cosmetic, dear readers. Indeed, Longwing Derby from the Founders Limit subtly sits high on proving grounds, but the Oxfords from Bridlen’s Founders Line are what actually affirms my belief that no shoemaker in India manages to have such narrow waists or Welts better than Bridlen. 

Seeing the level of craftsmanship sewn into every stitch and squeezing tens of such stitches in roughly an inch is something that doesn’t happen with this Longwing Derby, which is roughly double the price of Adelaide Oxfords that sets the standards of the firm sole-making prowess. 

The earliest and easiest justification might document the Longwing Derby less about the level of detail that usually goes into Bridlen shoes—like the one from Founders Line—and more about the best materials.

In the dress shoe world, the fascination with soles in general, and waists in particular, is huge. Anything ordinary hurts at such an eye-watering ask. However, there are fewer points to denigrate than there are reasons to support a square construction. 

A super slim waist is not suitable for this derby, neither practically nor commercially, nor aesthetically. A narrow waist is the epitome of dressiness one often demands from styles like Oxford.

Perhaps taking some extra support and balance, clutching the waist too tight would eventually make no sense for a derby designed to preach casual attires as handsomely as the finest tailoring. We’ll get over it in particular while praising the versatility of the Longwing Dery.

Cordovan is thicker and hefty. Very slim waists can look a bit unbalanced and off, even when executed beautifully. One may not appreciate the aesthetics of the sole, but will at least admire the shoe for its overall shape.

The beveled waist is a pictorial pinch but very likely reflects the speed with which the shoes travel through the factory, compared to those of less expensive makers. Such details are always more time-consuming to achieve, and therefore more expensive. 

Bridlen has the ability to make the middle of the shoe seem to disappear from some angles, along with the courage to open the wallet wide enough to swallow the cost associated with such operations, though such extra cost couldn’t be rationalized. 

After all, the outsoles of Oxfords from Founders Line seem the same while pounding the pavement, and besides, they all contain the same key ingredient, right? 

Higher prices for, say, Shell Cordovan leather or J&FJ Baker Oak Bark Outsole, are easier to justify because of tangible attributes. 

.03

The Perfect Hybrid

From Almost Formal… To Definitely Casual.

Bridlen shoes review

Nothing is Inappropriate. There are assortments you might not like, but as the dressing standards have never been this faint, we can’t push such scorn (and even affection) beyond your personal opinion anymore. 

The rule book is officially out the window. Men’s fashion is more fluid now than ever. But taking the combinations you hate the most is not the key to broad acceptance. 

It must be easy on the eyes, which is about balance, just like a seesaw, getting the distance between each pole right is critical. 

Get a single detail wrong, and you’ll lose the equilibrium that makes the outfit work, or incorporate a staple piece that has the potential to fade any blemishes into the background. The Longwing adds a touch of panache to any outfit. 

There was a whole lot of thought went into this. But was it the aim to create the most versatile pair possible from the Shell Cordovan? Or was it to rationalize the astonishing ₹50k price with a style that thwacks the old cost-per-wear concept out of the park?

We respect versatility, though not very often we document and communicate about the wearability of a shoe. The emotions that powered those decisions to define this shoe on such grounds is because everything in this shoe making it versatile deemed more mindful than a mishap. 

After all, What’s the point of splurging half a lakh on a shoe that you can park in a board meeting and couldn’t muster the courage to walk beyond it? A shoe, especially one that carries such a fee, should be stimulating in every environment, that you can’t resist taking to the places it hasn’t been before. 

Bridlen designed The Longwing Derby to handle the outdoors, but also to stand out in a city; to translate from office wear to loungewear, and from the bustle of a metropolis to the rugged quiet of nature.

It is the texture in the creases of Shell Cordovan that I think makes it bridge formal and casual clothing. Because cordovan is shiny – it has a natural shine and one that comes quickly back with buffing – it should be rather smart.

Indeed, traditionally it was considered a formal leather, to wear with tailoring rather than denim. But these creases make cordovan look like it’s 20 years old, almost from the first wear. And this heavy, characterful creasing is what gives cordovan shoes such a casual feel. 

You don’t have to be a professional fit god or an Instagram king to utilize the versatility of this shoe. The derby silhouette, design, and color scheme have become synonymous with anyone looking to inject a bit of casual sophistication and brand heritage into their look.

Best Formal Shoes For Men

They are like the finest cars. Even the least expensive vehicle will get you where you want to go, but the trip is a different experience in the finest Mercedes-Benz.

Not All? Then Who Should Buy These Shoes?

Modern Society Is Not Set Up For
The Kind Of Affinity Such Shoes Deserves

Bridlen shell cordovan shoes

It’s not that Indian shoemaking estate was in much danger of falling by the wayside 20 or 30 years ago and was suddenly bursting.

If our shoemaking prowess had seemed a little too quiet, that was only because our brasher rivals in the west were better at shouting their successes. Shouting isn’t really the Indian shoemakers’ way. It’s just they are speaking up a bit recently.

I find myself constantly exploring, and learning how much I don’t know every day. I have come across many shoemakers who are presenting themselves as a new launch, but they actually have a heritage spanning over a decade.

As we start to process this surroundings to see the great choices it gave us in almost every segment wrapping the broadest price range one can think of―the best dress shoe is subjective! Actually, it is one that pairs best with needs and budget.

Though I have made a career of writing about shoes, I never fault people for the Dress shoes they choose to lace up, or for not making Goodyear Welted shoes (or This Bridlen Longwing derby) a priority in their lives.

No feature or reason to Desire the Longwing Derby is left unbuffed, but there are much higher possibilities that this shoe won’t align with your anticipations and lifestyle needs, which can eventually account for a disappointing experience.

Bridlen Longwing Derby is a serious investment – and one that needs equally serious consideration as well as a fair bit of knowledge. The very sliver layer of gentlemen―that indulge and allow such a shoe to show its best, truest self―are often in the spirit of the under-mentioned habitats.

.01

Well Versed In The Genre

Something would only go wrong when these are
your first pair of proper dress shoes.

The Bridlen’s Longwing Derby in Shell Cordovan is either delightful, hedonistic, a psychological pleasure, and one’s taste gauge. Or endlessly fascinating and complex, incorporating heritage, components, knowledge, and interest. 

Depending on how you choose to see it, it could be either of them, or maybe something else. And unlike wine, the love for such shoes couldn’t be insisted, that you wear a Longwing Derby until you learn to like it.

Being familiar with attributes of such caliber is the only aptitude that would help you see sense in this half-a-lakh rupee shoe. Something that the narrow parameters of my article won’t evoke. 

It’s this Familiarity that would let you appreciate and break the Longwing Derby down to its component aromas and flavors. This is a crucial part of enjoying any high-end purchase that is, in fact, often overlooked. 

Well, you don’t need such psychological and componential devotions to indulge and praise a proper but typical Welted shoe. 

But the Longwing Derby is more of a sensory overload. Something too complicated to be anyone’s first pair of proper dress shoes. 

The elements of this shoe are generally not the aim of most ordinary consumers, who simply want to develop comfort and ease with a proper dress shoe and to feel confident in their own taste.

Of course, it can quickly become philosophical, touching on questions that transcend The Longwing derby, like “What is a proper shoe then?” and “What does that typical mean?

I’m not a philosopher, nor do I claim to know the answers to these impressionistic questions — though I certainly have opinions. Opinions that I’ve jotted into The Shoe Case, a new area of the site dedicated entirely to such fascinating and critical questions.  

.02

Loving The Cold Cordovan

So You Think It’s Quite Smooth And Manageable
To Be Driven By A Horse… Think Again!

Mark it slightly less than Sugar-Coating, dear readers, if I deliver the Longwing as the most premier leathers that Bridlen has ever produced a derby from. Swapping ❝The Most Premier❞ with ❝ The Most Different,❞ and I will do some justice to my work.

The shine it has, the long lifespan, and the way it creates rolled creases (if one like that), develop a nice patina—who doesn’t love to discuss and debate the Shell Cordovan.

What was an ordinary membrane back in the day, is today an epitome material that―to many people―is very special. Shell Cordovan has been enjoying what we in the business call “a moment” for a while now, and the best of the bunch feel more hyper-relevant than ever before.

But it doesn’t mean that Shell Cordovan makes every single shoe or its aspiring buyer better than they might otherwise would be. I mean, you can’t buy Shell Cordovan in any other format quite like any other leather. 

The writers, online forums, and even shoemakers have not just proposed but propelled Shell Cordovan to little elevated cliffs from what it should have been: Augmented enough that we didn’t attend much about the chaos such material carries with them

So, if you are enthusiastic to witness the unique pre-loaded shine Cordovan holds, let me introduce you to the stiffness and thickness it owns. 

Shell Cordovan is not as flexible and pliable as most calf leathers and is praised more by those who are so into that sturdiness, venerable, and masculine clothing. 

And if you think about breaking into such thick materials, Shell Cordovan makes even less sense. As mentioned earlier, it comes from the thickest part of the horse and is less prone to stretching.

And by ❝Less Stretchy,❞ we mean it won’t go beyond with time; keeps its shape much better, resulting in a better long-term fit. But at first, it’s about choosing to suffer, to feel hardship, and to get uncomfortable for a little longer. 

Forget the Longwing Derby, dear reader, if your commitment to its beauty does not extend to some severe and extra special care Shell Cordovan demands. 

Because shell cordovan reacts differently to lotions and other forms of leather care, it requires shell cordovan-specific care products. 

If it is not properly cared for or cared for but not through proper products―either way, your shoes could be damaged.

Being a membrane, not a skin, even that affectionate caring would not develop any character; there’s no suspense. No fun. No individuality. 

However, the best-kept secret is how less breathable Cordovan really is! It is very dense, it doesn’t breath much at all, and doesn’t absorb moisture in the same way as regular leather. 

I know people get a bit triggered by us taking Shell Cordovan and turning them into something else that many aren’t used (or like) to hear. But such discussions are significant to our business. After all, very few of our readers have half a lakh rupees to play with. 

.03

You Got Over That Price. Right? 

Make Sure That Terrifying Fifty Thousand Ask
Is Not Disturbing You To Indulge The Miracles These Shoes Delivers.

Visiting Paris, I’ve been to John Lobb, a Hermes-owned French side with multiple locations in London and the Middle East, plenty of times. I knew I loved those Alder boots! It felt good to put them on while I was there

But even as my other friends ordered their own set for their own shoe collection, I held off on purchasing due to the price tag. One pair of Field boots for £1,600 deserves a little pause, Right? 

While pleasure kicks in just from the act of looking, there’s also pleasure in purchasing, or more specifically, in getting a bargain. Those 1.5 lakh rupees fade the blizzard of The-Best-Everything, that those boots wear, into the background.  

It’s what’s called “transactional utility,” says Tom Meyvis, a professor of marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business and an expert in consumer psychology. The Longwing Derby is a perfect reference to such neurological syndrome. 

What is Expensive or Cheap? The version of either of these positions is subjective or just like Beauty—located ‘in the eye of the beholder. The Longwing Derby is reasonably priced in the relative sense, even if they are eye-wateringly expensive in the absolute sense. 

It is very likely that those numbers are still moving back and forth in your head. Those thoughts might have been distracted a bit by the noise of us yelling the many benefits of owning Longwing Derby. 

Dismissing the price for a second—you look at the shoe with fresh eyes; but that price strain is still there, bubbling under the surface, about to shatter out as you read this. 

Price-wise, The Longwing Derby, being a pure connoisseur’s product, is way lower in the diminishing marginal utility. I mean, the transitions in features and details are not as aggressive and intense as the change in price. 

When a splurge is this huge, one gets a lot more demanding: always want so much more than what the shoe bears. And as you push and stretch your spending limits, it is even harder to appreciate the value of such a purchase thereafter. 


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