Should we have to sacrifice comfort for a sharp-looking dress shoe? I would hope not, but the reality is that the men’s dress shoe segment is full of old-school players making mostly the same dress shoe they were making 50 years ago. Heck, while the quality might be enhanced, dress shoes don’t look or feel that different than they did 100 years ago. Enter Amberjack.
We reviewed Amberjack’s dress shoes to determine whether they are as comfortable as they are stylish, and we are excited by what we found. Some of the other dress shoes aimed at comfort look a little too casual, but Amberjack shoes strike that all-important balance between comfort and professionalism.
Amberjack Shoes: Professional Design Meets Comfort
Amberjack’s Original model makes a solid first impression. Online pictures show a handsome shoe, but it is hard to fully appreciate until you hold an Amberjack Original in your hand. The craftsmanship and quality are second to none. The Grade A leather is beautiful and soft, and the design strikes the perfect balance between sharp and understated.
Perhaps the most significant part of the design is that the shoe features a comfortable, athletic-like TPU outsole that still looks like a dress shoe. Other prominent brands have done something similar, but they decided to accentuate the athletic sole to make it look like a designer created a mash-up of a running shoe and a dress shoe. In specific business casual environments, this is fine, but in many professional settings, the mash-up shoe is still frowned upon in some circles.
The Amberjack Original is the perfect balance of comfort and style that will work in the low-key tech environment or a prominent lawyer’s office. Heck, the founder worked at McKinsey, a high-end consulting firm, and developed the shoe because he was dissatisfied with the available options for what he could wear to the office. No professional shoe prioritized comfort in a professional way, so he created Amberjack. And we are glad that he did.
But are the shoes really that comfortable? Absolutely. I haven’t given the dual-density outsole enough credit yet. A proprietary TPU similar to that used in athletic shoes is positioned on the front of the shoe where the ball of your foot takes significant impact, but a stiffer material sits toward the back of the shoe to provide proper support. It’s a great combination that will keep your feet feeling fresh.
The shoe also features cutting-edge arch support that is heat-activated. Heat-activated? Yep. Heat Activated. The foam is similar to memory foam, like many pillows and bed-tops, but it’s more durable and will provide support all day long. As your foot emanates heat, the foam will form perfectly to your foot. Impressive stuff.
Top all of this off with uber soft buck-skin lining, and the Amberjack Original features everything you’ve ever dreamed of in a dress shoe. I’ve gone through seemingly dozens of professional shoes in my time, and these are my favorite dress shoes I have ever owned.
Are Amberjack Shoes Sustainable?
While the shoes aren’t made from merino wool like Allbirds, or recycled bottles like other leading shoe brands, Amberjacks are still made with sustainability in mind. And let’s be honest, if they were made from merino wool or recycled plastic bottles, they wouldn’t be professional-looking dress shoes anyway.
Still, Amberjack makes every attempt to do right by the world. How so? Amberjack is the first known dress shoe company to go 100% carbon neutral. Once again, impressive stuff. Beyond carbon neutrality, the Amberjack team sources the Grade-A leather from an ISO-certified tannery (part of the vertically integrated supply chain!). They also make their shoes in a fair wage factory and avoid any plastic in their packaging.
We appreciate that many of the new kids on the block operate with sustainability and responsibility in mind, and Amberjack leads the way in that regard. They pursue quality in everything they do. Amberjack is a young company showing the old guard how it should be done, crafting their shoes from the best materials and technology and utilizing the most sustainable and responsible business practices.
One thing worth mentioning is that the website suggests that you order a 1/2 size smaller than you would typically order because the Amberjack Originals run big. I usually wear a size 9.5 but ordered a size 9 as suggested, even though I was a little worried I would end up with a too snug shoe. It turns out that their guidance was spot on. The size 9 fit well, and my toes even had some wiggle room to spare.
Overall, this isn’t a big deal, but when you buy a pair of Amberjack Originals, be sure to review their internal sizing guidance, so you get a well-fitting pair of shoes in the mail.
Are Amberjack Shoes Worth It?
The first time we glanced at an Amberjack Original, we saw a handsome dress shoe similar to other dress shoes. Wow, were we underestimating it. There is nothing about this professional shoe that is anything like the countless other pairs of dress shoes in my closet. In fact, my immediate reaction to wearing my Amberjack Original was that I need to order a second pair in black.
The outsole alone has more innovation and thoughtful design built-in than nearly any other shoe in our closet, dress shoe or not. And the leather and buck-skin lining are very obviously made from higher-grade materials than many more expensive dress shoes on the market. The sole is both supportive and cushioning to step into, and the tongue seems to be made with more padding than most shoes. My Amberjack Originals are very comfortable to wear.SUMMARY PROS
- Comfortable design
- Limited options
- Premium leather and buck-skin lining
- Runs bigger than most standard sizing
- Innovative and comfortable sole
- Can be worn as a business professional shoe
- Can be worn as a business casual shoe
- Sustainable company focus
What Are The Most Comfortable Men’s Dress Shoes?
For better or worse, I’ve worn a ton of dress shoes. Before COVID happened, I spent more time in my professional shoes than any other footwear I owned. Coming out of COVID, I intend to dress a little more comfortable around the office, but that doesn’t mean I plan to sacrifice style or professionalism.
While there are a wide variety of dress shoes on the market, including those with premium quality, there are few shoe brands that even consider comfort in any profound way. The ones that consider comfort can come across as a little gimmicky, or worse, they sacrifice any sense of style and professionalism in exchange for comfort. We genuinely believe Amberjack is the best combination of style and comfort on the market, but there are a few key things to consider.
It might be ubiquitous, but a Johnston & Murphy loafer is probably not your best choice. We generally shy away from anything with a rubber sole. There are four main factors to consider when deciding the best shoe for you: comfort, professional appearance, quality, and price. Based on our research and experience, Amberjack is the best combination of these qualities, so let’s explore why we came to this conclusion.
But what are the biggest differences between the brands? Let’s take a deep dive to determine how Amberjack stacks up against the old guard. Each brand has their own strengths and weaknesses, but we think you will be surprised how well Amberjack compares to more established brands.
Amberjack vs. Cole Haan
Before Amberjack was around, I wore Cole Haan shoes for years. They fit a middle ground in the men’s footwear market that meets my needs and personality. They make high-quality shoes sold at reasonable prices, and they sell handsome shoes that still have a little character.
While that personality is a welcome difference at times, it borders on loud, and some of their selections might be frowned on in a traditional office setting. To be sure, their line-up includes shoes with timeless style, but where they have tried to create high-performing and comfortable dress shoes, things have gotten a little weird. In the same way that early electric vehicles were purposely designed to look eccentric compared to traditional cars, Cole Haan’s shoes with athletic soles at times accentuate the athletic sole more than is necessary.
Cole Haan’s leather shoes are nice, to be sure, but the leather quality is a grade or two below the Grade-A leather uppers that Amberjack is utilizing. Cole Haan does have knit shoes which might work well on a casual Friday or in a highly low-key office setting. Still, it is hard to beat the professionalism, style, and durability of premium leather found on Amberjack.In my mind, Cole Haan is Amberjack's most direct competition. Still, Amberjack's comfort features are more advanced, such as with the dual-density sole or heat-activated arches, and the brand has designed its shoes to versatility fit in a boardroom or a casual business environment. With the Amberjack Original, you have a higher-quality shoe that is more versatile and comparably priced.
Amberjack is still a new company with limited selections, so the most apparent difference between Amberjack and Cole Haan, or any of its competitors, is that the competition will offer more products in a range of styles. If you are specifically looking for bit loafers, double monk strap shoes, or shoes that fit in any other number of trends, then Cole Haan would be worth considering.
If you are looking for a professional yet comfortable shoe to wear to the office, we prefer the Amberjack Original to any of Cole Haan’s shoes. Amberjack’s leather is a noticeably superior material that feels soft and looks luxurious.
Amberjack vs. Allen Edmonds
Like Cole Haan, Allen Edmonds has an extensive line-up of product offerings and styles. They sell every kind of men’s shoe you can think of, from boat shoes to boots to dress shoes. In the man’s world of luxury fashion, Allen Edmonds fills the everyday luxury category. It is accessible for the upper-middle-class business professional, but the budget-conscious might choose an alternative brand and product. The frequently used leather soles aren’t exactly the most comfortable either.
While Allen Edmonds is a strong competitor because of its brand recognition and reputation, their shoes cost two to three times what the Amberjack Originals cost and they don’t have many of the comfort-focused products that Amberjack has. Allen Edmonds sells premium shoes with high-end leather, but Amberjack can offer its shoes at a lower price point because of the vertically integrated supply chain that sources leather from top tanneries.
Allen Edmonds makes a beautiful pair of leather shoes. They have high-quality footwear design and are a staple in many men’s wardrobes for formal occasions, but where they excel in professional appearance in quality, they lack in comfort and value. They are also not the most versatile dress shoes. If you spend much time on your feet, you would realize this soon.
Amberjack vs. Beckett Simonon
Beckett Simonon is also a cool brand worth mentioning, but they fill a different niche in the men’s shoe industry. They are probably best known for manufacturing shoes as they are ordered and providing updates to customers along the way. They are reasonably priced dress shoes made from high-quality materials, and like the other brands, they have an impressive line-up of shoes that even includes sneakers.
That said, Beckett Simonon isn’t focused on performance comfort. They make handsome dress shoes, but if you are looking for office shoes that fit in the intersection of style and comfort, Amberjack is still the way to go. Beckett Simonon has top-notch materials and shoe construction, but if you currently are dissatisfied with sore feet on long days, then it’s time to try something new.
Amberjack vs. Wolf & Shepherd
In many ways, Wolf & Shepherd is very much like Amberjack. Wolf & Shepherd makes men’s dress shoes designed to incorporate advanced athletic shoe technology alongside fine Italian leathers. Sounds familiar, right? The company was founded by former Division I athletes, and so not surprisingly, the shoes look great, but like Cole Haan’s shoes, they accentuate the athletic look. There’s no denying they have designed a comfortable and forward-looking shoe. Still, they may be overstated at times, and Amberjack’s technology is just as impressive.
It’s tough to avoid compromising between comfort, professional styling, quality, and price. In most instances, you would assume something has to give. Certainly Wolf & Shepherd meet a few of these attributes but struggle to find the right balance of all four characteristics. Not only are they a little more expensive than Amberjacks, but their comfort-first shoes would be too casual and taboo in most offices. Again here, Amberjack leads the way impressively.
Developing The Perfect Men’s Dress Shoe
The shoe business is a crowded space, so it takes a brave soul to take it head-on, but Amberjack’s direct-to-consumer model gives it a distinct advantage. While most shoe companies are focused on cutting costs, Amberjack doesn’t have to pay the middle man, enabling Amberjack to invest in quality and innovation. It’s reminiscent of Casca, our favorite casual footwear brand.
Beyond cutting out the middleman, Amberjack has a vertically integrated supply chain which enables the brand to offer unmatched value to its customers. Amberjack shoes feature 100% A-grade full-grain leather, which the company can provide because Amberjack has partnered directly with one of the world’s leading tanneries. Other dress shoes featuring such high-quality leather are around twice the price, so the shoes are an excellent value for consumers.
Of course, there are similar direct-to-consumer brands out there, but we are betting Amberjacks will rise to the top because of the superior quality and because of their savvy leadership team. John Peters founded the company after six years of consulting with footwear and apparel companies at McKinsey. And the company’s list of advisors features former executives and designers from such well-respected brands as Cole Haan, Allen Edmonds, Coach, and Adidas.
Amberjack Review: The Verdict
If you spend much time wearing dress shoes, purchasing a pair of Amberjack Originals is a no-brainer investment. They will be unlike any pair of dress shoes you have ever owned. They combine athletic-purposed technology and comfort with a professional-looking design in a manner no other men’s shoe company has been able to accomplish.
The Amberjacks team clearly gives proper attention to every detail, and they avoid cutting corners and costs at your expense. The Amberjack team designed and built a shoe that they wanted to wear to the office, and we are confident you will want to do the same. We highly recommend purchasing a pair of Amberjack Originals today.
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