Hard-Bottom Shoes Are Back: 5 Emerging Brands Spearheading Their Return in 2023
For any brand hawking hard-bottom shoes, earning a place among the ranks of the world’s most elite cobblers can take time—and a lot of it, at that. The most prominent names in the space (the Churchs, Edward Greens, and John Lobbs of the world) have been honing their craft since before the advent of flight, a pedigree they’re proud to tout when its comes to justifying their staggering prices. So to them we say: there’s a new sheriff in town. A handful of them, actually—over the last decade or so, an exciting cohort of next-gen shoe brands have hit the welting machines with gusto, injecting new life into the genre just in time to make good on menswear’s growing fatigue with the frenetic pace of the sneaker release cycle.
What they all share in common is a commitment to relatively democratic pricing, and a tacit rejection of the algorithmic sludge serving you hybridized brogues with bouncy, sneaker-esque soles. The hard-bottom shoes of the future, they might argue, are not Frankensteined monstrosities designed for “all-day comfort” or “maximum versatility”: they’re a lot like the hard-bottom shoes of the past, but shot through with a jolt of personality that feels just right for 2023. These are 5 GQ-favorite footwear brands that should be on your radar right now—and in your closet, too.
Vinny’s might be the youngest brand on this list—it set up shop way back in 2020—but its remit is the most specific. The Danish operation makes loafers for guys who fell hard for the silhouette over the dog days of quarantine, guided by a simple question: what would the fuddy-duddy penny loafer look like interpreted by a fella in the process of kicking his sneaker habit? The answer, it turns out, is incredibly cool, and not all that different from its predecessors. Vinny’s classic-leaning silhouettes are hand-crafted in Portugal, but at $400 a pop they cost a whole lot less than their dusty counterparts.
Morjas doesn’t rely on gimmicks or outré designs to move units—it just churns out handsome, reasonably-priced hard-bottoms with subtle Scandinavian influences designed for the long haul. The brand’s pebble grain alpine boots are a hit among the extremely online menswear crowd, but the sleeper pick from its repertoire might be its rich suede Oxford, a shoe so clean it wouldn’t look out of place stalking the cobblestone-paved streets at Pitti.
Jacques Solovière specializes in the type of shoes you’d expect to see at a raucous gallery opening, or a concrete-walled design firm in the hippest part of your city. The silhouettes in the Parisian label’s line-up are a touch softer and suppler than the competition, thanks to the brand’s liberal use of single-piece suede and its signature pinched tongues. But the relaxed vibe masks a serious dedication to quality: every pair is made by hand in Tuscany, using old-world techniques once distinct to cobblers with a Northamptonshire zip code.
In the UK, rugged, hard-wearing lace-ups have long been associated with stylish anti-establishment types. Paris-based Adieu harnesses that crackling energy but adds a dose of Parisian refinement to the mix, too: think sturdy derbies outfitted with sizable crepe soles, shit-kicking work boots in unexpected hues, and suede creepers blown up to extreme proportions—all the better to anchor your biggest, brashest fits.
Here’s a New Year’s resolution for you: the next time you find yourself jetting off to a beach-y locale for some much-needed R&R, pack a pair of shoes even dressier than the ones you wear on the daily. Hereu’s Mediterranean-inspired slip-ons remix summer-ready silhouettes you might not know—slim T-bar loafers, dainty Mary Janes—with the hefty soles you probably recognize from your boots. The whole range can easily square up with a rumpled linen suit and sleazy tinted shades, but their sturdy construction means they’ll look equally righteous with a cardigan and jeans when you touch down back home.