Editor’s note: Before we jump into our discussion and review of Carlos Santos shoes, I want to let you know about an extremely special promotion currently being run by our friends at The Noble Shoe. Use code BRIAN15 at checkout to save 15-percent off NON-SALE Carlos Santos Shoes. If you’re already a fan of The Noble Shoe, you know that they never do sales so be sure to take advantage of this exclusive offer before it expires on September 30, 2023.
An Introduction to Carlos Santos Shoes
If you’ve never heard of Carlos Santos shoes before, don’t feel bad. It’s a relatively under-the-radar brand that, until recently, has been mostly focused on making shoes for other brands rather than developing their own distinct identity.
But, thankfully, that is changing.
When it comes to footwear brands, it’s always nice to have options for a variety of reasons, and Carlos Santos represents an extremely welcome addition to the marketplace in terms of quality, craftsmanship, style, and price.
I recently acquired three different models of Carlos Santos shoes from The Noble Shoe — handgrade Oxfords, double monk straps, and Chelsea boots — which I’m pleased to present in this post. I’ll be giving you an overview of each shoe along with some styling suggestions.
About The Noble Shoe
Founded in 2019 by Kostas Mandilaris — a former water engineer turned shoe enthusiast turned bespoke shoe expert — The Noble Shoe is an online shop focused exclusively on luxury and high-end men’s welted dress shoes and boots from makers such as Carlos Santos (Portugal), Crockett & Jones (UK), Enzo Bonafe (Italy), Paolo Scafora (Italy).
In addition to seasonal clearances of discontinued styles, The Noble Shoe offers a unique custom Group Made to Order program that changes every few weeks and will soon be launching an in-house brand designed, developed, and curated by the founder.
The History of Carlos Santos Shoes
Carlos Santos is a family-owned Portuguese shoemaker whose history dates back to 1942. Founded by Mr. Carlos Santos, the brand has established itself as a symbol of exceptionally high-quality craftsmanship and elegance in the footwear world.
Carlos Santos first learned the art of shoemaking from his father, who was also a skilled shoemaker. He quickly developed a deep passion for quality footwear, perfected his craft and quickly became widespread recognition for his attention to detail and commitment to excellence — music to our ears — and founded his own workshop in São João da Madeira, a small town in northern Portugal, which like like England’s Northampton, Italy’s Marche, known for its shoemaking heritage.
Over the years, Carlos Santos Shoes slowly grew in popularity, and became a trusted name in the industry with its commitment to using the finest materials and employing traditional handcrafting techniques becoming its hallmark.
Today, Carlos Santos shoes are celebrated for their elegance, comfort, and durability. The brand offers a wide range of styles of classic shoes, loafers, and boots. Every pair of Carlos Santos shoes exudes sophistication and showcases the fusion of traditional craftsmanship with modern design.
Quality & Construction
Carlos Santos doesn’t just say they’re committed to quality — it is evident in the shoes themselves. The leathers are mainly from the French tanneries De Puy and D’Annonay and the hand-painted models are created from raw crust leather. I would like to mention that you can feel the quality of the leather when you handle the shoes. Compared to other brands in this price range, there is a noticeable quality difference.
Speaking of hand-painted, Carlos Santos specializes in patina work and hand paints each shoe in more than 20 colors with extremely natural nuances and hues. I must say that as someone who has dabbled in hand-painted finishes in other shoes before and been sufficiently taken aback at the quality and style, I was very impressed with just how beautifully natural the Carlos Santos models looked in person.
Although Carlos Santos uses a variety of constructions, the models retailed on The Noble Shoe are all Goodyear Welted, which is always a good choice due to the fact that they can be resoled to increase their lifespan. And when you’re dealing with a high quality leather shoe, that’s a wonderful thing.
How to Choose the Right Pair of Carlos Santos Shoes
I should clarify that by “right pair” what I mean is “right size” (because there really is no wrong pair of Carlos Santos shoes). When you are buying high-end shoes online, the thing you really want to get right is the sizing because it really sucks when you order the wrong size and have to go through the process (and take the time) to send them back and wait for a new pair that hopefully fits. It’s kind of scary!
Thankfully, this is an area where, as a retailer of many exceptional luxury footwear brands, The Noble Shoe really shines.
I actually communicated directly with Kostas to get my correct size and I’m glad I did. Knowing what other brands and sizes I wore, he was able to give me a spot-on recommendation for my Carlos Santos sizing. And since I was ordering a range of styles and models, this was very helpful as I was a half size different in the hand grade shoe.
If you’re still worried about sizing, however, be sure to check out The Noble Shoe’s excellent in-depth guide on Carlos Santos lasts for more information and sizing recommendations.
Now, let’s get into the three different models I tried.
Carlos Santos 9899 Handgrade Oxford
I’ve been looking to replace an old, let’s just say, not so high-quality, pair of black Oxfords from my collection for quite a while. What took me so long? I don’t know. They did the job and weren’t worn that often, but I’m glad I waited because the Carlos Santos 9899 is lovely.
This particular shoe is from the Carlos Santos hand grade line — higher quality and more attention to detail. It is made from black French full grain calf leather and is not a patina model.
Right out of the box, it is evident that these shoes are well-made. You can see it and feel it. I’ve got to get to work on a mirror shine… The slightly tighter waist is a nice touch of extra.
Size & Fit
As I mentioned, I was recommended to take a half size larger in the handgrade line — a size 7 — as opposed to the 6.5 in the other two models. It is built on the 445 last, which tends to run a bit larger for most people but I was game to try it just to compare potential differences.
The shoe fits extremely well. Lengthwise they are great. However, as I have a slightly narrower foot, I’m a bit worried about how these might stretch over time as there is already not much room to tighten the laces without the leather touching.
This pair was extremely comfortable from the very first wear. Many of my other luxury shoes required a slight break-in period, but the leather here is quite supple, yet does not feel cheap in any way, shape, or form.
Styling: Summer Cool
It can be very easy to pigeonhole a shoe like a black Oxford into a specific class of outfits. While it is certainly a natural choice for more formal and solemn business looks, you can leverage their simplicity and sleekness to reimagine them in a completely different context.
I’ve recently rediscovered the power of a black suit. Although I still stand by the assertion that a black suit is not a sound choice as a first suit — for that, my recommended choices are navy or medium/charcoal gray — I do think it’s an interesting one to add to “deepen the bench”, so to speak. I’ve gotten a ton of use out of mine recently for date nights and as a wedding guest.
And if a black suit seems like the last suit you’d want to wear during the summer, just choose a tropical wool and an unlined construction and you’ll be good to go.
Taking both the black suit and black Oxfords and breaking them out of their formal paradigm is extremely easy in the summer. Just style them with a white dress shirt —unbuttoned, of course — and a pair of black sunglasses for a classic cool look that never misses.
Carlos Santos 6942 Double Monk Straps
Next up is a pair of Carlos Santos model 6942 double monk straps. They are in a hand painted patina, which the site calls “wine shadow” a mix of red and brown. I would say that is fairly accurate though quite interestingly, the color changes slightly depending on how you look at them and what they’re paired with. More on that below.
Like my black Oxfords, I have been on the hunt for a pair of double monks this exact color to replace the lower quality pair I ruined several years ago. Upon first opening the box, I was extremely pleased with the color and look of the shoe.
I’m a little particular about how the straps are situated on shoes like this and have found other brands to be a little too aggressively modern in their design. But this is a great example of how Carlos Santos marries that classic style and modern sensibility without going overboard.
Size & Fit
Unlike the black Oxfords above, it was suggested that I take a size 6.5 in the double monks. That turned out to be a perfect recommendation. The shoes fit like a glove — that’s a good thing.
Once again, very comfortable. No break-in period necessary.
Styling: Italian Influenced
Although the double monk strap shoe has perhaps had its moment in the hashtag menswear sun and seen its star power wane, it remains a staple of the well-dressed modern gentleman’s wardrobe.
Whether real or imagined, double monks have always had something of a sartorial Italian flair in my mind and that tends to influence how I style them. For example, they are just about my favorite shoes to pair with a Solaro suit.
While not explicitly Italian — the fabric was actually developed by the British as an attempt to protect their Soldiers from the harsh UV rays of the tropics — Solaro has come to be known as a fabric favored by true menswear connoisseurs, including Gianni Agnelli, which might help explain the tenuous Italian connotation in my mind.
Solaro’s interesting and — let’s just be real — weird olive and orangey iridescent hue does make it somewhat challenging in terms of styling. However, playing into its earthiness is always a good strategy.
Up top, a white poplin shirt provides some nice contrast while the “army green” knit tie brings out the olive tones in the fabric. And the Carlos Santos double monk strap shoes in a special wine shadow patina developed for The Noble Shoe, accentuate the orange and provide a solid and suitably stylish anchor for the entire look.
Carlos Santos 7902 Chelsea Boots
Finally, we have the Carlos Santos model 7902 Chelsea boots in a hand painted dark brown patina that is full of lush reddish hues. This is on the 401 last, is from the brand’s main range and has a Goodyear Welted leather sole.
I own a handful of pairs of Chelsea boots but, to be honest, I’ve struggled to find a high-quality pair that looks good and fits well. Most of the pairs I have are “okay” but are lacking in either the quality, looks, or fit department — the latter usually being just slightly too large, which is a problem when trying to style with dress trousers.
But this pair is different. I could tell as soon as I handled them. Like the other models mentioned above, you can feel the quality. And the looks? I mean, look at them! Absolutely gorgeous and a wonderful color to dress up with tailored menswear.
Size, Fit & Comfort
But how did they fare in the size department? I’m happy to report that they are the best fitting pair of Chelsea boots I have ever worn. Of course, they slide on easily — I’m fond of calling Chelseas the loafers of the boot world — but they don’t slide around once they’re on my feet. Hat tip there goes to Kostas for the excellent sizing recommendation. (I took a 6.5 again, for the record.)
Styling: Modern Business Casual
Business casual doesn’t have to be boring and predictable. While there’s nothing inherently “wrong” with a polo or OCBD paired with some khakis (and perhaps a classic navy sport coat), let’s talk about three specific ways to make business casual a little more modern and interesting.
Subtle plaid sport coat. If you’re working with a foundation of solid colors in your shirt and trousers, try a subtly patterned sport coat instead of adding another solid to the mix. This will hep break up the monotony and provide a nice sprinkle of visual interest.
Denim shirt. A denim shirt is an excellent way to inject a little modern cool into a business casual outfit. It adds a little casual nonchalance while still being (mostly) buttoned up. And the slightest bit of texture makes it, like the plaid of the sport coat, visually more interesting.
Chelsea boots. Whenever I’m feeling like I want to give a classic outfit a little bit of an unexpected modern edge, I reach for a pair of Chelsea boots. They have a sleek profile and are just as comfortable as a loafer. I particularly love how the dark brown hand-painted patina of these Carlos Santos Chelseas pairs with my chocolate trousers.
Where To Buy Carlos Santos Shoes
The Noble Shoe retails both the Carlos Santos Main Line and the Carlos Santos Handgrade Line. Pricing for the Main Line shoes are around $350, while the Handgrade line sells in the $450-$480 range due to higher-end upgrades such as a tighter waist, hand painted sole, and more detailed finishing.
The Noble shoe ships orders over $150 for free with DHL Express to most countries globally. Shipping generally takes between two to four business days.
Conclusion: Why Carlos Santos Shoes Are Worth the Investment
Classic men’s footwear in the $250-$350 range is a crowded marketplace. And, to me, it generally feels like a shoving match between a bunch of brands that are pretty much the same — the same basic style, the same basic quality, and in many cases, the same manufacturers.
It’s more about the brand than about the product and legions of online know-it-alls will try to convince you why Brand X is superior to Brand Y even though they’re literally selling the exact same shoe.
The fact that Carlos Santos doesn’t play in that sandbox is one reason to consider this brand.
Another reason is the truly exceptional quality you are getting for the price. Yes, it’s on the higher end of the range I gave at the beginning of this section, but I firmly believe that you get what you pay for. And actually, in this case, you’re getting a hell of a lot more than what you pay for.