Five Plus One is our weekly series of buyer’s guides. We pick a specific category and dig up five great options along with one that’s a little outside the norm.
I like traditional block heels as much as the next person, but their sleek, classy aesthetics come with drawbacks. Compared to wedges, block soles are generally stiffer, less cushioned, and provide less traction with the ground. While wedges are certainly more casual they can certainly find a place in most everyone’s wardrobes — especially for those who find themselves scouring Heddels.
1) Viberg: Black Waxed Camel Roughout Derby Shoe
Viberg‘s Black Waxed Camel Roughout Derby Shoe is, in the mind of this writer, one of their most compelling models in recent years. The heavily textured waxed roughout camel leather gives these boots a beautiful look that is often missing from black leather shoes, and Viberg’s choice to use hidden eyelets and all-black tonal stitching complete an already fantastically stealthy pair.
These derbies sit atop a black Gloxi wedge sole, which features vertical cuts for both looks and flexibility. While not a look for everyone, Gloxi’s are an ultra-light rubber wedge sole that feels almost like a dense foam when handled on its own and makes for a great walking experience.
Available for $682 from Lost & Found.
2) Unmarked: DBS-Oiled Veg Tan
Unmarked has been making quality shoes and boots for years, but their hits just keep coming — this time in the form of their DBS-Oiled Veg Tan derby shoe. They’re made from oiled but undyed veg tan leather with tonal stitching and finishes. Placed on a Vibram Christy sole, these shoes are going to be a comfy ride while rapidly developing their patina.
Maybe you need a new pair of shoes, maybe you don’t. But either way, you probably need these in your arsenal. They’ll last for years and the Goodyear welt construction means you can get another wedge sole slapped on them if this one ever wears out.
Available for $390 from Unmarked.
3) Tricker’s for Clutch Cafe: Daniel Derby Shoe Ridge in Kudu Reverse Suede
What can you say about Tricker’s that hasn’t already been said a million times? They make classic, quality footwear out of England that just about everyone would be thrilled to have in their rotation. Their latest Daniel Derby Shoe for Clutch Cafe is an especially compelling pair, made with a soft, Kudu suede upper and a light Vibram Christy Moreflex sole. This wedge is similar to the classic Christy in appearance, albeit with a brighter white hue, and being made of a slightly foamy rubber that feels somewhere between the rubbers used in Gloxi’s and regular Christy’s.
Finished with a 360º storm welt, this is a solid pair of derbies in every conceivable sense.
Available for $440 ($396 for Heddels+ members) from Clutch Cafe.
4) Grenson: Curt Derby
Grenson is another British brand that offers some well-built, classic shoes. Their Curt Derby would make an excellent daily driver and is available in several leather options (pictured above in cigar suede). It features tan stitching, a natural-toned storm welt, and a brownish-red cutaway wedge sole. While this wedge does have a bit more curvature than a traditional wedge, the sole is still a single piece. This might mean you have a bit less surface area contact with the ground, but all the other benefits of a wedge sole remain.
Available for $385 from End.
5) The Flat Head: Oxford in Kudu Suede
The Flat Head might be best known for their jeans around these parts, but their footwear isn’t a slouch either. Their Oxford, which would be regionally known as a derby in the States and UK, looks better than ever in kudu suede. Made in Japan with stitchdown construction and a black Christy sole, this shoe features a bulky toe box, French binding, and striking polished brass eyelets. If you’re looking for a robust pair of derbies that has that early 20th-century workwear look, these are lovely mid-top option.
Available for $828 from Corlection.
Plus One – Yuketen: Ripple Sole Derby
It was incredibly tough to choose this week’s Plus One, as so many of the wedge-soled derby options out there have their own, unique details. That said, Yuketen‘s Ripply Soel Derby was just that much more interesting, and for that, we had to give them the win. These spiky stompers are made with a pebbled, honey-hued leather that matches the color of the welt and leather midsole beautifully. But what is really special is how they stacked the sole, which features alternating, contrasting materials, finished with Vibram’s cork ripple sole which will be an absolute traction machine.
Available for $715 from Yuketen.