Review: Santos by Carlos Santos “Gandra” Double Monk
Available at MyHabit for $259 (retail $490).
It’s always nice when serendipity allows two trains of thought to converge into one post. Ever since I wrote about Carlos Santos, a Portuguese footwear brand on sale at MyHabit, I’ve had the pleasure of corresponding with Ana Santos—a representative of the brand and the namesake founder’s daughter. As she’s shared more about the company, I’ve been eager to get my hands on a pair of their shoes for an in-person review.
In another vein, I also wrote a few months ago that I imagine the perfect shoe for me for tailored clothing is the chocolate brown double monkstrap. The color is versatile—far more than the cognac/tan of most of my shoes—and I’ve found the strapped double monk closure is great when you’re rushing out the door with two kids and a dog. Ian at From Squalor to Baller recently predicted the death of the double monk trend—the latest of many people to do so—but well-made, tastefully-designed double monks were a fine choice long before #menswear took off, and they’ll continue to be long after the zeitgeist has moved on to something else. I, for one, will keep wearing them, and I don’t particularly care whether that will make me look charmingly classic or tacky and outmoded.
So I was delighted recently when MyHabit stocked the Gandra, a chocolate brown double monk from Santos by Carlos Santos. Naturally, I immediately ordered a pair to try for myself.
Ana tells me that the Santos by Carlos Santos line tries to maintain a fine balance between classic style and staying creative enough to release new models every season. While this means there can be considerable variance between seasons and even within one season’s collection, there are a few common characteristics that all Santos by Carlos Santos shoes share. They’re all Goodyear-welted, for one, and the leather is sourced from the Du Puy tannery in France, which also provides premium hides for the likes of John Lobb Paris, Edward Green, Vass, and Crockett & Jones. I should say that listing off that peer group is not a definitive statement on the caliber of the hides Carlos Santos uses: tanneries typically offer a range of quality, and it’s at least as important to consider how discerning a given maker is in selecting hides. Among full-grain leathers, I think it’s very hard for your average person like me to tell the difference between high-end and middling quality—it’s one of those things that bears itself out over time with wear and care. That said, noted dandy Marc Guyot has said in the past that Carlos Santos uses “first choice” leathers, and the leather on the Gandra double monks’ seems very nice in person.
Some Carlos Santos models I’ve seen are overly tapered for my tastes, moving into“pizza slice” territory. I was relieved on seeing the Gandras in person: the last tapers elegantly to a round toe, and is considerably less pointy than the stock photography suggests. Here you can see the shape compared to other shoes I own, from left to right: the Allen Edmonds Strand (on the AE 5 last), Meermin longwings (on the Meermin Rui last), and Sid Mashburn double monks (on the Alfred Sargent 99 last).
Something else you can kind of make out in the picture (beside the fact that I do indeed own too many tan shoes): although all four shoes are Goodyear-welted, the outsole on the Gandras is cut noticeably closer to the upper of the shoe. While the Meermins get a pass since longwings are meant to be more casual, it’s a notable comparison with the more or less equally formal half-brogue from Allen Edmonds and monkstrap from Alfred Sargent. Compared to the latter, the Santos by Carlos Santos shoe’s outsole is much closer at the toe and about the same at the heel. Both shoes are much trimmer than the AE Strand. This closer cut results in a sleeker, more elegant shape, an appearance that’s even further enhanced by the slightly-beveled waist at the arch of the Gandra. While recent advances in machinery no longer restricts the beveled waist to bespoke and custom shoes, it’s still a feature generally reserved for high-end footwear.
How does that narrowness affect fit? I ordered the Gandra in my regular American size, and found it a bit snug in the heel, requiring a shoe horn. I’d still say they fit true-to-size, but going up a half-size may not be a bad idea if you’ve got a wider foot.
Returning to the details and finish, the stitching on the uppers is as good as any footwear I’ve handled to date, and the buckles seem sturdy and well-made. The leather is brushed for a subtly-antiqued finish, and the toe cap is bulled to a high shine. My photography isn’t that great, so let me be clear: these are beautiful shoes.
Overall, I’d say the Santos by Carlos Santos Gandra is a step above the various Allen Edmonds shoes I own, and the full retail price seems fair at $490. For the $259 they’re going for at MyHabit, they’re a great deal.
You can see more Carlos Santos shoes at www.santosshoes.com. Look out for the lovely but loud auto-play background music.