In this hands-on NOAH review, we’ll look at the brand’s offerings, aesthetic, and quality to see whether a fully vegan brand can go toe-to-toe with traditional leather footwear.
First of all, you might be wondering why anyone would choose to pass up high-quality leather footwear.
Most of the time, the people avoiding leather shoes are vegans and vegetarians who want to avoid wearing animal products. They might also be sustainability-minded consumers who want to do their part to lessen greenhouse gas emission that results from the livestock industry.
Simply put, there’s a palpable need for sustainable vegan footwear right now.
Until fairly recently, leather-avoiding shoppers have had it rough. Most vegan shoes are either stiff canvas or flimsy plastic-based materials that quickly fall apart. Plus, some vegan fabrics are worse than leather, environmentally speaking.
Thankfully, many great brands have emerged over the last several years to provide truly sustainable and high-quality vegan footwear options, and that’s exactly what NOAH’s goal is.
I’ve been wearing two pairs of NOAH shoes for the last couple of months, and they’ve both impressed me in different ways. Read on for my full thoughts and experience with breaking in and wearing the shoes.
NOAH: The Brand
NOAH started in 2009 with the goal of providing top-notch vegan shoes inspired by the Italian lifestyle.
In 2012, they expanded their range to include accessories such as belts, hats, wallets, and bags, but they never lost their passion for shoes. Since then, the company has won multiple awards for their innovative products.
What makes NOAH different from a lot of other vegan shoe brands (and shoe brands in general, really) is that they focus on not only animal welfare but also sustainability, fair working conditions, and craftsmanship.
Many brands only tick one or two of these boxes, but NOAH is able to tick all four thanks to their high standards.
To start with, NOAH uses sustainable materials like organic linen, organic cotton, natural and recycled rubber, and cork. They do use polyester, which can be harmful to the environment, but NOAH combats this by optimizing working and production conditions and overall environmental footprint.
NOAH’s shoes regularly achieve a low carbon footprint, and they prize on-site sustainability as well. The bottom line is that these are vegan shoes that will last a long time, so if you’re after completely vegan footwear, NOAH is one of the better choices on the market today.
NOAH kindly sent me three of their products for review: their Damiano Nappa lace-ups, the Marco Nappa desert boot, and the Dublino hat. Here are my thoughts on the products after spending the last several weeks with them.
Damiano Nappa Review
NOAH’s Damiano Nappa lace-up is an Oxford-style shoe with an elegant silhouette. While the ad copy states it’s great for both formal and casual situations, the Damiano is definitely a smart shoe, so you can only dress it down so much.
I reviewed the brown, though it’s also available in black and cognac.
The Damiano features a micronappa leather upper that’s sturdy yet breathable. The micronappa, which mimics real nappa leather, feels a little stiffer than actual leather but looks almost identical.
Some leather substitutes look noticeably different from the real thing, which can be a downside if you want that classic look, but the Damiano can easily pass for a regular leather shoe.
The insole is comfortable microfiber, and the outsole is a non-slip rubber that features circular grips. The heel gives way to the gentle instep, which curves down and back up to the toe, resulting in a sleek profile.
The craftsmanship of the shoe is immediately evident when you hold it for the first time. You can tell this was handmade by people who are passionate about shoes. The stitching and welt are solid and uniform. This is a sturdy shoe that will last a long time, just like a leather shoe.
Comfort & Fit
The Damiano is a fairly narrow shoe that NOAH says is best for thin to normal-width feet. If you have wide feet, these are a definite no-go. On the other hand, if you have thinner feet, you’ll find these fit nicely. I have fairly average-width feet and found the Damiano to be snug but not tight.
Since the Damiano’s micronappa is on the stiffer side, it takes a little longer to break in. You can expect about 2 or 3 weeks of break-in, depending on how much you wear them. The stiffness is most obvious at the reinforced heel.
I could really feel the heel pressing into my skin for the first week or so. That said, most stiffer Oxfords tend to have a similar break-in process, so it’s not out of the ordinary.
Once it’s broken in, the Damiano becomes noticeably softer, yet it still retains its overall sturdiness. They’re not uncomfortable on the feet, but you’ll never forget you’re wearing dress shoes.
Still, there’s enough room in the toe and no tightness at the instep. The insole provides sufficient padding, although you could replace it if you want a little more comfort.
All in all, the Damiano Nappa is a handsome and sturdy dress shoe with excellent craftsmanship. At around $192 USD (€164), it’s an easy choice for anyone who wants an Oxford with zero animal products. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another vegan dress shoe at this price point that’s made this well.
Marco Nappa Review
The Marco radiates craftsmanship right out of the box. The micronappa upper is thick and soft, and the lining almost resembles Merino wool.
There’s a beautiful texture to the material that gives it an almost smoky look, and it has a textured grain that’s similar to the micronappa on the Damiano. Even though the material is much thicker, the stitching and welt are just as solid as on the Damiano.
Unlike the Damiano, however, the Marco is suitable for wide feet, which also means it fits all feet types. The fit is nice and roomy, and you could easily wear thicker socks with these for extra warmth.
Combine that lush upper with the comfortable insole, and you get a comfy boot that you can wear for the long haul. The shoe also features a textured, gum-like rubber outsole and two-eye lacing for that casual look.
While some desert boots can be on the chunkier side, the Marco has a fairly sleek profile and an elegant shape that evokes the classic Clarks desert boot. Looks-wise, it strikes a nice balance between classy and rugged.
Comfort & Fit
Thanks to the overall softness of the materials and the thicker insole, the Marco is a delight to wear. It required zero break-in and felt like it conformed to my feet instantly. You can easily walk all day in these without any discomfort.
Most desert boots are roomier by nature, and that’s true of the Marco. The boots feel spacious yet snug at the same time. Each major section of the shoe——heel, instep, and toe——feels comfortable and relaxed.
If, like me, you’re planning to rock chukkas in the fall and winter, the Marco is a great choice. Even though the material is quite thick, it’s breathable, so your feet won’t get overheated unless you wear super thick socks.
I have zero complaints about the comfort level and fit of these, and I plan on wearing these often as the weather cools down. They’re even great for breezier summer days when it’s less humid out.
The Marco Nappa sells for €119, which is roughly $140 USD. That puts it in the same price bracket as the lauded Clarks boots as well as the Scout from Thursday Boots. Again, this is a no-brainer if you want a vegan desert boot at this price point.
Even compared to its much-loved leather rivals, the Marco stands on its own as a compelling chukka option, period.
Dublino Hat Review
Last but not least, let’s look at the Dublino hat, a refined take on the bucket hat. What’s really neat about the Dublino is that it collapses into a small disk so that you can easily stuff it in a pocket, backpack, or overloaded suitcase. I chose the grey, but it also comes in green, blue, and black.
The hat is clearly inspired by both Mediterranean fashion and American sportswear. It’s a bucket hat, fishing hat, and rain hat all in one. You could easily dress this up with chino shorts and boat shoes, or you can go more casual with a vest and
This hat suits many different styles from New England prep to traditional workwear.
My favorite aspect of this hat is its style flexibility. You can wear this hat in a few different ways. You can wear it the standard bucket hat way, or you can pop up the brim for a different style. You can even upturn the brim for a full-on sailor look if you want!
The hat is light and breathable, which makes it a solid year-round hat. It’s currently one of my favorite hats to pop on when I want something a little different from a watch cap or baseball cap. It’ll run you about $46 USD, which is admittedly on the more expensive side.
However, if you like the style and are after a multipurpose hat, you’ll be pleased with what the Dublino has to offer.
Final Thoughts: Great Shoes for the Price
Overall, I’ve had a positive experience with NOAH’s products, and I’m glad they’re in my wardrobe. I’ve had loads of vegan shoes over the years, and few of them felt as sturdy and looked as nice as these pairs.
Something I want to stress is that these shoes aren’t “just good for being vegan.” They’re good shoes, period. If you didn’t know these weren’t leather, you’d probably be fooled into thinking they were. These shoes are worth your consideration even if you eat red meat five times a day.
I understand that for footwear traditionalists, the lack of leather may be off-putting. Leather has been long associated with quality and longevity and for good reason.
However, if you’re doubting, just try out a pair. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The fact that NOAH doesn’t use leather has no effect on their craftsmanship, and you can tell that from the moment you observe one of their shoes.
What NOAH offers—a balance of quality, affordability, sustainability, ethicalness, and vegan-friendliness—is hard to find. On top of that, NOAH has a wide variety of stylish shoes, so there’s truly something for everyone.
That said, these items won’t be right for everyone. Here’s a breakdown of who I think each item is best for:
- Damiano Nappa: For the professional who wants a smart, handsome dress shoe for the office or formal occasions.
- Marco Nappa: For the smart casual guy who wants a comfortable and versatile desert boot.
- Dublino: For the outdoorsman or summer lover who wants a portable multipurpose hat to wear at the beach or on the boat.
The bottom line is that these are all high-quality, artisanal vegan products that give their leather opponents a run for their money.