Pellé Santino Shoes Review: Have All But Elitism 

They want everyone to reconsider how low can one go
and still find great value.

By Nikhil Choudhary

March 08, 2024

BRANDS

Pelle Santino Shoes

Quality in dress shoes is a kind of affair distinguished not by a logo, but by how well and what materials are they made of. Full-grain leather held Goodyear-welted-ly is the baseline from where the concept of quality in dress shoes gets as complicated as one desire.

And even if you want to live somewhere near that ❝Baseline❞ amid the arena of proper dress shoemaking, you’ve got to be prepared for the pain of parting with a decent sum of cash. Pellé Santino, however, disrupted our long-assumed conventions of how petty that ❝Decent Sum of Cash❞ could be. 

Seven thousand rupees doesn’t generally bring the kind of make and material Pellé Santino delivers. After all, expelling quality substances can only make such prices look too good, especially when you’re serving the always-high-on-expectation Indian consumers.

Laying the learnings conjured from their heritage of courting international clientele as shoemakers help one to see sense in those numbers. However, the brand hails its Direct-to-consumer business model for such astonishingly lower prices.

They have paved the way for an influx of Goodyear shoemakers in India channeling their business under similar models—but none, quite frankly, have used it as brilliantly as Pellé Santino.

What Do We Get?

It’s the very fundamentals of traditional craftsmanship, to say the least.

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In a nutshell, Pelle Santino deliberately dodges subtle shoemaking nuances that very few snobs Want while promising everything that most Indian formal shoe wearers would ever Need.

Their Goodyear Welted leather soles could handle pounding with more agility than most wearers would have the nerve to test. The Full-grain Leather uppers would out-shine more than what most owners will take care of. The overall aesthetics would last longer than most buyers will ever ask. 

All they lack is mind-bending last definition, buzz-worthy materials, delicate high stitch density, and a few more things that most around us have neither the capabilities to notice nor a profound taste to admire.

The prices they request are making it even harder to focus on what they lack over what they have. It feels like the numbers are never designed with profits in mind.

Having written many articles on dress shoes in India for years, I think the introduction to proper dress shoemaking couldn’t be more proper if one initiates it with any pair from the sliver offering of Pellé Santino.

Traditional Build

Sewn or Goodyear Welted—Pelle Santino hasn’t messed much with the winning recipe.

In dress shoemaking, the cost of leather constructs the majority of the shoe’s price. However, what justifies the price is the shoe’s construction method, which, debatably, is the most important and interesting aspect.

Many critics limit shoe construction as a way of securing the upper with the sole. However, for many, this might be one of the ways to quantify the importance of a shoemaker over the essence of classic shoemaking.

Older, usually, doesn’t translate into Better; but the tech that produces the best shoes and boots has gone largely unchanged for 5,000 years.

However, these methods aren’t guarded by any regulatory authority and so shoemakers do make changes to these so-called ❝Classic shoemaking methods❞ to align them with their ambitions.

And when someone turns them out at competitive prices, it’s harder to believe that the shoe is free from something unethical or smart sacrifice-y concerning the integrity of the build.

Pellé Santino dresses their shoes through these traditional constructions via steps and sets that are purely functional and nothing nuance-y. It’s kind of like a different take on reasonably Blake Stitching or Goodyear Welting shoes without surrendering the integrity.

Blake & Stitch-Down Construction

Pellé Santino’s initial line of models is not at the very pointy end of what’s possible—if we reflect on the possibilities of build and elements along with them.

Blake and Stitch-Down are the soles of Pellé Santino’s dress shoes and boots, the success of which has conjured the valor for the brand to veer off into further complicated, time-consuming, and expensive methods. 

Their design team and shoemakers further streamlined these methods that conventionally have nothing fancy about them. It’s the insole, upper, and outsole that a Blake machine sews a chain stitch with a single thread.

There are snobs out there, with a taste much more opulent than mine, who would disapprove of the way Pellé Santino executes these classic techniques. The outsoles can be trimmed more closely to the upper if the sewing is planted internally. 

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And with a little more tensely lasted upper, their shoes can anchor a slim aesthetics: a thing that has a loyal following among Italian shoemakers and for which such sleeker constructions are celebrated. 

Of course, they have executed it well over a single layer of leather outsoles, but because of the fatty uppers: it’s that mild and gentle balance that one would miss if zoomed out and skimmed the overall aesthetics of their stitch-down shoes. 

However, more of such details means more care. More care means more time, which means more cost. The cost that might take away the prices for which, quite frankly, many are admiring this brand. 

We are often so occupied by the sophistication of dress shoemaking that we don’t actually acknowledge the capabilities of an older and most common (and relatively easier and faster) method for shoes with a sewn construction.

How Good are they in Goodyear Welting?

Pelle Santino shoes

It took Pellé Santino more than two years to make the transition from a brand that crafts sewn shoes to proper Goodyear-Welters.

Make sense, though! After all, it is about entering a higher echelon and exposing your work to a whole new plethora of clients, including critics potent enough to exaggerate even the finest oversight.

Along with material and technical resources goes a lot of thinking and courage to enter a market that’s absolutely teeming with tough heritage-heavy competition.

Making them look and wear as much like a British-made (Welted) shoe as possible❞ would typically be the perception of any fresh label venturing into the Welted shoe arena. 

But it seems like piping into critics’ notions of what is proper and desirable upsets Pellé Santino’s concept of ornamenting only the utility-abiding shoemaking prowess.

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Conventional and Simple is how one can precisely define Pellé Santino’s Goodyear Welting philosophy. But is it best? Is there actually something to be said for such a simpler approach? 

Where leather welts were sewn with canvas rib glued on the insole, steel shanks clad with just the right amount of cork, leather outsoles sewn at the density proper enough to hold ’em for years, and all these are left alone to do what they do best.

They have squared away the basics that many actually (or unknowingly) need and stop right before the point where shoemaking details begin to get annoying, and prices go astonishing.

I mean, how can a shoe or boot that has come to life after nearly 200 steps possibly be vented at ₹7k? They are neither the finest Goodyear Welts nor the pairs that could be tarnished by the connotation of “cheap,” “affordable,” or simply “introductory.”

It is harder to accept and admire that they have settled on costly, time-consuming, time-honored methods when the market is woven into (and flourishing with) the cheaper and faster ways to build shoes.

Leather-y Enough!

Quality Unleashed Exactly Where It Is Required

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What makes a good shoemaking material? The one that Pellé Santino crafts their shoes and boots from—is right on the verge of where the answer to this question can quickly become subjective and philosophical, touching on questions that transcend leathers and suedes, like “What is art and beauty?”

Their material-selecting approach is not so different from the idea that went into their Making procedure. 

Without a single touch of madness or marks that stir the souls of critics, the Full-grain Buffalo leather can absorb much more punishment than most owners will ever ask from their dress shoes or boots. 

The upper leather is derived from domestic buffalo hides, which have large pores and thicker fibers making it extremely durable. 

The lower-quality inner leather lining and the plastic-y heel counter, however, are the elements that might remind you of the price that the shoe holds. 

They make the shoes retain their shape better and reduce creasing, but the adhesives do create a barrier between the lining and the upper, limiting breathability. 

Their leather outsole takes the main work towards the functionality side. Unlike oak bark-tanned leather outsoles, one wouldn’t have to kill miles to trigger the softness and comfort of their single-layer soles

The Buff leather’s wide open pores wouldn’t allow a higher stitch density, so you didn’t find a niftier seam in either the uppers or the outsoles of their shoes or boots. 

How does their leathers unfold over time?

Pelle Santino shoes

Making a pitch over Pellé Santino’s leather in such a context depends very much on how wide the points of comparison or what quality of materials one has been through.

Just like your chances of relishing and admiring the comfort and drive of, say, a Jaguar XF very much depend on the cars you’ve been in before.

It would be too harsh to compare the distressed look of Pellé Santino’s leather with the vintage face of Bridlen or BLKBRD calf leathers.

The Full-grain Buff leather and the distressed look of it, on the other hand, could be a major leap forward if we compare ’em with sanded leathers of similarly priced dress shoes from Bata, Red-tape, or Woodland.

Does all these stack up with prices?

In terms of overall value, they are beating everyone by miles. Thanks to the winning trio of D2C Business model, domestic material and make.

Hand any of Pellé Santino’s shoes or boots to an aficionado, and he’d spew negatives (even before paying any careful attention to it) quite like it’s not a shoe or boot but a medium to lay out his knowledge on dress shoes and shoemaking.

Wait for the moment when they’ll let you disclose how much you’ve paid for them, and they’ll probably take a breather to think of a similarly priced competitor before asserting that you are missing a significant improvement in quality for the sake of a few thousand rupees.

It’s not Pellé Santino’s make and material, but actually, the prices—we get them for—that’s attracting a ton of press and articles. It’s a tricky task indeed to craft a shoe at such a low cost and make people believe that nothing fishy is embedded in it.

Their direct-to-consumer business model, meaning Pellé Santino’s collections will only be available on their website, didn’t let mediator and retailers dictate their prices. But it’s deeper than that.

Pellé Santino isn’t the only shoemaker taking back that control. The pandemic accelerated the trend of shoe and bootmakers going direct-to-consumer, which had already been in motion for years.

It is, in fact, their fondness for indigenous materials along with the intimate relationship with some of the finest shoemakers in India rather enables Pellé Santino to command unusual prices.

Taking away any one link in this complicated chain can have devastating consequences — to the price, the buyers’ class, or even the flavor of triumph in their business.

Speaking of Competition

What Pellé Santino’s Shoes & Boots Up Against These Days?

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It’s hard to understand what we, as a consumer, are actually getting (or losing) by assessing a brand in isolation. Watching a label’s shoes and boots in the context of other shoemakers’ work exposes their greatness as well as weaknesses, as minor as they might be.

The reading, so far, gives a bit of context to what Pellé Santino delivers and their shoemaking know-how. That alone, however, wouldn’t let you (or anyone) confirm whether that money on Pellé Santino could show you a better service if splurged elsewhere!

The recent history of shoemaking in India, say the last 10-12 years or so, has been characterized by more makers coming from more places, with shoes and boots made through more techniques and in more styles than ever before.

It’s a reading to get the lowdown on how Pellé Santino’s no-nonsense line of shoes and boots echos with the latest efforts on the market. The consequences could lead to either a better sense of confidence in purchasing a Pellé Santino or a better option.

Pellé Santino’s Goodyear Welted Shoes

Nothing is that tempting for similar money. However…

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There is barely an attribute of Pellé Santino’s Goodyear Welted Shoes that we haven’t seen or shown you, dear reader. And from all those attributes and elements, we think the most compelling thing about this range is how competitively priced it is.

Rivals have their small victories: the Clarks are lighter on the feet, Bata sounds acquainted, and the Alberto Torresi is more glamorous! But, quite frankly, there’s no similarly priced Welted line of shoes, right now.

Apart from the money that goes into creating those shoes, there are outlays to keep ’em in a ready-to-wear setting. Pelle Santino’s clever size archives were actually holding their ready-to-wear approach from defeating the purpose of keeping things reasonable.

All things considered, Pelle Santino has done an admirable job of converting its technical and shoemaking prowess into all ❝The Goodyear Welted❞ shoes one would ever need at prices that one could ever wish.

What (how costly) is the nearest upgrade then?

Pellé Santino’s material and making very much plays within the traditional rules combined with all the boring-but-true facts about being reliable and easy to live with make it nigh on perfect.

But proper dress shoes aren’t the most rational of purchases – Goodyear Welted much less so – and thus such completeness can come across as a little strait-laced.

A stretch of around ₹2k, from the prices of Pellé Santino’s Welted shoes, could fetch either a significant improvement in last definition or leather quality—if you can trade Welted construction with Blake stitch.

PLNK Goodyear Welted Shoes

If the last definition and shape are the number one focus for you.

PLNK shoes

PLNK’s line of Goodyear Welted dress shoes comes with a more profound and shaped last definition utilizing Full-grain leathers from Italy and outsole in leathers from Argentina. 

In-person, even the most newbie can spot, articulate, and justify the ₹2k premium PLNK demand for their shoes—even though they are honoring the traditional construction principles similar to what goes into a typical Pellé Santino. 

However, their online-only presence wouldn’t let one see and say much while shopping virtually for shoes that often arrive in a box. There’s an article documenting the whole journey behind PLNK’s Goodyear Welted line of dress shoes and what brought us full circle. 

Brilden Blake Line

When Finest leathers are Blake Stitched to keep things reasonable

pelle santino shoes

Welted shoes couldn’t get as economical as these pairs from PLNK and Pellé Santino. However, an equal amount of money allows access to the loftiest echelon of Blake Stitched dress shoes

Considering the powerful spirit that shoe snobs and online forums have surrounded Goodyear Welt construction with, favoring Blake Stitched shoes when similarly priced welted shoes are ready to ship is a tough ask, though! 

We’ve seen a serious influx of Blake stitched shoes over the years, but only Bridlen’s line of Blake shoes holds enough flair to keep shoe nerds from getting too animated about preferring Blake over Welted construction.

We hardly need to sell you the unbridled joys of owning a dress shoe crafted by the artisans at Bridlen. One can encounter inspiration in many different forms at Bridlen’s Blake offerings. 

It might be as simple as the high-stitch density or the serrated last definition: if you’re all about style over substance. 

But the biggest (and legitimate) virtue of this range, when comparing the other similarly priced line it is going up against, is the Full grain box calf uppers and vegetable-tanned leather outsole. 

From the skin of young calves, it is leather of very tight grain but quite durable, with few imperfections, and ₹9k, however, is not a price that shoemakers or even connoisseurs associate with shoes made of Calfskin.  

For their line of shoes and boots, Bridlen scores the finest treasures from piles of leather needed for clicking, closing, and lasting uppers for many of its storied European rivals. 

At a glance, it looks like Bridlen has eked out their maximum technical and material resources over their Blake line, but it is actually their price-dropping-abilities they are eking out at. 

Materials from such echelons deserve the longevity of Goodyear Welt construction. 

Assembling them through a much faster and cost-effective technique, however, lets the finest quality flow in a rather affordable manner and “Render clients a sense of what to expect from our higher-end offerings,” a spokesperson for the marque told us recently. 

The benefits of Welted shoes over Blake stitched shoes grow even more purposeless if we consider the kind of high-end shoe repair and resoling facilities we currently have following a very young Goodyear Welted shoes market.

Pellé Santino’s Blake Line 

No obvious rivals if can’t shoot upward a bit in price!

Pelle Santino shoes

Of course, they have cut the soles a lot closer to the uppers, leaving less of a lip and making the shoe sleeker. But they aren’t Blake-stitched the way Italians do it. The palatial uppers aren’t melting into the sleeker outsole.

However, Pellé Santino’s persistence in sticking with sewn-sole shoes at competitive pricing is increasingly giving it a real point of differentiation when almost all its rivals can’t do anything more than cementing genuine leather uppers on rubber soles for such prices. 

But still, What are we buying this instead of? The Blake line from Kozasko and the Stitched Line from Clarks spring quickly to mind and are the most direct competitors. 

Kozasko Blake Stitched Shoes

₹1.5K more for the Argentinian Outsole, Saphir Shoe Cream, and Aesthetical Synergy

Cohesion to simplicity is the metaphor for the shoemaking and styling difference between these two lines of Blake Stitched shoes. 

Kozasko’s Blake line is not immune to their typical whim of embedding material and shoemaking nuances, especially those that jollify the critics and connoisseurs. 

The line encapsulates the essence of classic styles and designs, even though the crust leather, for the uppers, allows room for experimenting with colors. 

Either Blake Stitch or Goodyear Welted, resoling isn’t that straightforward anyway. And so the service of a denser Argentinian Outsole helps to anchor more months of sophisticated dressing in a proper shoe. 

The models here are, of course, heavier than the Pellé Santinos, which is considerable when you aren’t elevating to Goodyear Welt construction. It certainly makes owning, caring, and using one that little bit more involving.

And if you haven’t found your way to proper dress shoe-caring dexterities, Kozasko ships their shoes with Saphir Shoe Cream to steer you from the daunting task of discovering which ones color really work!

Obsession might be at work here, rather debatable, but the aesthetical synergy of Kozasko Blake Stitched Shoes makes us see some real sense in parting with ₹1.5K of more cash over Pellé Santinos.

Both brands’ Blake lines are overdelivering their prices, but Kozasko’s shoe curves in many places, not just the instep and the arch. That shape illustrates the price and makes the shoe look more cobbled to perfection… even though they both are!

Clarks Stitched Dress Shoes

It is more about what you remove than what you add!

From a brand that most of you haven’t heard of to a century-old establishment that serves almost every conceivable type of footwear. None is nowhere near as difficult to wrap your head around as, say, brands we’ve discussed earlier.

At this price, however, Clarks has a powerful-looking but softer version of stitched dress shoes that our people conventionally resonate formals with.  

The Clarks line of stitched dress shoes is not that passionately made—they’re actually made in a factory operating at a more rapid pace—but do transcend the industry’s traditional shoemaking cycle.

What you’d get forgiving that extra oomph of durability? Only it’s not an online-only-brand so, as you’ll read, it does things a bit differently. Good differently.

Definitely, a broader range of styles to choose from. A less vivid top-grain leather upper but on a vivid rubber podium. You’d be cocooned in comfort straight away. That and the soul-stirring nature of in-store hospitality—real things, too.

What’s The Verdict?

Quality rarely be better served by such prices.
They are free of drama—and so very human!

Pelle Santino Shoes

If we narrow our point of concern to just, say, their leathers, their making, or the prices they are charging—nothing, in particular, inspires contemplation and provokes discussion. It’s the winning combination of them all that’s teeming with tough competition, and for good reason.

The prevalence of Pellé Santino’s offering reads like a manifesto on keeping it traditional and using every bit of everything… functionally!

They didn’t have any intention to set benchmarks and stretch context or to surprise and astound.

Perhaps they are more willing to present the simpler pleasures of proper making, the exemplary material, and twin them with prices that seem devoid of profit.


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