Initial Impressions, J Crew Ludlow/Kenton, Stitched Footwear

J Crew Ludlow Penny Loafers: Still a Value King?


  • Price: $298 MSRP [No Longer Available]
  • Pros: High Quality Materials, Unbelievable Value
  • Cons: Questionable QC, Hard to Find



J Crew Ludlow Penny Loafer
J Crew Ludlow Penny Loafer

A few weeks ago, I posted a review of the J Crew Ludlow Tassel Loafers. We already covered the history of the brand over there, so we’ll stick to a quick introduction here. The real focus of that review, however, was the value you can get from the Ludlow line of shoes. Here we will see if the J Crew Ludlow Penny Loafers are more of the same.

Long story short: many – though not all – of the Ludlow brand shoes were made in the same factory, with many of the same materials, as Grant Stone. In fact, I said those tassel loafers might have been the best value in loafers that you could buy today.

However, not all of J Crew’s shoes are made in the same location or to the same standards. Does the penny loafer follow the same formula or were the others shoes a one and done?


Snuff Rapello in the Sun
The Color Changes in the Light

Out of the box, this pair was better presented than any other J Crew Shoe I’ve received. Each shoe came individually wrapped in plastic. Then held in place with a plastic strap. And, finally, covered with an individual shoe tree. On a suede shoe, this goes a long way in keeping the suede from rubbing in shipping. I guess these shoes are regularly bought and returned after people have taken these items, but it’s certainly a better unboxing experience if you’re the first one in there.


The upper of the shoe is entirely made of a very short cut suede in “snuff.” Snuff is a shade of brown just lighter than medium. While I generally prefer a longer haired suede, this is entirely personal preference, and nothing to knock this shoe over.


Starting up front, the toe box comes in a slightly more pointed toe than most penny loafers you’ll see. The J Crew Ludlow Penny Loafers are built on the same last as the tassel loafer. However, unlike the rounded toe of most American-style loafers, tassels are traditionally pointed. This is the first example of the push and pull on these shoes. They are really a more formal penny loafer design with lots of casual touches.

Speaking of that toe, a thick raised moc toe fold runs the entire length of the upper. The stitching, which is a similar color to the upper itself, leaves nothing to be desired. It’s very even, tight, and frankly looks better than my pair of Alden LHS. It’s a good thing they were able to get a leg up on the Alden here, because where the toe stitching ends is a strap that is a pretty clear copy of the Alden LHS design.

Ludlow Glue Stain
White Glue Stains

Further back, this shoe starts to get increasingly plain. A small piece of suede along the edge of the upper runs along the throat, and the rear of the shoe is a simple line along the center. No issues anywhere of note with the stitching.

Inside, it’s fairly basic. A leather heel pad – stamped with the J Crew Ludlow logo – runs about half the length of the shoe. The white footbed takes you the rest of the way. Other than the tan lining, there isn’t much to see.

Shoe Glue Stain
Black Glue Stains

Overall, the upper of this shoe is pretty impressive.


To be fair, though, it isn’t perfect. There are several glue stains (in both black and white) throughout the upper. However, at this price, it’s really hard to complain.

Mid- and Outsole:

Moving down, the quality control does drop off a bit. The stitching on the welt is OK overall, but there are some areas where they wander off center some. It isn’t too bad, but it’s also very hard to miss – the welt stitching is bright white against the tan welt. The welt joint itself is also pretty mangled on both shoes. It’s actually cut through entirely in two spots on the right shoe, and is questionable on the left.

Mangled Welt
Mangled Welt

The white welt stitching on an outsole that has a tall heel is another example of the mixing of formalities. A typical suede loafer will have a lower heel (or sometimes no heel at all). Here, you have a full business-shoe height heel. This isn’t bad – in fact I think this might be a perfect shoe for casual Friday at the office – but it’s noticeable.

Spilling over to the side, J Crew used a natural-colored stain on the side which matches the upper well. Underneath, the shoe features a Butyl leather (or, at least Butyl style) soles which gives it a deep reddish brown color.

Fit & Comfort:

J Crew Ludlow Lining
Interior of the shoe, Suede, More Suede, Leather, and More Leather

J. Crew suggests going a half size down on the Ludlow Penny Loafer, but I would suggest going true to size if you plan on wearing socks with these. I will say that, unlike the tassel loafer, these do have a bit of give in them due to the softer material of the upper. If there is just one part of the shoe that is slightly tight, you might be able to make these work.


I measure an 11.75D on one foot and an 11.5E on the other. I have these in a size 12, for a full listing of sizing for all the shoes reviewed, click here.

From a comfort perspective, they are maybe slightly above average. Under foot, they are pretty typical. A leather footbed that will almost certainly conform to your foot over time. Where these stand out a bit more is the softness of the upper. The upper on this pair should be soft and forgiving – assuming you get the fit right.


Ludlow Outsole Butyl
Butyl-Dipped Outsole

Unlike most other Ludlow shoes that use “Italian” leather instead of specifying which type, these shoes are CF Stead Rapallo suede. It even has a card in the box to remind you. It is incredibly soft to the touch, and CF Stead scotch guards them directly from the factory. It’s still suede, but should have a bit more resistance than most.  

Inside, the J Crew Ludlow Penny Loafer’s lining leather isn’t given any more detail than “leather.” It certainly isn’t anything special, but I have no reason to think it wouldn’t hold up. The only part of the upper interior that isn’t the leather lining is the suede on the back of the heel.

Underneath, below the leather heel-pad and lining, the shoe features a full-length cork midsole. This should compress and ultimately increase the comfort with time. Also in the midsole is a steel shank – a decision that makes almost no sense on this pair of shoes. I would have loved to see a wooden shank instead. I assume this is the same sole structure they put on all their shoes, including workhorse pairs, and from a cost perspective this just made sense.


One thing that does worry me just a bit is that you can clearly see one of the staples is just a millimeter or two under the footbed on the left shoe. It isn’t noticeable at all when wearing currently, but it’s possible that over time this could poke through. I contacted J Crew about this and they said that if it does poke through, I can take it to a cobbler and they’ll cover the repair cost. Though, something to keep an eye on for sure.

Underneath, the sole looks and feels Butyl leather. If this is the case, this should provide a bit more water resistance. Like the steel shank, something that is a bit odd on a suede penny loafer, but I won’t complain about it.

Ease of Care:

Ludlow Penny Loafer Stitching
Goodyear Welt Stitching

Like any suede pair of shoes, the J Crew Ludlow Penny Loafers are going to be a bit more finicky than leather. Thankfully, because of the Repello, these don’t need to be water proofed straight off the bat. However, just because suede has the scotch guard on it doesn’t make it completely impervious. Dry weather wear is preferable.

The repellant doesn’t last forever. You’ll want to get some waterproofing and a suede cleaner to keep everything in good shape.

Butyl-dipped soles will do better on wet pavement compared to traditional leather. Like I said above, that doesn’t make a ton of sense on a loafer you’ll want to wear in the dry, but if you ever need to go somewhere a few hours after it rained, these could be in the rotation.


The Ludlow Penny Loafer features Goodyear welt construction. This means that just about any cobbler should be able to resole them (assuming the mangled welt doesn’t prevent that). Of course, if it makes sense to spend more to keep a pair of shoes running then you paid for them in the first place is up to you. Speak of price…

Pricing & Value:

So far, I’ve made a few nit-picks but have always brushed them off. Here’s why: despite these carrying a $298 price tag, it isn’t difficult to find them for less than half of that. I purchased this pair last month for just $119. J Crew actually dropped the price even lower than that since (before going out of stock).

With them being out of stock, you can’t find them on J Crew’s website anymore. I find ebay a great choice for deals, even new pairs. Finding deals is especially easy for lesser known options like the J Crew Ludlow Penny Loafer. At time of writing, there are a few pairs in various colors of suede either new or worn once ranging from $80 to $150.

To put that in perspective, the three other shoes I’ve mentioned in this review are the Alden LHS in Shell Cordovan ($782), the Grant Stone Traveler ($275), and the Quoddy True Penny Loafer ($275). The fact that these shoes are even in the same conversation as those three says all you need to know about value. That in some cases these shoes were compared favorably to those three is mind boggling.

To be clear – all three of those are better shoes. The quality control and brand support will be higher. However, at more than twice the price at a minimum, I think a lot of people will find the tradeoff worth it.


Wrap Up:

J Crew Ludlow Penny Loafer
J Crew Ludlow Penny Loafer

On the tassel loafer review, I said I thought that the Ludlow line of shoes was the best value in shoes you could buy. While I don’t think the J Crew Ludlow Penny Loafers quite stand up to those – the mangled welt and the potential staple in the insole are fairly big issues – I have to say that I still think so. For less than the cost of a resole in most major cities, you get a pair of shoes that, from a couple of feet away, look like Aldens.

Unfortunately, with Grant Stone’s success, J Crew has been pushed out of the factory that makes these shoes. Hard to fault Grant Stone. They saw what was coming out of this factory, turned the QC up a bit, and offered a great product. In fact, the only thing I’m really mad about is that I didn’t catch onto these shoes sooner – I would have tried to do the exact same thing they did!

All that being said, I would be lying if I wasn’t regularly checking the J Crew site for restocks on some of my favorite make ups. I still feel the value of this pair simply can’t be beat.