I got my first pair of TOM’s the first month of my senior year of high school. By the second month of my senior year of high school, they were trashed. The canvas was threadbare in several places and the poorly constructed toe was peeling away from the sole. Since then, I’ve been quite wary of TOMS and companies of their breed.
When I opened up my Oliberte Amboas, my fears were immediately put at ease. These are no TOMS. First of all, their mission is much more sustainable. Instead of sending poorly made shoes to impoverished countries, Oliberte actively invests in the Sub-Saharan economy, boosting industry and providing justly compensated jobs. Their factory and sourcing is completely fair trade certified. Secondly, the quality of their products is much higher. To learn a bit more about their social and environmental mission, check out their About Us page.
Oliberte sources their leather from the Hafde Tannery in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The upper on the Amboa is made of African nubuck, the midsole is made of veg-tanned cowhide, and lined entirely with goat leather. The leather is smooth yet firm and hasn’t stained or scuffed after quite a few wears. It comes in black and brown colors as well. The dark grey is a very unique color that I have found to be very versatile. The color is a bit lighter in person than on the website, and it has almost a light blue hue. They go great with dark skinny jeans, especially since they have a subtle heel.
CONSTRUCTION & FUNCTION
The leather is cemented to the sole, made of molded rubber with a 2/3 inch wedge heel (15 mm). The laces are standard nylon, in the same grey color as the leather. The bottom of the sole is printed with a map featuring Addis Ababa, a fun little detail that I’ve been asked about several times. It’s a fun reminder of Oliberte’s mission.
The only issue I want to warn you about is sizing. I generally wear a size 9.5, and was told the Amboas run a little large, so I ordered a size 9 (they don’t come in half sizes). They ended up being a little small and I now wish I had ordered a size 10. I worried that since they’re small, the cemented sole is starting to pull apart a tiny bit on one side. But I’ve worn the shoes probably two dozen times for long periods of time and it hasn’t gotten any worse, so I wouldn’t be too concerned. Just be sure to order up if you’re usually a half-size.
Even though they’re a little tight, they’re not uncomfortable. I can easily wear them all day long. I’d recommend wearing the tiny socks made for ballerina flats because the goatskin liner can be a little squeaky without socks.
These are great, unique shoes from a company with an amazing mission. These aren’t meant to be everyday shoes that will last you forever, but the Oliberte Amboas are a great purchase that will last much longer than a cheap shoe from Payless. Plus, they boast a much more distinctive look and story. At $125, these are very fairly priced, especially since they frequently put them on sale on their website. They’re currently down to just $60, so snatch them up while you can, and keep an eye out for sales on some of their other great looking styles.