About 1.5 years ago, British Loake launched its new top range 1880 Export Grade. A range in the lower mid-range segment sought after by many of the company’s customers. Here’s a substantial review.
Color: Onyx Black
Size: UK10 standard width
Sula: Single leather sole
Price: 3 700 SEK/ €370 / £325 (shoes are a review pair from Loake)
British Loake is one of the most well-known manufacturers of Goodyear welted quality shoes in the world. Founded in 1880 in the town of Kettering, Northampton, still today family-owned with Andrew Loake as CEO. The Kettering factory produces about 4,000 pairs of shoes a week, the ranges Shoemaker, 1880 and now the 1880 Export Grade, while at its factory in India, around 2,500 pairs are produced a week of the cheaper L1 and Design Loake ranges. Some of these are also Private Label shoes for other shoe and clothing brands.
Loake is largest in the domestic market, with a large number of own stores, including one on the shoe street no. 1, Jermyn Street in London. The shoes that Loake make is generally classic British, with mostly traditional models.
The Loake 1880 Export Grade has so far only been available on a limited number of markets. In England, only a couple of Loake’s own stores (not even the webshop) are sold, and in addition, there are a few markets in Europe that have them where Sweden is one of them. Sweden is actually Loake’s largest export market, and Scandinavian agent Filip Hallerfelt has been one of the drivers in the process of developing the Export Grade series.
Export Grade line is made on a newly developed last with an assymmetric, almond shaped toe. Four models are included from start, which are classic oxford models a plain cap toe, an adelaide and an austerity brogue, plus a wingtip derby, which comes in black or various brown shades, in some cases burgundy and brown suede. The brown models have a nice burnishing.
General info about the shoes
Hanover is the mandatory plain cap toe oxford of the 1880 Export Grade range, here in black. They have a so-called swan neck seam along the facing that many appreciate. As mentioned, the last Tower is asymmetrical shaped with a rounded, slightly narrower toe. The sole has an open channel with a slightly bevelled waist. They are delivered in a burgundy cardboard box with two burgundy coloured bags.
Construction and materials
Export Grade is a clear step up from the regular 1880 range, both in terms of design details and materials. The leather has a higher specification, and the black boxcalf my shoes are made of are soft and supple with a smooth, nice looking surface. The creases that are formed are thin and nice, looks the way it should. All Export Grades have a finish that is polished by hand, so already out of the box, they are shine well. On brown shoes there’s a burnishing that gives depth to the shade.
The sole edge is cut relatively tight and has a nice rounded shape, with fairly tight sole stitch, it gives a neat and elegant impression. The sole still has an open channel, but it is more worked than the standard 1880 shoes and has a slightly bevelled waist that is narrower and has rounded edges that reinforce the neatness. Build quality is, as is often the case with British shoes, clearly stable, it is done well in general. The main lack is, in my opinion, that they still use a celastic heel stiffener (plastic-impregnated textile), one of the finest variants of those that are available, but I would prefer they had used used leather board (leather dust mixed with glue and then pressed).
Comparing with competitors like Carmina or Crockett & Jones Benchgrade, Loake 1880 Export Grade is fine in my eyes, they are even better at some points, but have other parts where they are behind. It is among the more affordable British-made shoes I would say, part of it is that the closing (assembly of the uppers) is made in Loake’s factory in India, which means that they can keep price down a bit.
Loake is generally relatively large in size, as is the Tower last. I have UK10 in Tower, I usually have UK10.5 in most manufacturers’ lasts. It is otherwise relatively normal at instep, width and size of the heel, slightly longer considering the almond-shaped toe. Arch support is a bit better than in Loake’s regular lasts, in my experience. Compared to the reference last Loake Capital, Tower is a bit tighter in the heel and the arch, otherwise a tiny bit larger in size if you compare with the corresponding size.
The shoes are as often with British shoes quite hard when they are new, it takes some time to break them in, but they become comfortable after a while.
The Loake 1880 Export Grade is excellent shoes for the money, with materials and crafts that apart from the open channel sole is in line with shoes that often cost more. It’s an excellent next step for those who have tried the popular 1880 range, but are keen to spend a bit more for even better shoes. I also know that they have been praised by many of the customers who have bought the shoes. Hopefully, the Loake factory will expand production of this range to make it available in more places in the future.