OverviewHere’s what Carets says about the FER V4:
The Carets FER is a shoe with timeless Style, is interchangeable with multiple outfits and situations formal and casual, and provides you with timeless Comfort throughout. Now take these benefits, and multiply them. Designed to meet U.S. Department of Defense uniform regulations, the Zetone Plain-Toe Oxford has become favored among gentlemen who prefer a more minimalist detailing. The Fer is named in honor of the man who taught me that very seldom do we only have the choices that are presented to us. In our case, it was the possibility of Real Style and Real Comfort in one dress shoe. Thank you for continually being an inspiration.Weight — 10.6 oz (Mens 9 Wide) Total Stack Height — Roughly 8mm Barefoot scale — High for a premium dress shoe, but a bit below average for a minimalist shoe. Ideal Uses — Professional settings, looking swanky and fancy, show off for dates, and urban jungles Pros:
- Traditional and classy looks
- Innovative hollow heel/false step
- Lovely ox blood color (other colors available)
- Premium shoe tree and box design
- Elastic laces are easy to use
- Hidden reinforced eyelets
- Elastic laces are less tight than traditional laces
- Sole has minimal treading
- Not recommended for running
- Toe spring
- Less flexible than other minimalist shoes
- Relatively heavy
SolePerhaps for the first time, even the most ardent dress shoe snobs will drool over a minimalist shoe. In my time as a long distance minimalist runner, I have become accustomed and even enamored with the quirky looks of minimalist dress shoes—yes, even the clownshoeist ones! In contrast, the FER V4 is a breath of fresh air. A true minimalist wolf wearing traditional sheep’s wool. Carets has been making high quality premium dress shoes for a few years under the name Primal Professional, then Chronology. Their first shoes were prototyped in 2011 and they have recently rebranded themselves with the Carets name with their latest models. The main attraction to the sole’s design is an innovative “hollow” or hidden heel, which gives the FER a classic look, while still allowing for a zero-drop, minimal shape inside. You can think of this hidden heel as triangular cuts in the sole on either side of where traditional dress hoes would have their heel but they taper off towards the center, which is perfectly flat against the ground. In the end, you have a shoe that has the look of a traditional dress shoe, but with minimalist ethos. The hidden heel really does make the side profile of the FER look like a traditional dress shoe. You won’t get any “clown shoe” jokes with these babies! The tapered look (especially with the toe cap version) makes the FER look narrower and therefore more traditional than it really is. Inside, I had adequate room for my wide feet and point of the shoe did not extend so far past my toes that it caught on anything. The sole used in the FER V4 is a durable polyurethane sole with minimal tread. It is relatively flexible, but you cannot ball it up like some other minimalist dress shoes. The FER is a more traditional shoe compared to other lifestyle shoes from LEMS, Vivobarefoot, or TUNE Footwear. Rather, they are closer to the more traditional looking and stiffer shoes, like Anthony Alan Footwear or the Vivobarefoot Porto line. However, among shoes in that category, the FER is more flexible than the Anthony Alan shoes and the Vivobarefoot Porto, while looking even more like a traditional premium dress shoe. The polyurethane sole material is quite abrasion resistant and does not scuff too easily. It is less likely to show scratches than rubber soles and is durable. This sole does have a bit of a plasticky look to it and while I am not against a slightly glossy-looking sole, I would have liked a more matte look. The sole itself does feature small bumps and textures to disperse light a bit. Because of the minimal tread and lack of rubber lugs, the FER V4 is not an adventuring shoe. Rather, this is a shoe for urban landscapes, power lunches, power points, and bowties. Having photographed weddings in the dirt, on top of trees, and while on the move with other minimalist shoes, the FER V4 will probably be best for mostly indoor settings or at a leisurely pace around town. One thing to note is that while this is a zero drop sole, there is still toe spring in the front of the shoe. When placed on a flat surface, the toes float up ever so slightly. While this may be a standard look for dress shoes, I believe that the FER should have been made completely flat and straight to be truly minimalist; on the plus side, this toe spring will prevent some scratching of your leather. As far as treads go, the sole on the FER V4 is quite limited. Very fine horizontal lines are isolated in the heel and ball area. The aim was to prevent hydroplaning with the FER, but without aggressive lugs. I would have personally preferred lugs with a bit more grippiness to their texture, but I understand that the FER was made to be a premium dress shoe with minimalist traits, not a mountain climber. I took my pair of FER V4s to my local cobbler, Fouad Nakkoul of Heel The Sole in Manchester, NH for polishing. I asked for his opinion on the design and he commented that the clever hidden heel design was the first thing that caught his eye; it was the first of this style that he had ever seen. Fouad also stated that the choice of materials makes the shoe light and comfortable and the leather is excellent for polishing and treating with leather oils. Made with cobblers in mind, the Carets sole is resoleable. Carets partnered with Resole America as their recommended repair company, but any local cobbler can easily replace the sole; this vastly expands the life of the FER. In my experience with minimalist dress shoes, only the Hawthorn from Softstar Shoes has a resolable design. However, the unique hollow heel design of the FER means that resoleing with a local cobbler may yield varied results as this heel is patented and exclusive to Carets and their suppliers. Should my sole ever wear, I will contact Carets directly as I am a huge fan of this heel and its balance of looks and minimalism.
Fit and MaterialsThe uppers of the FER V4 are made from an exceptional-feeling full-grain leather. Full grain refers to hides that have not been sanded or buffed, giving the leather some natural character and extra durability. The leather comes stiff out of the box, but breaks in easily. Compared to the full grain leathers of other minimalist shoes, I would say that the leather used in Softstar Shoes are softer and more plush, but less durable, while Carets’ leather is quite a bit rigid. I was given oxblood for my color and the FER has a sophisticated look that changes depending on lighting. According to their website, Carets uses minimal coating on their leather, so oils, waxes, polish, and other treatments absorb very quickly. I tested the leather with my favorite oils, beeswax and tree resin products and they did indeed absorb quickly and actually made the leather softer and more water resistant in a very short amount of time. Inside, the leather continues throughout the interior of the shoe with some suede textures around the heel. I would have liked to see a customized heel section similar to what Softstar Shoes has been including in their recent designs. The suede texture of the FER V4’s heel will help the shoe stay on your feet—they aren’t made intense activity anyways—but I think that a thick wing of leather, like in my pair of RunAmoc Primals, would have made the FER feel more individual to each foot and secure, without sacrificing comfort. As an observation, the stitching on the FER V4 is the best of any shoe that I have seen; some of the stitching look more like tiny henna tattoos than something of string and needles. The folks at Carets really need to be commended on their craftsmanship. In nearly all of my shoes, dress or otherwise, I can always find a weak thread or a point of poor glue adherence, especially over time; this is just what happens to shoes that are well loved. However, after a month of wearing the FER almost everyday for testing, I have yet to find a single weak point in terms of stitches, glue, or leather. Carets uses an elastic lace for the FER V4. I have found the laces in many other minimalist shoes to be a weakpoint. Far too often, the laces were usually the first to go when I fall in love with a shoe; they are always the first to break my heart. I think this is because most dress shoes use thin laces that are sometimes reinforced with wax, but they just do not have the durability to endure long-term use. For the FER V4, the elastic laces are excellent for double-knotting, then forgetting them, slipping in and out for day in—day out wear. This means that I do not have to tie them everytime I wear them, which helps the laces last longer. These laces are threaded through hidden reinforced eyelets, which have metal bits for extra durability, but are on the underside of the leather uppers. In doing so, the FER has a very sleek appearance. The FER V4 comes in a matchbox style shoebox that slides rather than opens. Carets recommends that you store your shoes inside when not using them and slide them out when you are ready to go out; it’s a nice touch. Inside each shoe upon arrival, I was surprised to find a super premium wooden, spring-loaded shoe tree. These shape-keepers are like wooden feet that live inside your shoes to preserve the shape of the shoe when not in use. They are the best thing that any shoe manufacturer has put INSIDE a shoebox that I have seen. They are smooth, solid, nicely sprung and can probably be used to fight crime, if necessary. The FER V4 is not exactly a lightweight shoe. Of course, it is lighter than any traditional dress shoe, but compared to other minimalist shoes, it is above average in terms of mass. It is in the same weight class as other substantial shoes from other minimalist manufactueres, like the Anthony Alan Loafer and Oxford, but less than the very stiff and solid Xeroshoes Coalton.
Future ImprovementsIn a future version of the FER—hopefully a V5 in a year or so!—I would like to see a slightly more comfortable and customized heel. Simply adding a thick strip of leather will make a huge difference, but overall the FER V4 is an excellent premium dress shoe that has many minimalist aspirations.
SummaryFrom an aesthetic perspective, the FER V4 is pretty much perfect if you are looking for a premium dress shoe with premium dress shoe looks. The FER’s handsome looks won’t stand out in a pack of other handsome shoes, but there are so many little features to appreciate in its design: The hollow heel, tapered toebox, and excellent stitching are its strengths. It is recommended that the FER V4 is not a running or exercise shoe. While this is completely understandable as this is a premium dress shoe, I have never had an issue racing around town as necessary with some of my favorite minimalist dress shoes. The FER, of course, is more mature and buttoned down. The shoe does not flex or move with your foot like your favorite minimalist running shoes and it is up to you to decide if you want to sacrifice some of that fun for a look that is decidedly above and beyond other minimalist dress shoes in terms of being traditional, premium, and classy. I, for one, am very appreciative of the risks, innovations, and efforts of the manufacturer. From Primal Professional on crowd-funding platforms, to Chronology, and now, rebranded to Carets, their latest model, the FER V4 is sure to impress.
Note: The shoes formerly known as both the Primal Professionals and Chronology are now Carets