Review: The Lure of Oliver Cabell’s Affordable-Luxury Driving Shoes

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Explore why Oliver Cabell’s comfortable, affordable luxury driving shoes might deserve a place in your shoe closet in this review.

Should driving shoes have a place in your closet?

I have long liked the look of driving shoes.

Driving shoes, aka driving loafers, driving mocs, car shoes, and drivers, are a close cousin to the moccasin — soft, casual and unstructured — but also contain a series of rubber grommets that stretch from the sole’s toe up along the heel.

Driving shoes started out as distinctly Italian, distinctly luxurious, and distinctly expensive.

Italian entrepreneur Gianni Mostile invented the original Car Shoe in 1963.

Fellow Italian entrepreneur Diego Della Valle developed a similar shoe in 1979, the gommino, for his emerging luxury brand, Tod’s and marketed the shoe to an American audience.

“Driver’s are a great casual-yet-elevated option in a guy’s wardrobe,” Oliver Cabell Founder and CEO Scott Gabrielson told me. He added, “worn best without socks, drivers are a necessity to have in a guy’s footwear arsenal.”

I agree with Scott, though, today, Tod’s gomminos can cost nearly $500, while the Original Car Shoe, now owned by Prada, fetch around $350.

Yikes.

About Oliver Cabell: Affordable Luxury and Zero Branding

Enter Oliver Cabell.

Oliver Cabell is a direct-to-consumer (DTC) e-commerce brand specializing in affordable luxury shoes and sneakers for men and women.

Their shoes aren’t cheap, but they utilize the same kinds of high-end materials and techniques as traditional luxury brands at a fraction of the cost.

Oliver Cabell is a particularly good option for classic, low-top leather sneakers for men: I rely heavily on my pair of navy blue GAT sneakers on weekends and work-from-home walks.

OC also recently dropped the Court, an iconic low-top leather sneaker for minimalists.

One of the things that I really admire about Oliver Cabell is its zero-branding philosophy.

While other companies prominently splash their logos on everything from polo shirts to the sides of sneakers, Oliver Cabell does not include branding on its shoes and sneakers.

Before jumping in to this review, one disclosure: Oliver Cabell provided a pair of drivers at no cost to Modern Fellows.

Introducing Oliver Cabell’s drivers

Oliver Cabell’s recently-released drivers are an entree into refined casual footwear for men.

Scott told me that, “we’re looking to be the go-to brand for men’s footwear and fill the voids they may have in their closet.”

He added that, “drivers are a style essential, so we knew we would eventually make them,” and that “we didn’t see any great brands offering quality drivers at a great price.”

Scott mentioned that it took his team quite a bit longer than expected to get the right partners on board.

“We partnered with the best Italian tanneries and, after months of pleading, we secured the best driver factory in Europe,” he said. They are also partnering with artisans in Portugal to hand stitch and last their drivers.

He also highlighted that, “because we are direct to consumer focused we are able to offer them below $150, at a much better value than any high quality competitors on the market.”

Reviewing my experience with Oliver Cabell’s driving shoes

Scott told me that his first goal was “a minimal but casual aesthetic.”

Other companies out there make super-colorful shoes in bright shades of blue, red, yellow and green, perfect for bestowing even more attention for someone getting behind the wheel of a Ferrari.

Oliver Cabell’s drivers currently come in more muted tones of chestnut (pictured), slate, sand and navy.

The high-end materials feel terrific. The upper, made from suede leather sourced from Marche, Italy, combines with the rubber outsole, Italian calfskin leather and microfoam footbed, and Italian calfskin leather lining to produce a remarkably comfortable shoe.

For a shoe that is intentionally soft and unstructured, my drivers feel sturdy and have held their shape well.

As for how to style them, Scott highlighted the classic look of drivers worn with no-socks.

I agree that’s a good look, but the reality is that drivers don’t always have to be styled.

Oliver Cabell’s drivers fill a gap in my closet — a pair of comfortable-yet-stylish slip-ons for short drives and walks and everyday tasks.

Up until now, I’m embarrassed to admit (though not nearly as embarrassed as my wife) that I had been wearing a pair of 20-year-old sandals to drive to the post office and walk to the neighbor’s house. They are old and ugly.

Oliver Cabell’s drivers are infinitely more stylish and comfortable.

Drivers are not the first shoe I would choose for my arsenal — I’d start with a stylish dress shoe and a nice pair of low-top leather sneakers — but Oliver Cabell’s driving shoes are a smart choice for casual situations from backyard BBQs to everyday tasks.


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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