The Spanish brand Meermin has been grown rapidly since they launched their brand in the European and US market a few years ago. They sell Asian manufactured shoes with great designs direct to customers, which means very affordable prices. Here’s a review of a model from their basic Classic collection.
Leather: Tan Country Calf
Read: Hiro (standard width)
Sole: Double Dainite
Price: € 160 (the pair reviewed is a free test pair)
Meermin is a Mallorca-based company, driven by a branch of the famous shoe family Albaladejo, who also owns Carmina. But Meermin and Carmina has nothing more in common than the fact that the people behind them are related to each other. Meermin started up their business back in the beginning of the 21th century, but in the beginning they only sold to the Japanese market through retailer. Some years ago they started up the business for the rest of the world, and this time they work only with direct sales. At first they only sold through their store in Madrid and soon took orders via mail, and the word spread fast through among other channels StyleForum. After they opened the first proper webshop they have grown explosively and today is clearly one of the hottest producers on the classic shoe market.
Meermins shoes are manufactured in China in a factory where the Albaladejo family for several years has been working hard to teach the Chinese in traditional footwear production. The finish is then made in Spain, probably because they want to be able to put a Made in Spain stamp on them, a process which may be discussed. But even if the production in China isn’t something that Meermin advertises, it’s not something they ever tried to keep secret.
Meermins standard Classic collection (price €160/about $185) is Goodyear welted with a bit cheaper materials, for example they use split suedefor this line and the heel stiffeners are made of thermoplastic, while the top line Linea Maestro (€ 260/about $300) are hand welted and hand lasted with leather board heel stiffeners and in the case of suede it’s reverse calf. All of which is quite unusual in this price range, especially the fact that they are hand welted. It’s of course the China production and direct sales strategy that allow them to have these prices. Meermin also some Norvegese stitched shoes and some made of Japanese shell cordovan.
As mentioned Meermin can either be purchased in their store in Madrid, or ordered through their website. For questions they have service over mail. Because of the massive pressures on Meermin and its staff, they literally get many hundreds of e-mails every day, there are some who feel that they have to wait long for a response to queries, and sometimes do not get a response at all. Be patient, and e-mail again if it has gone as long as a few weeks. Hopefully Meermin will have the possibility to recruit new customer service personnel soon to solve this issue.
Meermin has struggled with long delivery times in recent years, something that partly has been solved with their change to another type of MTO’s. They don’t take individual MTO’s anymore, now they have something they gall Group Made to Order-models on their website, where they continuously offer special make ups of different sorts, both made to Classic and Linea Maestro standard, which then are pre-ordered from a number of participants and when enough has ordered it’s put into production. A quite clever way to do more specific make-ups, and it has proven to work well and several other brands has followed this model.
When it comes to their regular stock they still have the problem that all models are shown as in stock in all sizes all the time, when it sometimes is not and have to be manufactured and therefore have alonger waiting time of usually one sometimes two months in general. If they are in stock, delivery time are often within one or two weeks.
They also are working hard to improve the quality control, which from time to time fails and shoes with defects are shipped out to customers.
Meermin has probably grown a bit too much too fast, but hopefully they will settle into things and solve problems continuously to in time have a very solid working business model and customer service.
General info about the shoes
Meermin’s shoes are delivered in a brown box with only one shoe bag in the same color. It’s a pity that they only send one bag, then the whole point of a protective case disappears if one is to have both shoes together. You could almost ignore the bag completely.
The model with the quite unsexy name 101482 is a quarter brogue in grain leather and a double rubber sole which makes a sturdy shoe, while the oxford model and the relatively slim last makes it still is reasonably elegant. It’s a shoe great for late spring, early autumn or rainy summer days. Personally I definitely would have preferred single rubber soles, it would have fit the shoe even better and it would have made them even more suited to their purpose.
Construction and materials
The model I received from Meermin is from their Classic collection, hence it’s Goodyear welted. There is no doubt that it’s a budget shoe. Overall, they feel okay in building quality, but there are some flaws like a couple of crooked seams, a mark in the leather and such things, but nothing remarkable that one can not count on for a couple of cheap benchmade shoes. The double sole Meermin have had difficulty to make the edge of the sole closely cut in the arch area, so it looks a bit rough and not to neat to be honest. Another deficiency (which, however, applies to virtually all budget shoes and also some manufacturers which is more expensive) is that they use plastic in the heel stiffener. It affects the comfort, more on that in the next paragraph about the fit.
The upper leather is absolutely of good quality for shoes at this price. Anyone who is expecting any miracles will be disappointed, it shows the use of some poorer parts of the leather, for example, the quarters. The scotch grain embossing is nice, and it feels like the shoes can withstand some rough conditions reasonably well. The sole is a copy of a Dainite sole, which reportedly will wear a bit faster than the original, but nothing I have noticed yet. The shoes are also well balanced, with the sole touching the ground even when the whole heel section is on the ground (even though I know the significance of this is debated).
The Hiro last is at the same time elegant and traditional, with a rounded toe and with fairly sharp lines. A bit similar to for example Vass F last or Crockett & Jones 236. The shoes I have isin size UK10 which is usually my standard size, and I would say that the shoes are relatively “true to size”, to use a somewhat vague expression. They were initially a little tight over the ball area, where the foot is at it’s widest. It stretched after a few uses though.
Where I had the most problems fit-wise was the heel. As mentioned they have a plastic heel stiffener, and whenthe shape doesn’t fit the heel well from the beginning it becomes a problem since it doesn’t mold to the feet the same way as a leather heel stiffener does. In return, however, the cap extended relatively well into the arch, which is unusual as this type of cheaper shoes. For me, it provided a nice support.
Something many experienced is that Meermins shoes are very hard in the beginning, and take their time to go. Except for the heel which I’ve already mentioned I can’t say that I felt that they were too hard really, at least not for a double soled shoe, but of course they needed some time to break in.
Compared to Loake Aldwych on the Capital last, which is the reference shoe for fit here on Shoegazing, Hiro is smaller a bit smaller overall than the Capital last, although the overall fit characteristics are quite similar. For example both have a bit roomy heel areas and normal instep.
Meermin 101482 Tan Country Calf is undoubtedly a good budget quality shoe, which is very affordable. However, one should not expect any miracles, they have their flaws, but to expect perfection for the 160 euros are just naive. The Linea Maestro line is although a bit more expensive, to my experience also overall nicer and might be worth the price. If one is to make a comparison with other manufacturers, something that is always asked for, I would say that they are roughly equal in quality to for example Loake 1880 or Herring Classic (manufactured by Loake and Barker). Those examples are all more expensive though, so Meermins business model with production in China and direct sales means that you get a lot for your money. Even though Meermin have had their share of problems they still established themselves as a major player in the budget quality shoe market, and if they get a hold of all these issues they really are a player to count on for the future.