Meermin Mallorca Horsebit Loafer Review
This is equal parts review and love letter. Unfortunately, you can't buy these shoes -- but you can buy other Meermins, and you should.
Note: These are seconds, purchased from Meermin's eBay Store. These have, somewhere, fallen short of Meermin's QC standards. But I'm not sure I know where.
Brand: Meermin Mallorca
Size: 6.5 UK
Last: Beat (you haven't heard of this last. I'll get into that).
Color: Dark Brown
Construction: Goodyear Welt, Moccasin-style Lasting
Price: $95 shipped for seconds at acution. Presumably $195 + shipping if they were firsts, although they can no longer be purcased. Yes, I know, I know.
The box contained the shoes and one dust bag.
Meermin's seconds store is a strange place. They ship from Spain, and that costs $35. And their shoes, belts, and wallets are very reasonably priced to begin with. So you have to bid unreasonably low numbers to actually get a deal -- if you bid, say, $120, which you might say is roughly the right price for a pair of Meermin seconds, you'll find yourself paying $155, at which point you might as well go to their NYC store and buy firsts. It's stranger with belts: bidding starts at $10, and first belts go for $50 without tax in state, so if you bid more than $15, you're overpaying! And auctions last 3 days, so you don't have much time to decide how much you want the pair you see.
But I swear, I've seen people pay more for Meermin seconds than firsts. So I spent quite some time looking through the store at my small size, often making lowball bids. Eventually, I fell ass-backwards into this pair. I knew they were bit loafers, but didn't really understand the history behind them, moccasin construction, or anything like that. But after I won my first pair of Meermins... Boy, did I get into some research. That's about the time I wrote How to Talk About Loafers.
They took a couple of weeks to ship from Spain. Patience is a virtue.
Note that, for normal purchases, Meermin's returns process is not especially friendly, so it's always better to buy in store, or at least try on your size in store. Otherwise, you'll probably be on the hook for shipping each way. That's not ideal. As a general tip -- my size is a 6.5 US in some lasts, and a 7uk in others. I usually wear about a 7.5 US in most dress shoes. But my feeet are strange, and guessing is never a great idea.
What they looked like new
So, sometimes, people have trouble understanding why a pair of seconds are seconds. What is wrong with these shoes? Nothing I could spot. The seam around the front strikes me as more "imperfect because it's handmade" than "unbecoming of a proper shoe brand." Maybe I'm just not picky enough, but I couldn't figure out the problem. So score one.
And they fit! I had never tried on the beat last -- it doesn't entirely exist, and the Meermin store in NYC hadn't opened yet -- so... They were on the tight side, but I had to celebrate this fact. They fit!
Breaking Them In
Meermin has a notorious break in period, and, again, these were on the tight side. It doesn't help that I once attended to wear them with a pair of no-show socks that was just a little too-low-cut -- that was a painful learning experience. But eventually, the break-in was over, and now, I can safely say that these are comfortable-ish. I mean, they won't win any comfortable awards, but I'm not opposed to putting them on, and for a dress shoe at this price tier, that's a win.
One of... Some small number.
You've never seen these, before, have you?
Have you heard of Meermin's Beat last? Can you find info about it... anywhere? The searches I run only seem to result in posts I've made, so if anybody else has gotten a pair of these, that person is not the type to write about them online. At least not in English.
For those who don't know, a "last" is basically the thing that gives the shoe its shape. For those who knew that: the Beat last is a little different. Normally, a shoe is lasted by stretching the leather over the last into the shape of a shoe's upper. But the Beat last is a moccasin last, and moccasins are lasted differently. The leather is stretched up from the bottom, and sewn at that big chunky seam you see, cradling the foot in a soft, round layer of leather. Native Americans wore shoes made like this as soft-soled moccasins to move through forests easily. Then Aurland Shoes came and threw on a rigid sole and heel, transforming the moccasin into one of the first ever loafers.
Moccasin-style loafers are usually more casual, but for reasons I get into in How to Talk About Loafers, the moccasin-style horsebit loafer is unusually versatile, valid even with a suit. They contrast starkly with the apron toe loafers here, which, despite the relatively thick handsewn seam, are relatively sleek, and almost feminine.
These shoes were apparently once available on Meermin's website, but as far as I'm concerned, they're one of one. And you can get an MTO, but short of going bespoke, you don't have a shoe with a unique last. And I do. That's really cool. (If you have a pair of shoes in this last, please reach out -- we'll start a club).
Unfortunately, this makes this review a little silly. You can't buy these shoes, or anything like them to the point where telling you how great they are is useful. I can tell you that Meermin is a great company selling great shoes for a great price... But they're not selling these. Oh well.
So, as you've probably gathered by now... I like these shoes. I'm very happy with them. I've come into the horsebit loafer style -- I think of them as statement pieces, but they are also the traditional footwear of the land I come from -- the West Egg of Long Island, now home of my Persian brethren.
Relax, I'm not wearing these with an Hermes belt or an unearned belief that everybody I meet has seen the face of God. But I am wearing them every-which way I can. With cropped chinos, with a suit, with shorts. With boring dress socks, with fun ones, with no-shows. To work, to bars, to house parties. With brown, and with gray. Yes, they were part of the inspiration for the first piece I wrote for this blog: Versatile, but not Minimal.
And they're compliment-getters. Whether I'm out in the real world or home in Great Neck, these things grab the eye and earn that attention the right way. I'm happy for that.
The color is a mid-dark brown, with some reddish tones in the right lighting. The bit is nickel, which I find much more palatable than the usually garish gold tones. I'm not sure how I'll maintain the metal long term -- any tips on that would be helpful.
As for comfort: the soles are not especially flexible -- a limitation of the goodyear welt -- but they're fine. The uppers are not especially soft -- not compared to my more expensive J. FitzPatricks, at least, they compare favorably to everything else in my closet -- but for $200, they're really fine.
Well, better than fine. Take a look at the photos. I've had these shoes for about 22 months. And while I haven't worn them too many times, I haven't babied them either. You can barely tell, from the uppers, that they've been worn. I haven't even bothered to polish them yet, because... Again, aside from some edge dressing, they don't need it. They've been brushed on occasion and conditioned a few times, but have otherwise gotten no special treatment. The soles have weathered a few long days in and around New York City, including rainy days (when I was afraid to wear some other shoes that would not have held up as well).
You can read more about Meermin's quality construction and materials elsewhere. You'll read very good things. These shoes will last me a lifetime with a small number of resoles.
So... I like these shoes. Would I pay full price for them now? Probably, yeah. Would I recommend Meermin at $195? This is not a proper hypothetical -- I recommend them constantly, on reddit and to my friends in person. A few have taken me up on it. One friend spoke highly of them ater break in, before he regressed to Cole Haan, citing comfort concerns, but remember that Cole Haan glues poor leather uppers to poor soles to make generally ugly and overpriced shoes. Another saves his tan wholecuts for when he needs a compliment -- and they, too, deliver.
Again, for those who are skimming: I'm very happy with these shoes, and would wholeheartedly recommend future purchases from Meermin. They use great leather and quality construction to deliver quality dress shoes at a remarkably low price. They're not especially comfortable, but after a break-in, they're about what you'd expect. The styling on this pair, as with most shoes they make, is quite nice.
I would recommend care in sizing, particularly if you cannot get to their store, but I'd generally recommend that no matter who you're buying from. It's just slightly more noteworthy here due to the shipping expense.
As a reminder, I won these shoes at auction. I have no relationship with Meermin, aside from occasional visits to their store and compliments paid to the employees working there. I'm only telling you good things because I think those things.
Now go out there and get yourself a pair.
Again, I'm sorry to be telling you about something you can't buy. But here are some alternatives!
Apron toe -- more common, sleeker, sometimes feminine.
- Meermin Hiro Last (or Made to Order -- you might get them to recreate this shoe if they still have the beat last on hand)
- J. FitzPatrick Pike -- currently on sale for a steal at $295. Let him know Dan Hakimi sent you.
- Carmina Uetam Last -- this pair is in navy shell, so it's a little more expensive, but they make cheaper ones too.
Moc Toe -- less common, uniquely versatile, not sleek at all
- GH Bass (Affiliate Link | Regular Link) -- not exactly quality footwear (unimpressive leather, cemented soles), but they look good enough, have a pretty rich history, and can be found on sale. A good way to test out the style.
- Beckett Simonon Beaumont (Referral Link|(Regular Link) -- a little squarer than I'd like, but here's where the quality starts.
- Carmina Xim Last -- see, I told you. $330 for carminas is a great deal. I don't believe the Xim last is a true moccasin last, but it looks close enough to me. This would probably be my pick today.
- Gucci 1953 -- named for the year they invented the horsebit loafer, and in the original style (black calf, gold horsebit, moc toe). You're paying a little more here for the brand and for history, but they're still excellent shoes, and the price isn't exorbitant -- this is a perfectly valid purchase.