Review: Are Ace Marks’ Unique Shoes Worth the Splurge?

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Find out whether Ace Marks’ affordable luxury dress shoes are worth the price tag in this review of their wine and cuoio wingtips for men. (Also discover a coupon for 10% off Ace Marks shoes.)

Ace Marks coupon

Before jumping into this review, you can get a 10% discount off your next Ace Marks purchase with coupon code FELLOWS10. (Explore Modern Fellows’ list of up-to-date online sales for men’s clothing for more discounts and coupons.)

Get to know Ace Marks

Ace Marks sells gorgeous, Italian-made leather shoes directly to consumers at a remarkably affordable price point. (Ace Marks also makes very attractive leather sneakers for men.)

The men’s clothing market is flooded with Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) stores selling good looking dress shoes and leather sneakers for men online. It can be hard to choose amid the dizzying number of price points, features and styles from various brands.

Ace Marks does a really nice job standing out from the pack with a compelling mix of style and quality at a (relatively) affordable price point.

The first thing that stood out to me about Ace Marks was the sheer uniqueness of their dress shoes.

As I wrote in a separate interview with Ace Marks Founder Paul Farago, their “shoes are striking for their deep colors and features like rich patinas, two-tone designs and detailed broguing.”

Ace Marks CEO Paul Farago. Photo courtesy of Ace Marks.

Paul, pictured above, told me that, ‘we set out to make real luxury affordable for everyone, so we work on slim margins and sell at attainable prices.”

I’ve enjoyed getting to know Ace Marks‘ team over the past few months and have really appreciated the willingness of Paul, Julian and their communications team to engage. They are clearly passionate about about customer service and take pride in their shoes.

For me, Ace Marks is an excellent example of a online men’s clothing store helping men dress sharp in the digital age.

How much do Ace Marks’ shoes cost?

Ace Marks’ dress shoes start at $299 and leather boots start at $330, though it is occasionally possible to find them for less on sale. (During their Black Friday sale, Ace Marks took up to 20% off select dress shoes.) Ace Marks’ leather sneakers cost $224.

At nearly $300, Ace Marks’ shoes aren’t cheap, but they are a remarkable value.

I asked Chief Marketing Officer Julian Gonzalez to describe Ace Marks’ value proposition. He told me that, “Ace Marks is a brand that brings you all the features of a luxury handcrafted Italian dress shoe for less than you are going to pay in traditional retail stores or department stores.”

Paul pointed out that some of the well-known luxury shoe companies that are made alongside Ace Marks’ shoes will retail for over $1,000. It’s this kind of value-for-quality that powered Ace Marks to on of Kickstarter’s most well-funded shoe campaigns for men.

Ace Marks’ limited “Factory Access”

On the back of two wildly-successful Kickstarter campaigns, Julian recalls that, “we realized that we had something in offering a wide ranging collection of dress shoes in a made to order format.”

Ace Marks began offering a made-to-order campaign once a year to compliment traditional website sales of in-stock merchandise. The company’s made-to-order site, craft.acemarks.com, allows customers to preview new shoe concepts and place orders that will be delivered in a few months.

Julian notes that Ace Marks “has seen a tremendous response from customers, both new and returning, to these types of campaigns.”

Reviewing Ace Marks wingtip dress shoes

I had a chance to review Ace Marks’ Wingtip dress shoes in Wine and Cuoio. (Disclosure: Ace Marks provided a pair of shoes at no cost for the review.) Here are my impressions.

Ace Marks’ shoe construction and materials

Two strong selling points for Ace Marks are the construction of their shoes and their high-end inputs.

Ace Marks makes honest-to-goodness dress shoes. These aren’t sneakers with soft-foam soles masquerading as dress shoes (though I’d argue that there’s a place for those kinds of hybrids in your wardrobe too).

Where are Ace Marks’ shoes made?

Every pair of shoes is handcrafted, hand-dyed, and hand-burnished by fourth generation Italian artisans.

This means that “each artisans is able to put their own personal touches on each and every pair,” observed Julian. “No two pairs are exactly a like, and each shoe is a unique work of art,” he added.

The full-grain, hand-dyed and burnished Italian calfskin leather on my wingtip uppers really pops and continues to look impressive after moderate use. (There’s definitely no cracking or discoloration that you might see from inferior leather or dying.)

Are Ace Marks shoes comfortable?

When I put on the shoes, the first thing I noticed was how comfortable they are. That’s partially the result of the high end materials on the inside, including calf-skin lining and cushioned leather insole. It’s also the result of more inclusive sizing, which I’ll explain below.

Ace Marks shoes definitely require some breaking in. While they are comfortable out of the box, the leather really softens up with use.

As I started walking, the other thing I noticed were the slick-bottomed, leather outsoles. Bolstered by tight, Blake stitching, these are the kind of shoes that are meant to last and withstand the elements, but they too need some breaking in.

Once you’re sure you’re keeping the shoes, take them outside and scuff the bottoms up on the sidewalk or street to create some traction. (Having become so accustomed to wearing sneakers and rubber-soled shoes during my work-from-home stint, I almost did a header on my in-laws’ linoleum tile with my brand-new shoes.) To be clear, this is a feature, not a defect, of a high-end, handcrafted Italian dress shoe.

It’s important to scuff up the outsoles of your shoes to get some traction as you break them in.

Multiple widths and expansive sizing

Another selling point is that Ace Marks offers their shoes in an expansive array of sizes. Ace Marks shoes are available in both D (medium) and E (wide) widths as well as in sizes ranging from as small as 5 to as large as 15.

For me personally, this expanded range of sizing is a big reason why my Ace Marks shoes are so comfortable compared with other brands.

I have wide feet and often find myself forced into a choice between a regular-width shoe that is either too narrow or too long. I tend to size up to a larger shoe to ensure it is not too narrow but, depending on the brand, those longer pairs can begin to look and feel like clown shoes.

The wide width of Ace Marks’ shoes enabled me to get the appropriate-length shoe for my feet, and contributes significantly to the overall comfort of my shoes.

The “Ace Last”

One unique feature of Ace Mark’s shoes is their proprietary last. Paul explained to me why Ace Marks created their own Ace Last:

The last is the most important part of the footwear creation process. It is what dictates the fit, sizing and the look of the shoe.

We built our last according to U.S. Brannock Standard sizing and also to reduce common pressure points around the ball and heel of your foot. it is one of the main reasons that our shoes tend to fit better and feel more comfortable than other brands and customers are less likely to exchange or return our shoes due to size and fit problems.

Even better, once our customer knows their Ace Marks size they can be confident that they will be that size across our entire collection of shoes because we use the same last across our entire collection. You never have to worry about exchanges or sizing issues, especially after their first purchase.

Blake stitching versus Goodyear welting

Ace Marks’ shoes are stitched with Blake construction. The internet hosts an ongoing and never-to-be-resolved debate about the merits of Blake stitches versus Goodyear welting.

I tend to prefer Blake stitching, which permits a thinner sole and tends to be more flexible that the thicker, more rigid Goodyear welt. (See this Reddit thread on Goodyear vs. Blake construction for more views.) Some would say you sacrifice durability, but I have had Blake-stitched shoes last for years.

The reality is that either Blake or Goodyear construction can result in a great shoe. The type of stitch is only one factor that goes into constructing a pair of shoes. The craftsmanship and quality of materials matter as well, and Ace Marks shoes shine across those benchmarks.

Are Ace Marks’ shoes durable?

Ace Marks’ shoes have definitely held up through the light-duty I’ve asked of them over the past two months of use. I’ve worn them around the house and on walks around the neighborhood. They’ve softened up and are really comfortable.

But this is the one question I can’t answer definitively at the moment. The reality is I haven’t had the chance to put them through the paces that I normally would have in the Before Time. In the past, I would have walked a mile or more a day in these shoes to-and-from-work and whatever after-work activities I had. I’m itching to put them to greater use and will update this with more details over time.

The first shoe to try from Ace Marks?

While I was first drawn to Ace Marks’ bolder styles like the Wine And Cuoio Wingtip, I asked Julian what he would say to someone who has never tried Ace Marks before and is shopping around for new shoes, sneakers or boots. What’s the first shoe he would recommend?

His answer? It depends.

He told me that “Ace Marks are shoes that are going to stand out regardless of whether you opt for a more traditional style or a bolder one.”

“Early essential” dress shoes

If you’re just starting out, Julian pointed to two “early essentials” – the cap toe and double monkstrap.

“If you are getting your first few pairs of dress shoes, I would recommend going with a style such as the cap toe oxford in black antique or the double monkstrap in brown or cuoio,” Julian said. “These two shoe will provide you with the versatility and formality you need for any occasion.”

He added that the black cap toe oxfords can be dressed up for more formal occasions, while the double monkstrap in brown can be dressed down into a more casual outfit.

Adding bolder shoes to your collection

If you already have essentials and are looking for more diversity in your shoe rotation, Julian recommends shoes like the double monkstrap in brandy antique or the Wholecut Carlo in Avio Antique.

“These two colors are not traditional colors but are actually extremely versatile,” Julian suggests. “Blue is being used now as alternative to black and can be used in almost every color combination where you would normally wear a black shoe.” He notes that blue shoes pair well with grey suits, charcoal suits, and even black suits.

Ace Marks’ “brandy” is a color that almost sits between a brown and a burgundy, which Julian says “adds a great level of pop to your ensemble while still be versatile enough to wear with a number of different color options.”

Ace Marks’ warranty, return and exchange policies

Ace Marks offers free shiping and returns on all orders.

(Note that they will “only accept for exchange items that are in factory mint condition and in their original packaging. Shoes must not have any wear/scuff marks on the outsole or upper, and must not have been altered in any way.”

See Ace Marks’ return policy for full details.

You can cancel any items that are purchased up until the time they are shipped.

Ace Marks buy back program

Ace Marks also maintains an interesting “buy back” initiative. 

Paul told me that, “if, at any point, you decide that you want a new pair of shoes and you don’t want your old ones sitting in your closet anymore, you can ship [the old pair] back to us and we will give you a $50 credit towards a new pair.”

You can either first buy a new Ace Marks shoe and then send back your old pair within 30 days, or you can first send back your old pair and then buy a new pair after you receive the coupon code. For complete details, see Ace Marks’ buyback program terms and conditions online.

Ace Marks donates those old shoes to Career Gear, an NGO that provides services to assist men with re-entering the workforce.

More innovations to come

I asked Julian to describe what’s next for Ace Marks. He outlined for me upcoming “weekly drops” and a custom shoe program:

Ace Marks weekly drops

“One of the things we are working on now are weekly drops. We plan on releasing new limited edition styles on a weekly basis. These weekly drops will be in a made to order format which means they will also come at reduced pricing.

“Creating these styles in small batches and releasing them in a made to order format allows us to release more unique styles that many other companies would now be able to release.

“An example of this are woven shoes. Ace Marks recently release a few select styles of woven dress shoes which is something some of our customers have been asking for since they could not find quality woven dress shoes anywhere.”

Ace Marks custom dress shoe program

“We are also planning on releasing custom dress shoe program that will allow you to design your own patinas and color concepts that our team of artisans will bring to life for you.

“We are very excited about this program, which will allow you to be the designer and bring even your more wild concepts to life. This process will allow you to wear something that is truly one of a kind.”

Verdict: Ace Marks unique dress shoes are worth the splurge.

Ace Marks shoes are an outstanding value-for-money given their quality of materials, craftsmanship and comfort. While they’re not cheap, I’ve found Ace Marks’ affordable luxury wingtips to be extremely comfortable, thanks to the flexible Blake stitching, proprietary last and soft leather, and I love how the rich colors and hand burnishing make their shoes stand out.


About Jake

Jake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age.  Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and/or fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.

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