Paul Evans Shoes: Cagney Cap Toe Oxford Review
For those of you who are tempted to TL;DR, note that there’s an exclusive Paul Evans promo code at the end of this post.
Like many of you, I was intrigued by Derek’s Put This On review of Paul Evans last month, so I was stoked when Paul Evans’ CEO Evan Fript reached out to me about writing a review.
Based in New York City, Paul Evans manufactures dress shoes in Italy and Spain. They’ve launched with three models: all cap toe oxfords, all priced at $350. The main differences between the models are construction (the Italian shoes are Blake-stitched; the Spanish shoes are Goodyear-welted), detailing (the Italian shoes feature broguing), and color.
I opted to review Paul Evans’ burgundy Spanish-made oxford, the Cagney. Unfortunately, sizing in this first run is limited to size 9 to 11.5 in half-size increments, so as an 8.5D I’m unable to review the fit of the shoes. Evan let me know that their next order will include a broader range of sizes.
For his review, Derek didn’t have a pair of Allen Edmonds calfskin shoes handy for reference—but I do. It’s clear from the the price point, the construction, and the cap toe oxford design that the Paul Evans Cagney competes directly with Allen Edmonds’ Park Avenue. So I decided to do a side-by-side comparison of the review pair Paul Evans sent with my own pair of black Park Avenues—the first pair of quality dress shoes I’d ever purchased.
I was especially interested in reviewing the Cagney because I was curious to see how successfully Paul Evans could maintain an attractive shape with a Goodyear-welted shoe. Goodyear-welted shoes tend to be more durable, more waterproof, and easier to resole than their Blake-stitch counterparts—effectively extending their lifespan, assuming the leather uppers are of comparable quality. The Grant cap toes reviewed by Put This On use Blake-stitch construction, which generally affords a sleeker profile than Goodyear-welted shoes. That isn’t to say the latter are necessarily ungainly. I think the Park Avenue’s 5 last is unfairly saddled with a reputation for being a bit dowdy—while it’s rounded and a bit bulbous, it’s certainly much more handsome than your typical glued-sole, duck-billed square-toe dress shoe. That said, my sweet spot for great shoes is a Goodyear-welt with a shape that’s sleeker than the 5 last without getting into pointy territory.
And the Paul Evans Cagney absolutely nails it. The toe box is elongated but not narrow, and the waist curves in much more than the Park Avenue. The welt on the Cagney is ever-so-slightly narrower, as well—the overall shape appears sleeker, more elegant, and more refined.
I’m not really in a position to make a definitive or fair judgment on leather quality for either brand—the Park Avenues were purchased used on eBay, and I’ve put another three years of wear into them. I will say that the leather on the Paul Evans Cagney looks great and has a beautiful color: its appearance can range from deep burgundy in shadow to medium red-brown in light. That variation means it will work well with a wide range of trouser colors—from light grey to charcoal, blues from navy to indigo, and perhaps even brown.
I did notice some very superficial creasing along the front of the throat line, where the quarters pass under the vamp. It doesn’t seem abnormal, and I can’t really judge how much more pronounced the creasing will appear over time.
An obvious difference between the two models is the stitching — Paul Evans opts for blind stitching on the toe cap and along the throat line. The only visible stitching on the uppers is down the heel and along the topline. It’s neat and even, with a stitch count that appears about the same as on the Park Avenues. I think it’s notable that the Cagney’s stitching along the topline is visibly closer to the edge than the Park Avenue’s—closer stitching is a sign of better quality in dress shirts, but I’m not sure if that applies to footwear. Regardless, the cumulative effect of the stitching reinforces the Cagney’s more elegant profile.
I won’t mince words: if I were in the market for my first dress shoe to wear with a suit and had a $350 budget, I’d pick the burgundy Paul Evans Cagney over the black Allen Edmonds Park Avenue. It’s unquestionably a more attractive shoe, and the color is far more versatile and stylish. Some may argue that black is more traditional and preferable for interviews, weddings, and funerals, but where I live, the Cagney’s burgundy would be appropriately serious, somber, or respectful as needed.
Of course, I recognize others may absolutely need a black cap toe oxford for their first dress shoe. In that case, I think the Cagney makes an excellent second dress shoe. Some menswear forumites love their tan or walnut shoes (as do I), but they’re at their best during the day in the warmer months. Burgundy works better all year, any time of day.
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