October 23, 2019 by Ville Raivio
Carlos Santos is a Portuguese shoe factory that was founded in 1942. Santos himself began the gentle craft of shoemaking, aged 14, at Zarco, a factory he was able to buy for himself in 2002. The factory is in São João da Madeira, a town known in Portugal as Capital do Calçado, capital of shoes, as the area has a concentration of shoemaking similar to Northampton in England. After purchasing the premises, his name began to appear on the factory’s pairs. Still, at the beginning at Zarco, he helped out at accounting but was not pleased to work with papers. When there was time enough, the young Carlos slipped away from the offices to visit the packing area or the factory floor to gaze at shoes. It turned out that designing and making shoes was the thing.
Today the maker is specialised in Goodyear-welted men’s footwear as well as patinas developed in-house. Their less expensive pairs have Blake-stitched soles. For the latter, CS uses crust leathers which are dyed from scratch. Carlos Santos was not very well-known up until the 2010s, when the maker began to reach more retailers and was marketed better. CS previously concentrated on well-priced men’s shoes for other companies, made at the Santos factory in Portugal but marked with the names of others. The factory favours French and Italian calfskins for uppers, and the designs are classic but there’s also room for experimentation. CS pairs have leather insoles, full cork fillers, leather board heel stiffeners, celastic toe stiffeners in their regular lineup. Today Carlos Santos produces over 70 000 pairs of shoes each year, most of them private label work for client companies.
Today’s example pair comes courtesy of Pediwear’s own Edward&James lineup. The range is the culmination of the owners’ 40+ years in shoe business, and offers many models not available elsewhere. The Wyer model, a clean cap toe derby boot, sports the Braga patina developed by Santos — and it really is the highlight. I call the design clean as there are no exceptions from the lines of a classic cap toe boot, and the proportions of the pieces are swell. Coming to think of it, the plain design only highlights the patina better. The Braga colouring is dark brown at the tip of the toe, medium brown around stitching, and mottled, light brown elsewhere. It looks superb and interesting. Only time will tell how the colours age and how they stay in the leather, though.
As part of the Carlos Santos service, retailers can have their pairs made up how they like. In Pediwear’s case, the boots have rubber soles along with the patina, and the oddly named last Z333. The last has a regular round toe, but it has a beautiful sculpted shape that rounds downwards. The edges are shaped roundly as well, but it’s the heel that has the most aggressive shape. The fit of the last is eccentric: the width on the toe is narrow enough to demand half a size larger than what I usually wear, but there is volume elsewhere so the sock must be a thicker one. The shape of the boot is more on the casual than dressy side. The boots are part of Pediwear’s four new models launched this autumn.
The stitching is clean, the finish good, and I must also mention the pull tab. It’s the best one I’ve handled: it quickly returns to its upward shape, doesn’t have ugly logos, and feel smooth and firm. Too many factories overlook the humble pull tab! The speed hooks have been treated to look somewhat worn, and the boots arrive with a bright factory polish. The one thing I would change in this pair is the width of the welt, which is on the wider side. If it only were narrower, the front part of the boots wouldn’t look so heavy, and the 360-degree welt also makes the heel look wider. All in all, Carlos Santos is among my favourites in the + 300 euro price range. I hold this opinion after having tried other Santos shoes as well in store. The factory offers beautiful patinas, clean designs, and handsome lasts which combine to make their shoes look more expensive than they are.