Welcome back to the Elegant Oxford for another entry in our review series where I unbox, review, and recommend brands I believe are worth your consideration. 

TLB Mallorca Main Line vs Artista The Elegant Oxford Preston Soto

Today We’re relooking at one of my absolute favorite brands: TLB Mallorca. Now I’ve looked at a lot of amazing brands so far in the review series, across a variety of price ranges, so I hope nobody here thinks I’m being pejorative in making healthy comparisons because other brands I’ve looked at do offer unique, worthwhile entires you can’t find anywhere else but by in large, TLB Mallorca represents one of the best, if not the best price to quality ratio in this particular range and at this cost. 

 

Last time we looked at TLB, I reviewed the 110 wingtip Oxford from the Artista line, which I absolutely loved so if you haven’t seen that review here is the link to the video: TLB 110 wingtip Oxford from the Artista line 

 

Today we’re looking at the main entry line, with another special quest appearance from the Artista line, so we can look at the differences between both and look at what they offer. 

Let’s start with “The Orson” which is a balmoral Oxford boot from the main line. 

 

Now let’s start with one of my favorite parts of this special make up that I ordered and that’s the dark brown museum calf skin. 

 

For those who are unfamiliar with Museum calf, it is drum dyed leather, meaning it’s tanned from the factory with this intricate and stunning marbling design which I absolutely love. It looks so regal and rich but still completely classy since I am aware that patinas are not everyone’s cup of tea. 

 

I love dark brown museum the best, although it comes in different shades like Burgundy and light brown which also look unbelievable. It recently came into some serious popularity and I really don’t see it going away anytime soon. 

The Elegant Oxford TLB Artista

The Orson is a balmoral Oxford boot which means it features a seem that runs to the back of the boot here, which separates the lower of the boot from the shaft. For a shoe or a boot to qualify as a balmoral, it must have this Horizontal seem as opposed to Oxfords boots which look very similar but don’t quality as proper balmorals. Not trying to be pedantic it’s just some info for those who are wondering. In the untied states the terms are often used interchangeably. 

 

 There’s some nice broguing along the seem which gives the Orson some nice flair and versatility overall. This boot can definitely be dressed up with slacks and even a casual suit or even dressed down with chinos or even dark wash jeans and a button up but I wouldn’t go any more casual than that personally

 

The boots feature 8 eyelets with 2 speed hooks although if you opt for a custom boot like I did you can actually change the number all the way to four, which I think is great because I know some people really prefer speed hooks. We have an elegant swan neck design also which is my personal favorite on Oxfords. 

 

The Orson is a cap toe boot with broging along the front seem and a very beautiful and intricate toe medallion that is also interchangeable to your liking, as part of the custom option with TLB, so I decided on this less than common variant which I think looks great on this style. If you opt for a custom design you can choose your toe medallion and even what type of leather you get so I decided on brown Museum calf. 

 

The boots are built on the Alan last but as I’ve already mentioned a custom boot will allow you to alter the last if you’d like, which I think is a great option. It’s just a really beautiful last overall with an elongated yet classic design and a soft chiseled toe with some beautiful raised contours at the front. It’s really just a stunning looking boot which rides a fine line between elegant and bad boy if I’m being honest. 

 

Everything looks perfectly stitched and clean so I’m really impressed with how good the work is here. 

 

Now let’s head downward and as always TLB has hit it out of the park with very smooth and cleaned edges with rounded waists that transition to stark flat edges, giving the shoe a modest flair here from the waist to the forefront. Very solid and missed by a lot of brands but it really accentuates the proportions of the shoe and leads the eye forward to the front. 

 

For those wondering I opted for a double Oak Sole and I usually do that on all my shoes because I like a more robust look but that’s just a personal taste so it’s an FYI for those who like how it looks. 

 

Now down to the sole. We have JR oak bark ground tanned soles, which I think are pretty much the standard on a well built shoe and and this is another option for those who go custom with TLB. 

 

Now if a custom option only gave you J.R. Soles it would still be worth it but you also get to really customize your shoe all included for the same price, so it’s absolutely worth it in my book. 

 

Now I went ahead and had my friend John Farrington from Tim‘s shoe repair add brass triumph toe plates but I know TLB also offers lulu toe plates if you inquire about it so it’s an Option for anyone who likes them. I think since the toe pretty much wears out before any other part of the sole, toe plates are absolutely necessary in my book. 

 

Now here’s where the Artista line and the normal line differ. The main entry line features a 2 1/2 inch waist while the Artista line features a 2 inch waist with more aggressive beveling. Even still, a 2 1/2 inch waist is very narrow and very impressive, I mean I really wish I could show you how small that is but 2 1/2 inches is very fine work. I guess this is the only time in your life where smaller is better. Work like this is simply not found at this price range so TLB is an excellent way to afford quality work and fine details like these even in the main line. 

TLB Mallorca The Elegant Oxford Saphir MDO

Since I opted for a custom design, which is only slightly more expensive, both models from the Artista and main line feature museum calf, thus I cannot speak to differences in leather quality but since I always recommend a custom design with TLB, you can choose whether leather type you’d like including leather type (be it museum, old English, vegano), sole type (JR, or rubber, single or double oak, last, toe medallion, or you can even mix and match to get suede and leather designs like this. Totally worth going custom at  under $100 extra since JR soles usually cost $120 to resole a shoe with anyway. 

 

Of course we have a full leather heel stack and  very purposeful and stark welt fudging, which is always a sign of detailed quality and an impressive 7 stitches per inch on the welt. 

 

Now the 135 split toe derbie from the Artista line I chose, comes in dark brown museum calf like the boots but Toni was kind and generous enough to send me a pair in a beautiful burgundy shade to look at and compare. 

 

Now I have never been a fan of split toe derbies I’ll just say that right now but as time has gone on, I’ve stated to really appreciate them for what they are. I’d say it’s accurate to admit that split toe derbies aren’t as poplar as more mainstream styles like Oxfords but I’ve noticed how versatile they can truly be dressed up or down and now I’m a huge fan of them. They aren’t as formal as Oxfords and are less “threatening” due to their inconspicuous nature and design, which is really desirable in certain situations were you don’t want your shoes to be too loud for lack of a better phrase. 

 

Now for those who don’t know what split toe derby is, this seam that runs down the front of the toe area here is what designates the split  for which the shoe is named after. Sometimes they’re called Norwegian toes because some people believe this style originated there. 

 

As you can see, this particular seem was done using  reverse skin stitching, which humorously enough means exactly how it sounds, this seam is formed because you are seeing the reverse side of the stitched seam. It’s a unique look that gives the shoe an added element of sophistication and aesthetic appeal.  

 

Now as I’ve alluded to already, This leather flap that goes over the top of the vamp is called the apron and on the Velasquez, this area of this shoe is actually sewn

By hand, which is really amazing and it’s very solid work, everything looks perfectly stitched and even. It’s just another added area of fine shoemaking which always makes me happy. 

 

Remember, while a machine can arguably do anything an Artisan’s hands can do, I always prefer and enjoy seeing as many fine details as possible. As time has gone on, I’ve come to highly respect brands that perpetuate fine shoemaking into the future by remembering to include small fine details that may not objectively aid construction but are nevertheless important. This is one of the main reasons why I’ve come to like TLb so much. These fine details are considered standard with TLB and significantly Aid in producing a fine shoe for the price. 

 

The Velasquez last is elegant and forward thinking but it’s tastefully contoured in just the right areas with an almond shaped toe to really make this derby stand out from the rest 

 

I know this probably goes without saying but for those who are not familiar with what makes a derbie different than an Oxford, this open lacing system as opposed to closed lacing,  gives the shoe a less formal paradigm to work with but that’s not a bad thing at all, I think it’s really up to the wearer to determine which is appropriate for the circumstance. Sometimes Oxfords are just not the right call. Remember, intelligent dressers know that standing out in a bad way is never good idea. Clothing and shoes are merely tools for you to use, don’t let tools end up calling the shots

TLB Mallorca The Elegant Oxford Saphir MDO Preston Soto

Let’s head down to the welt and edges which are built to the same great standard as usual. 

Here’s the 2 inch beveled waist, which I think is one of the main selling points or the Artista line. The beveling continues fully under the heel for added support which is a feature you don’t see until you really get high into the upper echelons of shoe making.  

 

Now, I know I’ve aroused some discontent with some members of the shoe community (I’ve read the comments) since I contend that TLB competes with brands at a much higher price point and I continue to stand by that assessment, since TLB includes certain details and elements into their design that in my opinion are required for quality shoe making that more expensive brands omit

 

Now I don’t wish to be misunderstood, I’m not saying that TLB is better than all brands at a higher price point, since that seems to be a misunderstanding incorrectly attributed to me on some forums going around at the moment, what I am saying is that TLB is a really capable competitor, since some very popular name brands that cost double or triple the price do not offer double or triple the quality over TLB (although they do offer higher quality in some areas like leather grades) but in other areas of design, despite the price increase, TLB absolutely dominates them. 

 

For example, $1000 will get you better and higher quality leather on your shoe, But is slightly higher quality leather worth triple the cost? That’s a question only you can answer i just want to make sure that we can have a discussion about what constitutes a well made quality shoe  in relation to cost in today’s market. 

 

TLB’s no slouch here, they offers excellent full grain calfskin from world renowned tanneries and moreover their museum

Calf is sourced from the exact same

Place John Lobb sources theirs. 

 

 

What I’m saying is that leather quality isn’t really the issue at hand here, the heart of my argument is: are you getting an adequate return for that triple cost of the shoe, especially considering that some brands in this higher cost range do not offer fine details that TLB includes for far less, like a 2 inch beveled waist. Fine details like that should really be standard on any shoe that costs around $1000 in my Opinion. 

 

As shoes get more expensive you’ll see a diminishing return on your investment, meaning shoes that cost $1500 may not necessarily offer much higher quality than a good $850 shoe (I’m generalizing of course as an example), which leads me to continue to argue that TLB is one of the best price to quality ratios out there. $400-$500 will get you really far here. 

 

If you’re going be spending $1,000+ you should probably aim for a Handwelted shoe with a fiddle back waist. I wouldn’t settle for a goodyear welted shoe for $1200 that doesn’t even have at minimum a beveled waist at that price point. Of course you’re totally free to disagree, I have no problem with different views, this is just my argument in favor of the aforementioned.