A few months back, I did a review of the very popular Artista Line by TLB Mallorca and promised a follow-up on their mainline and here it is!
As I had also mentioned, TLB Mallorca has come out gun’s blazin’ in the last few years and built quite a name for themselves as one of the best Spanish shoemakers of modern-day times. And when you see and feel their shoes, you realize that this reputation quickly built comes with good reason. If you read the last review, a bit more history is laid out. For this review, I will just focus on the shoes.
TLB has two lines. 1. The Main Collection and 2. The Artista. You can define this by their bench grade shoes and their hand grade shoes. Or Entry Level and More Refined. Whatever way you want to differentiate. And what that means is that on the Main Line you will find a more straight-forward welted shoe and on the Artista line a more refined shoe with details not found on the Main Line, as well as more exclusive leathers. For this review, TLB sent me their Lancaster Loafer in Black Suede, a classic wholecut tassel loafer with a floating apron and side decor. A very elegant and classic loafer to say the least. And priced at around $360 (depending on the day’s currency exchange). As a matter of fact, the entire Main Line is priced from $360-$400. So now let’s get to the nitty-gritty.
As usual, I ordered my UK6.5 size and it was the correct size, so I can confirm that these fit true to size. The last, however, is not really made for my type of foot, whereas the handgrade line was. Being that I have a slender foot, lasts that are longer and narrow fit me better. Not that this did not fit, but I could tell that this was made with a broader forefoot, which makes sense as more people have wider feet than narrow ones. But while the forefoot was a more broad cut, TLB does a good job at maintaining very fitted heels which is a good thing. Nothing worse than sloppy heels. The instep was cut high up the foot but low in depth which concerns me for other people. This fact actually allowed them to fit me better though as I have a low instep. I fear that someone with a high instep might struggle to get into these. Overall, the fit worked in my usual size and I could not have taken a different size.
Order your normal size.
The shoes are solid. Very well made. No frills. No gimmicks. Just a solid shoe at a good price. The waists are straight and there is not a ton of shape to the shoe (when comparing to the Arista) but this is what I would expect when needing to differentiate between two lines. One line cannot have what the other offers as a ‘selling point.’ The soles are solid. They look Oak Bark but I cannot say that with 100% certainty. I do know that some Spanish makers like to use Chestnut soles too. Either way, they were solid and felt like they could take a very good beating. You felt secure in them. The leather’s on the Main Line are all from French tannery Annonay and the suede’s, while not indicated on their site, look to be Charles Stead, of the UK. Overall, for $360, you are getting a great product in return. One that feels durable and that should definitely give you your money’s worth.
One thing to note, the soles are a bit thicker than a traditional welted shoe. Most soles are 4/5mm where as these felt between that and a double leather sole. It’s good for durability but because the heel was not higher, the balance felt off.
The shoes had great finishing. Simple and well done. I saw no real visible flaws or anything out of place. The soles channel was super clean and there were no tears in the channel leather flaps. They even had fudge wheeling on the welt which is not something that you normally find in a bench grade shoe, so that was a big plus. The Heels were clean too, not mess ups there or cuts in the leather from shaping the heel. All is all, the shoe was clean. There was really nothing out of place and finishing all around was flawless. This is also easier in a suede shoe as leather shows imperfections easier but nonetheless, it was perfectly finished all around.
The reality was there were no imperfections. I will mention things here though that can help you all understand the difference between bench grade and hand grade lines so that you can understand what you get when you pay for certain things. If you read my write up of the Artista line shoe, you will see that the last/shape/pattern was all flawless and that is apart of what you get when you buy hand-grade products. For me, this Main Line shoe had an odd balance of last, as well as the pattern to the last. It felt made for a short, stout foot on a very generic last. The toe spring was a little higher than I like. But these things are what you get when you buy entry-level ranges and price points. Great fit, shaped lasts, top-class pattern making and balance are all details that you pay for in a hand grade shoe. You must understand this. You cannot buy the entry-level line and expect the things that make more expensive shoes what they are. So, while I mention these things here, it is not to say that it was not justified. That is what is given at that price. What matters for these prices, is if the quality is there (which it was) and if you are getting good value for money (which they definitely give). But expecting all of the bells and whistles, then you will want to pay $70 more and upgrade to the Artista line.
TLB is easily making some of the best Spanish shoes of not only modern times but in all of Spanish history. And at crazy prices. Like I stated in the last review, best to hop on these prices now as I would be willing to predict a serious price hike in the next year or two as these prices are too low to sustain a quality product such as these.