Why you should consider this online shoe startup's beautiful, Italian-crafted loafers as an investment purchase

Business Insider Lifestyle 2 months ago

When Amanda Greeley isn't leading design and creative for lingerie startup Cuup in New York City, she's in Charleston designing a very different outfit essential: shoes. 

Greeley, a former Coach merchandiser, is the founder and designer of Thelma, a 3-year-old online shoe brand born out of the entrepreneurial, women-driven creative scene in Charleston. 

Thelma sells Italian-crafted women's shoes, most notably loafers. These everyday shoes come in three variations: The Original (suede), The Fringe (suede), and The Spectator (leather). They're made in small batches in Le Marche, Italy, a region known for its shoe-making tradition, with responsibly sourced suede, leather, and wood. 

thelma loafer 2

The kicker is that they're not cheap. Each pair is $388, and there's not skirting around it — that's a lot to pay for a pair of loafers. 

But after trying a pair of Thelma Original loafers myself, I, someone who never spends more than $200 on a pair of shoes, could see why the brand has been so successful at selling this classic shoe staple, and why you would want to invest in them. 

What the Thelma Original Loafer looks and feels like 

The Original is an elegant heeled loafer that curves into a subtle pointed toe, has a saddle (the piece curving over the upper), and comes in 10 beautiful colors, bright and neutral. The 1.5-inch solid wood heels are hand carved and are the perfect size to give you a bit of height without sacrificing comfort. 

I tried The Original in the Powder Blue but I certainly had trouble choosing a color. The Saffron looked excellent for a fall shoe, and I could see the Pebble matching well with everything. Regardless of your personal preference, know that all the options are triple-dyed to give them a saturated, long-lasting hue. 

I immediately fell in love with their simple yet sophisticated look, but the practical side of me rang an alarm — are they also comfortable? 

Greeley told Business Insider, "In terms of construction, shoes and underwear have more or less nothing in common, but I would say I actually bring a similar approach to both. I'm always drawn to striking that balance between aesthetics and functionality. I want to make pieces that feel really wearable and usable." 

The loafers are very comfortable, but not without a little break-in time.

I wore them for more than 12 consecutive hours the first day, which admittedly was an aggressive move, and I had blisters afterward. However, this break-in time seems to have done the trick. Since then, the leather interior has loosened to better accommodate my feet and offer the same glove-like feel that we love in our leather Everlane Day Glove flats. I'm usually not comfortable walking in shoes taller than a few inches, so I liked that the slight heel helped elongate my legs but was still very manageable to walk in, whether I was climbing stairs or navigating the length of a lurching subway car. 

After falling victim many a time to gorgeous shoes that turned out to be impossible to walk in, I was happy and relieved to find this heeled loafer that looked and felt wonderful. 

thelma loafer 3

Why you should consider these loafers as an investment purchase 

Nearly $400 isn't an easy amount of money to spend, particularly on a pair of loafers. If you don't want to spend as much, we also love the Modern Loafer from Everlane ($168) and the Loraine Loafer from Sam Edelman ($120).

But if you are going to splurge on any clothing item, it should be on a basic staple like a loafer, which is versatile, practical, and resistant to the unsustainable, trend-driven whims of the fashion industry. Given the choice between two pairs of less beautiful, lesser quality shoes, and one pair of sleek, high-quality ones, I would surely invest in the latter. Thelma's Original loafer is a shoe that will never go out of style. 

Shop the Original Loafer in 10 colors for $388 at Thelma

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