In this hands-on review of New Republic, I try on some of their footwear items and assess each pair’s fit, feel and style.
As a fan of basics and classic silhouettes, New Republic has been on my radar since internet fashionistas dubbed their Kurts the affordable answer to Common Projects. Add GQ constantly plugging their Sonoma Chelseas on top of that, and I simply had to dive in.
After wearing four pairs of their shoes in different situations, I’ve appraised who this brand is and isn’t for.
Short on time? Here are my thoughts on the brand:
New Republic offers basic and essential shoes at accessible prices for most, if not all, guys. Their
They avoid expenditures anywhere that it’s absolutely unnecessary, while also averting consequential shortcuts. For example, they use Chinese manufacturing, but use good materials, like the sustainably-sourced Italian leather on their Kurts. For a basics company, that’s fine with me.
New Republic uses traditional templates, but puts their own twist on details without compromising each shoe’s versatility. They have a wide range of sizes, and everything I tried was exceedingly comfortable.
Bottom Line: New Republic offers a compelling value proposition. Because of the low prices, non-boring neutrality, and versatility, I can see a guy using New Republic for most of his shoe closet, sprinkled in with some hardcore investments.
They’re also a great brand for any guy looking to do a full shoe closet overhaul.
New Republic: The Brand
For 30 years, fashion designer Mark McNairy has collaborated with brands like Timberland and adidas, celebs and tastemakers like Pharrell, and was the creative director of Ivy League favorite, J.Press. Despite this elite multi-decade career, he started New Republic in 2016, with all people in mind.
The LA-based digital native offers footwear and accessories at a high quality-to-price ratio.
Their core line is a collection of sleek basics like
What I Tried
Bowery Canvas Sneaker
Because of its comfort, convenience, and versatile look, the Bowery Canvas Sneaker has become my go-to weekend and after-work shoe.
The silhouette takes low-profile to a new level. The profile line from the lip to the outsole is as flat as it can get without folding into a full 180 degrees.
From there, the sole is a little over an inch tall. This flush look isn’t disrupted when you slip your feet in either, since your feet will sink into the cork insole a bit.
I’m a big fan of this super-flat extra-minimal minimalism, especially in the navy color I got them in, because it’s really as versatile as a sneaker can get. You can wear these guys at the airport, on the boardwalk, at a cocktail, and on casual Fridays.
I wore them with khakis and a blazer to a boat party and got photographed a lot, so they must’ve looked good.
I also think the added dimension of the high soles prevents that clown effect that flat shoes sometimes give.
As someone with thin calves, I’m always on the lookout for this.
Comfort and Fit
These fit true to size and the cork insoles are buoyant and immediately comfortable. The only “break-in” pain I experienced was that my pinky toes rubbed on the interior a bit, probably because of how flat it is.
This also snuck up on me during my third or fourth outing with these shoes. I just put some plasters on my pinky toes during this period, which only lasted a little over a week.
They’re listed on the website as being $79, which is an excellent price for value. Moreover, they’re often marked down to $39, which is even more affordable than canvas
Pros and Cons
Here are the Pros and Cons of the Bowery Canvas Sneaker:
The Bowerys are overall effective basics, with slightly sleeker profiles than the average canvas sneaker. They’re versatile, immediately comfortable, an easy shoe to slip in and out of, and offer topnotch value.
Genuinely, the only con was the rubbing on my pinky toe. This didn’t last long and was easily dealt with. I wish they weren’t made in China, but since all of New Republic’s shoes are, I’ll mention it here once, as a con that applies to each pair I review, and we’ll call it a day.
Commonly referred to as the best sub-100 alternative to the Common Projects Achilles, the Kurts are a bang-for-buck white sneaker.
One of the reasons I’m lenient about the Chinese manufacturing situation with New Republic is that they work smart within their budget. The material is sustainably-sourced Italian leather, way nicer than the kind you get in the adidas Stan Smiths. They’re also shockingly durable.
The Kurts sport the classic low-profile white sneaker silhouette. Not to belabor the Common Projects comparison, but the toe is ever slightly more rounded than the toe on the Achilles.
The Kurts aren’t an exceptionally wide shoe, so I actually prefer this added mass. It doesn’t look like the upper just sinks into the sole. It also separates it from the Bowerys more, shape-wise.
They feature the New Republic trademark hand-sewn signature stitch on the heel tab. I appreciate this minimal labeling, and the cool-factor of the “vague branding ” approach.
No complaints here. For under $100 you get a classic white sneaker made from sustainably-sourced Italian leather.
You could pay a little more for say Thursday’s Premiers, but honestly, if a casual white shoe is that much more important to you, I’d recommend saving up even more for the Koio Capris at $300.
Fit and Comfort
Comfort is one of the Kurt’s biggest strengths. It has a molded EVA foam with tencel, which is like memory foam, adding airflow to your step. Suffice to say, I didn’t experience any break-in period.
Bonus points for the wide range of sizes offered. You can get them as small as size 4, as big as size 15, and all of the half sizes.
Pros and Cons
Here are the Pros and Cons of the Kurt Leather Sneaker:
The Kurts are truly the best value-for-money, under $100 shoe, when it comes to the Achilles-esque school of design. They’re super comfortable, versatile, and surprisingly durable. You can wear these for a while before seeing any noticeable wear.
They‘re definitely one of New Republic’s popular models. That being the case, keep in mind that they’re a small-batch manufacturing company, so production quantities are small. Not every color and size is always available.
Stanton Recycled Suede Slip-On
The Stantons are a really well-designed sneaker that’s far more interesting than any other slip-ons I’ve seen in this price-range.
Despite how little is going on here, I actually find the Stantons to be the most impressive in the design category. Like how they approach their budget, New Republic does so much with so little, creating a classic silhouette with cool details.
The upper is made out of just two parts, not including the elastic.
Between the swerve action where the front piece meets the back piece, and the back’s slightly different tone, there’s visual intrigue in this simple shoe.
The front is recycled suede and the back is canvas, a slightly lighter tone.
The front of the outsole has an interesting series of texturing in the style of metal tread plates, so it’s sort of like the shoe’s grill. The rest of the sole sports an accent line in the same color as the upper.
The logo is big and bold on the back heel in embossed rubber, while the hand-stitched signature is on the back tab, just like the Kurts.
Fit and Comfort
These definitely fit true to size, and are the most comfortable model in this group. It’s cozy where it needs to be (cork insole, padded collar), and breathable where it needs to be (lightweight upper).
Despite its flat silhouette, it didn’t rub my pinky toes like the Bowerys did, since the interior is just one piece of material with no lacing system.
Great value is definitely a theme with New Republic. At the time of this writing, the Stantons are priced at $78, marked down to $46.80. You’d have to turn to fast-fashion for a cheaper slip-on, and they wouldn’t be as interesting.
Pros and Cons
Here are the Pros and Cons of the Stanton Recycled Suede Slip-Ons:
The Stantons are an excellently designed slip-on shoe that uses details and textures to make a minimal slip-on look pretty cool. I’d say these are almost universally attractive. I can see on-the-fence guys thinking, “for under $50, why not?”
Unlike a sneaker with lacing, there’s literally nothing going on on the upper except for the excellent suede texture. There’s nothing to camouflage creases and scuffs.
I’ve worn these for about a month now and they’re looking just fine so this isn’t a huge concern so far. I just want to note that this clean, minimalist shoe isn’t the kind that can pull off the worn look.
I don’t love the huge embossed branding on the back heel. I get that you have to put it somewhere, but that super cool hand-sewn stitching on the heel tab is enough, in my opinion.
Sonoma Suede Chelsea Boots
The Sonomas are sleek, but take a moderate approach to each design component, making them easy to like.
For example, the neck is slender but not too long (six inches high from the bottom of the outsole), and the toe tapers thinly, but doesn’t get too sharp.
These shoes also sport that desert boot remix look, with its crepe sole and suede upper.
They’re built with a flat welt resulting in a pretty tight construction. The Sonomas are an overall solid shoe, design wise.
Fit and Comfort
These run just a tad small, though not distractingly so. I got my Sonomas at my true number size, 8, and I wish I had just a little bit more room in the toe.
Besides, I do like the structure that the leather insole provides. It makes me want to stand straighter and taller.
At the time of this writing, the Sonomas are priced at $128, marked down to $89.60.
Broken record much? New Republic has excellent prices.
Moreover, crepe sole is a cool style, but the truth is, it doesn’t last. It’s not reparable and it’s not replaceable. I personally don’t think there’s any reason to spend a lot of money on crepe, so New Republic really nailed that category here.
Pros and Cons
Here are the Pros and Cons of the Sonoma Suede Chelseas:
The Sonomas are a simple and classic style, with a chic silhouette. The crepe sole and suede upper combination gives them an effortlessly masculine vibe, at an excellent price.
Crepe sole gets pretty filthy and sticky. I love the look, but they’re so porous, that if you were to step into some gum, you’d be living with it for a while.
I also noticed that for the larger set (size 12 and up), there aren’t half sizes, and these do run slightly small. This doesn’t affect me, but bigger gents take notice.
Final Thoughts on New Republic
Overall, New Republic serves up classics with distinct detailing, and refreshing price points. The main inconvenience is that you can’t shop for them in person.
This is normal to digital native direct-to-consumer brands though. And honestly, for as low as the prices are, I’m okay with trying things on, then returning them if they’re the wrong size. You just pay with time, instead of money.
And again, everything is made in China, but they aren’t out there building these elaborately complicated boots.
I think it’s commendable that New Republic spends money only where they need to for the purpose of democratizing fashion vs doing so to gain room to overcharge.
It’s sort of like how the Seiko SKX started as a Sub alternative before becoming its own (different kind) of icon.