Can The First Bid Of PLNK Welting Be The Undisputed Best?
By Mr. Nikhil Choudhary
August 21, 2023
Our Writings on dress shoes―the 7-year-running series in which we find out great shoemakers, many of which have come and gone, often without a trace; some are fond memories, gone too soon―may have you believe that the only entry point into the rarefied world of Goodyear welted dress shoes is either by quality compromises or copious amounts of disposable wealth.
But as our dress shoe critic Mr. Rajat Khandelwal explores in his new article, The Very Welted, a younger generation of artisan is engaging with Goodyear welted shoemaking ethically, personally, and aesthetically—and often in new and unexpected ways.
“I’ve never read your reviews,” the Bengaluru-based curator, designer, and now entrepreneur Mr. Chirag Chadda laughs. “But that’s never been my approach. Rather than tattily welting pairs, I’m more interested in learning and executing the most pristine version.”
Their Goodyear Welted Black cap-toe Oxford epitomizes the label’s spirit of ethicality. Classic but have a glam, smart edge to it that has the power to make every outfit feel instantly more put-together.
The material, design, construction, and shape easily outstrip the already high expectations. We have plenty of reason to devote this Oxford a separate writing rather than entrenching in typical top 10 listings.
Why PLNK’s 353 Oxford?
Ideally proportioned, delightfully hand lasted, remarkably versatile,
and lavishly leathered: The 353 of PLNK delivers on all fronts.
The Indian welted shoemaking scene has never been a sartorial punchline but has never been more diverse or praiseworthy either. Though, it’s just a glimpse at what’s to come.
But that diversity coerces anyone to rethink the conviction of honoring the unassailable, supreme excellence of not just this Oxford – but any dress shoe. If you pick one, you’ll offend the others… and they consider our job easy!
Every formal shoe brand wants their collection to look like every man really wants to take a nibble out of it. However, such sense of stimulation drops as the thing ages but develops as a Full-grain welted pair ages.
PLNK is in pursuit of perfecting that notion. And their 353 Oxford seems like a personal expression of the team. These pairs aren’t like the ones many of us usually see; well, details of 353 will evoke affection only when you’ve seen and gone past an adequate amount of ❝Usuals.❞
The 353 Oxford, it feels like, is in pursuit of both a style and a substance all of its own; and that was actually all the convincing I needed to upgrade from my old Bata.
Here’s what four months of proper wear taught us about PLNK’s 353 Cap-toe Oxford.
A Good Goodyear Welted Bottom
These Oxfords Don’t Bypass The Nuances Of
A Method Surrounded By Deapth Of History
Greatness in a pair is classically associated with Goodyear Welted bottoms. Are these pairs Goodyear Welted? Yup! and we are SOLD! Over decades, the most promising bottom-making technique has evolved into A promising marketing term.
Think of Goodyear welting the quite like a Classic plat du jour, though it rings weird. Just as every chef pitches that Classic dish uniquely, every shoemaker has his way to welt shoes. Greatness, in either case, leans on ambitions a maker carries.
With over 250 steps involved in the process, brands are mainly focused on the steps needed to label their creations as “Goodyear Welted” Because that’s enough to open hearts and wallets.
PLNK have avoided such cheeky escapes that might have bestowed them a noticeable drop in the cost of welting this 353 Oxford while still being praised as Goodyear Welted.
A canvas rib is glued onto the insole which the welt, a ribbon of leather, is chain stitched through in 270° sole stitch tone; holding the component parts and the beautiful integrity of the shoe together.
Instead of thin shitty paper board insoles, The 353 has very thick, good-quality full leather insoles. Thick enough to support a high holdfast cut but the makers prefer gluing a rib.
Adhering a canvas rib, rather than cutting a Holdfast, in the insoles leaves a larger void between the insole and outsole.
To furnish a flat surface for the sole or lift to sit on, the void is filled before an entirely separate stitch is used to attach the former. Shoemakers do make smart sacrifices (To Cut Costs) over the compound used for bottom filling.
PLNK does it the old-school way. A wooden shank is glued to the waist of the shoe; it gives structure to the shoes so that it doesn’t collapse and aids flexibility. Then a mixture of granulated cork is molded in the cavity.
As you wear the shoe, the insole soften-up and beds down into the cork filler, which takes an impression of your foot, and eventually, it feels like a custom footbed.
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.
A Stringent Sole Can Be Handsome
A proper excuse to sit in the figure four leg lock
Enabling complete removal and replacement of a worn outsole without compromising the integrity of the upper: A new lease of life is what Goodyear Welting allows.
But one has to be too brutal and heartless to push the Outsoles of 353 Oxford into replaceable states anywhere before their second birthday.
❝Too Brutal❞ ’cause one would be kneading a thick Argentinian skin with the pavement. ❝Too Heartless❞ as it’s a great deal of bravery to show those flawlessly finished outsoles any pounding.
The quality of the single Argentinian leather outsole or that ahhh sensation of your step in an exceptionally soft leather outsole – is hard to assess fully without a good few months of wear.
For the outsole, a typical formal shoe brand serving in similar price frames would push leathers (or the tanneries) to the center stage, but PLNK levied their shoemaking prowess to capture attention.
Any artistry with the outsole can easily go a bit unbalanced and off, but here it’s executed in a lovely way. The sole is painted in the fishtail though it’s not a fiddle wait, but a beveled waist.
Though the dressier Oxford style allows bevelling of the waist, which is created by the shape of the filling (cork and glue), over which the sole is stitched, as well as the filing of the edges.
The tight waist, which causes the sole to virtually disappear in the middle, is not just aesthetically satisfying but stimulates an oozing sensation in the most sensitive area of the feet while supporting the arch.
The same spectrum of delicacy is passed to the making of the shoe’s heel. Executing a neat-pitched heel a little earlier with 270° sole stitch, but those brass nail embellishments are something uncommon in this price range.
The Italian Leather Upper
The character and touch that a picture on a phone or
computer screen could never show.
Personally, I’m a steadfast believer in the idea that to make a pair of Oxfords, you’ve gotta make it Black Calf. What can I say? It’s the king in the hierarchy of materials—their even finish, hard-wearing to operate, and it just makes everything look a little bit dressier.
For PLNK’s 353 Oxford, Looking at the color and texture is enough to tell the leathers are from an Italian tannery, and feeling it quickly establishes its light but resilient tinge.
The quality of the raw materials – the lining, the sole, the upper – is hard to assess fully without a good few months of wear. But you can get a sense of it from the initial feeling.
The natural luster enriches as the shoe ages as the open pour structure responds to cream and polish over time more fluently than deeply sanded leather which threw out much of the character.
Over time, the patina would display the DNA of what the leather actually contains, including the marks and rememberings smudged over time.
These are crucial to our love of Full-grain leathers because it produces an Oxford with more character without looking too corporate.
Many shoemakers offset the cost of upper leathers in areas that comes into direct contact with the foot and are not observable. Though PLNK 353 Oxfords features Drum Dyed leather lining.
Doesn’t covers the toe box but is attached so closely to the interior that it is virtually unnoticeable. Tight and seamless, so you’d probably never feel the grooves of the lining rubbing against your feet.
The Last Definition
Believe Us! None of them make a Lasting Impression
quite like these 353 Oxfords.
Who is to say what a beautiful shoe is? I mean, What in a dress shoe confirms that One (and the people around) couldn’t take their eyes off of them? Especially when the style in question is a plain cap-toe Oxford that won’t let any decorative perforation or color caper capture attention.
Of course, we’ve learned that looks are in the eyes of the beholder and there is indeed a somewhat mystical quality of the soul that can turn a beautiful complexion into an ugly one.
The 353’s tight waist or Cordovan shoes don’t really click for everyone but need serious consideration as well as a fair bit of knowledge to worship.
Having written year-end pieces on dress shoes annually for eight years, we’ve learned that elegant shapes will at least command attention―even if he/she may or may not have the understanding to decode a dress shoe.
Justin FitzPatrick, founder of The Shoe Snob Blog, has similar opinions. “I have come to the conclusion that shape alone is the key to a beautiful shoe,” he says.
So shape matters. Never did I feel more strongly about this than when we saw 353 Oxford. I mean, there is really nothing jaw-dropping special about the uppers of Black Cap-toe Oxford or the leathers there is.
I have seen it done by every single English shoemaker, but the way the upper rounds and hugs those sharp curves on the outside of the vamp down to the toe box is simply exquisite.
It shows that the team has invested some serious time and efforts to sculpt a last that has shape, quite rightly so being as the foot has shape. It is not a block.
More skilled workers on the lasting machine and artesian to hand–last the waists: That elegance is simply created by its shape, not only in the last but also in the way that the upper hugs the last.
But of course, the most beautiful thing here is the lines of the shoe. Far from aggressive, yet the relatively long toe shape does give them real character. The perfect blend of soft and sharp.
The Word “Best Value” Doesn’t Even Do It Justice.
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! That 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 353 Oxford perfectly feeds this neurological process.
PLNK never actually messes on that tip of happiness, though! ₹9.5k price tag deepens so many amazing causes to have them. That price makes you feel like what those 1.5 lakh rupees John Lobb Alder feels to me: Too Much!
At least as much as you might want to exit this page thinking it’s not for you. Think again. It can quickly become philosophical, touching on questions that transcend 353 Oxford, like “What is Expensive?” and “What is value?”
Despite an impressive array of shoemaking prowess and materials, the fact is that price and defining value remain a bit of a dark art—and more than a bit subjective, even to our editors.
But we think that our expertise in dress shoe assessment is of a level where we can charge others for it. We were immediately impressed ’cause the ₹9.5k price puts them very favorably with Welted shoes in similar price shelf.
Value is there, all right. And don’t let anybody tell you differently.
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If you are someone like Mr. Nilesh Vyas, our photog, whose commitment to High-end Goodyear Welted Shoes does not extend to open the wallet wide enough to swallow the cost of PLNK, Enter stage left: Pelle Santino.
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