Are you curious about the comfort-focused footwear brand Amberjack? Check out my hands-on review.
When Amberjack released their inaugural model, the Originals, I was impressed with how well they combined formal and athletic features. The Original is a versatile smart casual shoe that feels impressively close to wearing trainers.
Check out my hands-on review of the Originals here.
Amberjack has since expanded into a full-blown line of shoes, with three extra designs in several colorways. To see whether the line lives up to the Original, I’ve been stomping around town in all three models.
Read on to see if these new models, and Amberjack overall, are for you!
Amberjack: The Brand
John Peters founded Amberjack as a comfort-focused footwear brand that built sustainability straight into its business model. It’s similar to Allbirds in that sense. Amberjack, however, centers on the smart casual realm, even dipping into formal dress codes with their new Tux shoe.
As I mentioned in my review of the Original, Amberjack is the first dress shoe company to be fully carbon neutral. Their plastic-free packaging includes linen dustbags instead of nylon ones.
And finally, they use full-grain leather from an ISO-certified tannery and partner with a fair-wage assembly factory in Portugal.
Amberjack: A Hands-on Review
I reviewed the following models:
Each shoe was well-packaged and shipped directly in its branded box. They were packed with non-abrasive paper, which was also stuffed into the shoe to ensure safe delivery. The linen dustbags are also solidly built.
Alright, let’s start with the loafer!
Amberjack The Loafer
I got the Amberjack Loafer in my regular size 8 in the Grizzly variation.
It’s made out of a medium brown suede, reminiscent of its namesake. It’s one of eleven colorways, with suede and smooth leather options.
Design and Style
The upper is made out of a buttery Italian suede. The sides seem slightly more napped than the upper vamp and lip. It’s subtle, but it makes the sides look a bit warmer in tone, as some fibers are more gold and less brown under certain lights.
I love this subtle difference because it adds dimensionality to an otherwise minimal shoe.
The suede itself is effectively water repellant. Initially, I walked around the house to break them in (it turns out they’re mostly broken in from the start).
At one point, I was putting dishes away and splashed the upper with water several times. Still, zero damage and zero water stains. I even got caught in light rain in these shoes, sans umbrella, and they survived.
Overall, the minimal design is highly adaptable. You can wear them with no-show socks and shorts, workwear-adjacent casual wear thanks to the napped surface, and, of course, in smart casual situations — it’s Amberjack’s MO, after all.
I love how the lip, though relatively thin, sits perfectly flush against the top of your foot. I’m not a fan of thin, loose, ripply lips. Sure, they give the shoe a more folksy look, but again, we’re going for a more universal smart casual here.
This shoe is the least effective of all three models, with the athletic sole blending in with the entire shoe. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad.
The sole doesn’t come off as some big, obvious orthopedic outsole or anything like that. At first glance, it almost has the same visual effect as a boat shoe outsole, which fits the entire look quite well.
It creates more contrast, unlike the monochrome Tux or the multi-layered Chelsea.
Oh, and one thing I didn’t love is that my big toe rubbed against the top interior of the upper, making a squeaky noise when I walked around. This is only when I’m sockless, and it did go away after a month.
Comfort and Fit
Let me go on record saying that the following observations apply to all three shoes: The Loafer, the Chelsea, and the Tux.
All of their interiors are built essentially the exact same way and feature the same insole.
Like the Originals, all three shoes score high on the comfort factor. They all felt great right out of the box and remained comfortable even after long days of wear.
The buckskin lining is exceedingly soft, and if the Originals I’ve had for over two years indicate, it’ll stay that way after long-term usage. It feels great against your skin, so you can easily go sockless in any Amberjack shoe if you want.
Also, my feet never got overheated, thanks to the perforation throughout the interior.
The removable insole, one of the brand’s innovations, is uniquely built. The heel is three times thicker than regular memory foam insoles and holds your heel with the same stability you’d get out of a work boot, only softer.
Then, the silhouette of the insole tapers to create a more sneaker-like experience towards the toe, including the flexibility of an athletic shoe.
Meanwhile, the midsole features heat-activated arch support, meaning it’ll conform to the amount of pressure your specific foot gives it.
You get a perfect balance of cushion and support between the midsole and insole. This is likely why I’m able to run around in these shoes all day without feeling much fatigue.
Matching the composition of the insole, the custom TPU outsole uses lithe and springy sneaker technology in the front and rock solid security akin to a hiking boot in the back.
All the shoes run true to size and, in my experience, fit like a glove.
Specifically referring to The Loafer, I appreciate the snug, but not tight, collar. There’s absolutely zero heel slippage, yet it isn’t suffocating.
Also, I’d say that the Loafer is the most flexible out of all of the shoes I tried. This is likely due to its low profile and the soft buckskin against the upper vamp and lip.
Amberjack the Chelsea
I also got the Amberjack Chelsea in size 8s. I opted for the smooth leather Chestnut version, which is their darkest brown.
It comes in seven shades of black and brown and in both suede and regular leather.
Design and Style
Right out of the box, this shoe had that satisfying new car smell that only comes with full-grain leather. In fact, out of all the shoes, it had the best, most truly organic leather aroma — a touch tobacco-y with a hint of sweetness.
It turns out that Amberjack does use premium full-grain leather sourced from American steer. It’s clear to see on the Chelsea’s lush upper and on the grains that make themselves known anywhere there’s bend and flex.
This Chelsea isn’t as minimal as most whole-cut models, which makes it less dressy. However, this is completely in line with Amberjack, as the extra stitching creates a sectioned-off look, bringing a workwear vibe without going full work boot.
You can still style it like any standard Chelsea, though. It goes with a suit as well as it does with jeans.
I think that Chelsea best exemplifies the brand’s practicality-meets-style aesthetic out of the three new models.
My only complaint is the lack of a pull tab. You can easily slip your foot into this boot by holding the back open with your finger, so it’s not a big deal. However, I don’t understand why this shoe doesn’t have a pull tab but the Tux does.
Comfort and Fit
In addition to the excellent balance of support and comfort applicable to all of the Amberjack shoes, here are a few specific details I noticed about the Chelsea.
First, the extra stitching on the upper may take away from the traditionally minimal look of the chelseas, but it also adds more stretch to the shoe. So not only does it have a more practical forward look, but it is indeed more practical functionally.
The neck is breathable because it’s not as dense as the rest of the buckskin interior. It’s also perforated. However, it’s also not as cushy as the rest of the interior and doesn’t provide that cozy feeling you get from the padded lip of the Tux. I guess you can’t have it all!
Amberjack The Tux
The Tux is basically a shiny black version of their Originals. I ordered a perfectly-fitting size 8, and went for the Obsidian variation.
The monochrome black Obsidian is one of two colorways, including the onyx, which has a white streak across the outsole’s profile.
Design and Style
The Tux is probably the only truly formal shoe out of Amberjack’s line-up. I couldn’t imagine wearing a high-shine black patent leather shoe with anything other than a tuxedo or a full black, navy, or gray suit.
However, for some, anything but a closed-laced leather-soled black shoe is too casual for a tuxedo.
It’s that mirror-polished Italian patent leather that you notice right off the bat. You can almost see yourself on it despite the stark black tone.
It’s a derby upper, which is a smart choice. Its topographical design matches the outsole’s more pragmatic look than a sleeker Oxford would.
The sides of the outsoles are indented towards the middle, creating a fake heel effect visually. All of the models’ outsoles do this, but it’s particularly important with the Tux since it’s a formal shoe.
Like the Original, the collar has an elegant slope, with subtle padding that graduates smoothly into the face of the shoe. Truly, the style and comfort elements fit together seamlessly.
And the more I wore this shoe, the more I warmed up to the shiny upper paired with a utilitarian outsole. I started to understand the cool factor around it. Call me childish, but it made me feel like I was wearing a Batman shoe.
Comfort and Fit
Again, the Tux perfectly balances support and comfort like the other two shoes. It was comfortable right out of the box and easy to walk or stand in for hours at a time.
Additionally, it has an extra cushy lip and a supple-feeling collar. I actually never had to tie or untie this shoe. You can get in and out of it almost as easily as a slip-on, especially since it has a pull tab.
Out of the three shoes, this one had the least flexible upper and the tightest fit. I’m not that offended by that since it’s a dress shoe. However, I do recommend that wide footed gents size up a half.
Conclusion: Hybrid Shoes That Hit the Mark
As I mentioned when I first reviewed the Originals, I love that Amberjack’s sustainability claims are more than just greenwashing.
And as far as hybrid shoes go, this new line hits the mark well. At least they live up to the promise of their flagship Originals. They intelligently combine athletic and formal features; they’re all comfortable right out of the box and versatile while leaning hard into the smart casual aesthetic.
Sure, there are some cons per model: the Tux is a bit tight-fitting, the Loafer’s outsole doesn’t blend as seamlessly, and the Chelsea doesn’t have a pull-tab. Still, I can easily overlook these problems, most are just inherent to these specific models.
The only big con that might deter people is that all these shoes are cement-soled and, therefore, not easily resoleable. At this price point, I’m not offended by this. Moreover, most hybrid, comfort-focused shoes are built this way. So, it’s more of a standard than a shortcut.
Finally, Amberjack has great customer service. They’re responsive and have a complimentary 45-day exchange policy if the shoes are unworn. I’m sure trying them on for a minute to check the size still falls into the “unworn” category, which is great if you have any sizing issues.
What brand should I try out next? Let me know in the comments!