The Grand from Baudoin & Lange: Review

Monday, March 4th 2019
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At the beginning of this year, Allan Baudoin and Bo Langeveld introduced their first fundamentally new design since the Sagan in 2016.

Allan’s initial concept was a winter Sagan, which makes sense given how dependent the soft, open, low-soled Sagan is on warm (or at least dry) weather.

However, for me the new shoe – the Grand – is not so much a winter shoe as a dress one. It has the same shape and aims as the Sagan, but is more of a smart loafer.

That does mean it can be worn more of the year than its predecessor, but it’s still a light, slim-soled slip-on.

Indeed, the sole was originally to be just cemented (glued) to the upper rather than stitched, although the current model is now Blake-stitched.

But enough of the back story. The new Grand (pronounced the English way, not the French) is competing in a much bigger market than the plain Sagan. There are hundreds of loafers out there, in a full array of constructions, leathers, shapes and places of manufacture.

Is the Grand sufficiently different to those? Does it stand apart as much as the Sagan did from other Belgian loafers?

First, let’s look at the materials. The slim leather sole is high quality, but not that different to other good loafers.

The upper leather, made from Italian baby calf, is more distinct. It is more supple than that used by traditional shoemakers. But at the same time, it is higher quality than the mainstream Italian loafers you’d associate with this kind of soft, flexible slip-on.

That’s because it is a real baby calf leather (in an age when ‘calves’ are getting bigger every year, thanks to growth hormones).

So the upper sits between two worlds.

The footbed, though, is perhaps most different of all.

It was interesting talking to Allan about the dozens of different footbed manufacturers he looked at – often going from booth to booth at trade shows. I was also lucky enough to try several of them out, as the Grand developed.

Footbeds for sports shoes are supportive and breathe well, but are thick. Those designed for orthopaedics are often cheap and rarely breathe well. The ones made for dress shoes are slim and last well, but usually have little consideration of support or cushioning.

The supplier Allan eventually selected seems to have aspects of all three. If you look at it in the shoe, the curved support around the heel and cushioning are clearly different from a regular dress shoe. But it’s also slim and breathes well.

It is this quality point that most clearly separates the Grand from those cheaper flexible loafers, whether the Italians or more recent brands like Harry’s.

All this makes the Grand rather expensive. It’s £480, which is a lot of money for a Blake-stitched shoe.

But this is a similar approach to the Sagan: taking one particular category of shoe (here the comfort-driven, flexible loafer) and maximising the material quality.

For me, it’s the kind of loafer to consider if you already buy Edward Green shoes for around £1000 - not if you usually buy Crockett & Jones for under £500.

One way in which the quality comes across is polishing.

The Grand's tight-grained baby calf means it can be polished to something approximating a mirror shine, which is not the case with cheaper loafers. (Indeed, they often coat their uppers to make them look shiny, knowing polish won’t be able to achieve the same effect.)

However, shoe fans will know that the internal structure of the shoe is also crucial to being able to polish. It’s why you can’t keep a polish on the vamp of a shoe, but can on the toe or heel.

Here is perhaps Allan’s biggest change to a regular loafer. The extra layer of leather inside the toe of a shoe, and the lining itself, have both been cut away at the sides of the shoe around the joints.

This allows the shoe to be more flexible and comfortable, yet retain the look of a dress shoe.

In a previous iteration of the Grand, the structure and lining were also cut away from the top of the shoe, over the toes. That was very comfortable, but it meant that area wrinkled and would not polish, making it look much more casual.

Allan’s original structuring solution seems to be a nice point in between.

In answer to my earlier question, of whether the Grand is as different as the Sagan, I’d probably say no.

The Grand has more innovation, but it’s subtle and technical. There are more shoes trying to achieve similar things, and there won’t be the ‘wow’ moment that people often had when they first felt the softness of Sagans.

But the Grand is genuinely different, and has a bigger potential market. If sold well, it may eventually become more popular than the Sagan.

From a personal point of view, I’ve found the Grand fits me better than any other ready-made loafer, but still isn’t great.

I’ve learnt from long experience that loafers rarely fit my thin ankle and wide joints. Anything that holds the ankle is too small for the toes, while and I slip out of anything that’s comfortable at the front.

The sheer stretchiness of Sagans made that easier (though I still probably need the back of a 42 and the front of a 43).

The Grand fits better than any other loafer, largely due to the footbed. Its cupping of the heel seems to make that stay in place better, and its thinness at the front provides more space for the toes.

But it’s still not a great fit, and won’t be something I’ll be able to walk around in all day.

Most others won’t have my problem though. For them, I highly recommend trying the Grand, particularly if they place a high value on comfort.

Just don’t see it as comparable to a Northampton oxford at the same price. Rather, it should be compared to a similarly high-spec Blake-stitched or cemented shoe, such as the Gaziano & Girling Fresco line.

The Grand is currently available on the Baudoin & Lange website in dark oak (pictured), oxblood, black and chestnut. And you can see them in their shop, open on Sunday or weekdays on appointment - 7 Ezra Street E27RH, Columbia Road Market. 

They will be in some department stores later in the year. 

Photography: James Holborow for Baudoin & Lange.

Also pictured on me:

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Bob

I think this post had so much information that there were no questions left to ask!

Personally it’s really good to know how these compare to all the other shoes in the market, and interesting to hear how Baudoin were trying to do something different

Jason

I bought a pair of the originals – on your recommendation- and they are the most uncomfortable shoes I own.
Consequently I’ve no desire to repeat the mistake with a leather version !

Will.

Hello Simon,

Thank you for all your great content!

I have a question that is rather off topic, but on something you have covered previously, albeit 10 years ago.

https://www.permanentstyle.com/2009/06/double-breasted-harmony-v-balance.html

What do you think of cuffs (and pleats) on trousers for a Double Breasted suit now?

I am asking this, as I have started the process of having a double breasted suit made. My tailor advised me to go for cuffs and pleats on the trousers of the DB suit. However, upon looking online, I have found various pictures of very stylish gentlemen, yourself and Hugo Jacomet for example, wearing DB suits without cuffs. Furthermore, one of my major inspirations for trying my hand at double breasted in the first place, the suits in the Kingsman movies lack cuffs and pleats on the trousers as well.

I’d love to hear your opinion on the trouser cuff/pleats for the DB suit in 2019.

Thank you.

Will.

Anonymous

And if you do have pleats, they should be forward.

Lynn

And why is that?

Silvio

I received my pair of Grand’s a few weeks ago, and they are stunningly comfortable. I was already a frequent wearing of their original Sagan but this model provides more formality for me.

Lee

For someone that makes quite long days in a formal office setting, I find the Grand extremely comfortable compared to any of my non-bespoke classic shoes. Certainly the most comfortable one of the bunch, but it’s impossible to beat a bespoke pair of shoes of course (different price as well)

MFP

Those flannel trousers look lovely. What fabric was used?

MFP

Thank you for the fast response 🙂

Adam

I had to go one size up actually from the unlined loafer, but find them an excellent fit with my average D/E width. I found that they do need a few hours of light wearing in as oppose to a more instant fit of the unlined Sagan as they are more constructed

David

Hi Simon, could you perhaps elaborate on your view that this is “the kind of loafer to consider if you already buy Edward Green shoes for around £1000 – not if you usually buy Crockett & Jones for under £500”. As someone who would generally be in the latter camp I’d be interested to know more about the rationale. Thank you.

David

thanks, understood, especially on the durability point. On the other hand, arguably you’re effectively getting the quality of a £1000+ EG shoe for half the price 🙂

CJ

Hi may I check if you had to size up from the normal sagans? I tried both in the same size; the suede sagans feel more forgiving and expandable with wear but because the grand is in leather, it doesnt feel like it would. I have returned both but am interested to get one in the future

Anonymous

When you say that the Grand is not particularly durable, which part is likely to go first? According to the website, the Grands (unlike the Classics) can be resoled. Is that likely to be a good solution or would some other part of the shoe go first?

Also, how much do you think a rubber sole would help in terms of expanding the longevity?

Kev Fidler

Simon, in terms of a loafer casual in style and something for wearing all day on travel I was interested in your reference to Harry’s. I like the look of their flat heeled versions but am wary of the price especially if compared to say, C&J. Previously in a long distant post I think you rather dismissed Harry’s as being style over substance. Have you changed your opinion or would you recommend another make?

Kev Fidler

Thank you, Simon. I am inclined to heed your advice about the Grand for EG customers as opposed to C&J though I do like the look of them. The problem with travelling shoes is perhaps frequency of wears over a few days or a week. You can alternate a couple of pairs but they can still receive quite a bashing on a longer trip.

Peter

Hi Simon – I think I have the same feet as you! Very narrow heel, but normal or even wide toes. Finding shoes can be difficult. Nothing from Alden or Carmina, for instance, and certainly no loafers. I have had success with one last in Allen Edmonds (108 – selection is limited) and Edward Green Dovers. Is there anything else you would recommend from your experience? Thank you.

Juan Huertas

Simon, curious to know how would you compare this in relation to the G&G Fresco you own. If you could only have one pair which would you choose? Thanks!

Lee

Hi Simon,

What are your thoughts on wholecut loafer in brown patina leather? Is it versatile enough to wear with suits as well as jeans? Will you recommend that or dark brown suede slippers from Baudoin>

Cheers

Ben

HI Simon

B&L claims the new Sagan Grand has a bull footbed with added arch support and thus i can stand for a longer time. Whats your user’s experience in this aspect?

shem

Hi simon, I recently tried an unlined suede LHS from alden when on holiday in japan and was smitten by how buttery soft and comfortable the shoe felt but was unable to find them in my size. Now that I’m back home (Singapore), I have tried searching online but face difficulties purchasing them in view that many stores do not ship aldens out of US. I my quest for unlined shoes, my second choice will be crockett and jones unlined ones. Can I ask if you have any experience with unlined shoes from both brands and if there is any difference? e.g. I heard C&J unlined shoes are stiffer and more pointy (not a good thing for me) than aldens.

Shem Teo

Hey Simon thanks. Can you elaborate on this difference? Of course I know the last and shape is different, which is quite obvious

Anonymous

Hi Simon, what do think about the sand suede sagan classic plain? It is quite a unique color but I am wondering how versatile it is? I can only think of pairing them with light / mid blue jeans but that’s pretty much it.

Anonymous

Thank you Simon. Would you say the dark green is close to the dark brown / navy in terms of versatility? The color seems more unique and modern to my eyes.

Paul

Hi Simon,

I’m trying to decide between the Grand Sagan and Anglo Italian’s Bradbourne (C&J). Can you offer any advice regarding the comparative quality and value for money of these two shoes? Many thanks.

Paul

Thanks Simon. You highlight something which I failed to mention and that is durability. I am looking for a shoe which can withstand more than just occasional, light usage and that I can wear for the next twenty years or so (with the correct care and maintenance). At the risk of sounding pejorative I think the Grand Sagan, as beautiful as it is, may be a little too fragile for my needs. Many thanks and I appreciate your input.

Anonymous

Could you clarify regarding the construction of the Sagan Classic and Sagan Grand? In your review of those two shoes, you indicated that they have very little construction or support (especially the classics) and had concern about the durability. But in a separate loo at you made about how Baudoin & Lange are now offering shoes for women, you had very favorable comments about the construction and support compared to, say, the typical woman’s ballet flat.

david

Hi Simon, I am considering buying either Sagan Classic Plain made of deerskin or Sagan Grand Penny. My left foot is somewhat bigger than the right one. Also, my feet are wider than average and these shoes come only in one width. Given that I live in a part of the world that’s still ravaged by the coronavirus and as such I am denied entry into the UK, my only option is to order them online which means I cannot try them on. What’s your suggestion?

Henry

Hello Simon, I have no choice but put off following your advice on buying Sagan loafers because (i) I am denied entry in the UK due to the corona epidemics and (ii) B&S loafers are not sold yet in the US. Are you familiar with John Lobb’s Thorne model (https://www.johnlobb.com/en_us/mens-shoes/thorne-rubber-sole) ? It has many of the features of Sagan Classic loafers and they sold in John Lobb’s show room in New York City. I would like to hear your opinion.

Alan

I’m late to this conversation but thought I’d addd in my observations. I have three pairs of Sagans, a pair of Ginkgos and Strides on order. But I also got the Grands in Burgundy.

Previously for a firmer loafer (I find the Sagans wonderful but flimsy due to total lack of structure, which is of course, why they are so blissfully comfortable). The Grands are a terrific compromise. I have four pairs of Lobb and Green loafers and much prefer the Grands. They have the same elegance and high quality leather that shines beautifully, but as Simon says, they hold better at the heel counter.

The Grands also feel a tad lighter than my Lobb Lopez or Green Dukes, butt o repeat, has the same elegant upscale look. They work with dress up or jeans, though for jeans, I think the Oak would be better than burgundy. But to summarize, I don’t have the fit issues Simon has and like these better than my Lobbs and Greens.

Nicolas Strömbäck

Hi Simon,

I am starting a new job soon, where I will be walking to work, about 30 mins one way. This has led me to consider buying new shoes for the purpose. Any recommendations in this regard? I have been thinking on Sagan Grands, Sagan Stride or something else in that category. Ideally they would work to dress up (with a suit) or down (with chinos). I also look at the Frescos in this article and like the look of them.

In general I would love to wear these types of unlined shoes all the time, but the climate in Sweden wont allow it. But certainly one would be able to Wear Sagans at least March-November?

Nicolas Strömbäck

This is what I suspected. Would G&G frescos be a better alternative? I am thinking also in terms of durability (even though I understand that these types of shoes are less durable than fully welted leather ones.

Anonymous

Hi Simon,
I really appreciate your attention to detail in this post. I’ve read all of your posts thus far on Baudoin and Lange and it seems like durability is a resounding concern. So given that these shoes may not be very durable, are they worth the price tag?
Also, can you explain the design differences between the Sagan Grand and Ginko? What is more suitable with casual clothing?

Anonymous

Simon,

Yes, I have, thank you for providing the link. What are the differences, both in construction and design, between the Sagan Grand and the Ginko? Again, do you find one is more suitable for casual wear?