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- 169-year-old footwear brand Johnston & Murphy is best-known for traditional dress shoe styles, but it’s proving that it can make modern shoes just as well.
- The Johnston & Murphy XC4 Collection is designed to tow the line between business-casual and athleisure – a style that appeals to modern professionals who commute or are constantly on the go.
- Starting at $129.99, the shoes range from performance-styles sneakers to classic loafers and oxfords.
- We tested out the XC4 Collection and found them to be comfortable all day long and much more protective from rain compared to similar styles.
The sentiment that Johnston & Murphy is strictly a traditional dress shoe brand is rooted in its very origin.
Founded in Newark, NJ in 1850, Johnston & Murphy was originally named The William J. Dudley Shoe Company after its founder. It began as a small, house-made brand, but quickly gained popularity after fitting shoes for President Millard Fillmore that same year. Going on to make shoes for every succeeding president thereafter, and consistently offering similar classic styles to the public, have stamped tradition into the ethos of the brand.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but the nearly 170-year-old brand is completely disproving that with a new line of business-casual footwear. The new Johnston & Murphy XC4 Collection is breaking the tradition of classic dress shoes by adapting to the popularity of casual dress codes and athleisure style.
Designed to fuse sportswear comfort and functionality with business and workplace-appropriate styles, each shoe in the XC4 Collection features advanced comfort technology, waterproof sock liners, and other function-minded attributes. The combination of materials and technology make them great for professional men who live life on the go. With silhouettes ranging from performance-style sneakers to true loafers and oxfords, there’s a pair for every guy’s style.
The men of Insider Picks fit right in the category of guys who value comfort on commutes and the ability to transition between casual and business casual environments, so we gave them a try. We found them to be more comfortable than traditional dress shoes, dependable for traveling in the rain, and an overall solid buy.
Shop the Johnston & Murphy XC4 Collection now starting at $129.99 or keep reading to keep find out our full thoughts.
Amir Ismael Insider Picks reporter: XC4 Prentiss U-Throat
I decided to go with the XC4 Prentiss U-Throat because it was the most sneaker-like shoe in the XC4 Collection. While its dark brown leather upper is rich and supple like any solid dress shoe should be, its perforated pattern, sock-like liner, lacing system, and reflective accents are distinctly sporty.
Beyond simply looking like a sneaker, the XC4 Prentiss U-Throat has features that make it perform like a sneaker, so you won’t have to sacrifice an ounce of comfort for that versatility. It has a comfortable insole with memory foam cushioning and arch support that’s rather impressive. You can remove it to bring the shoes to the same dimensions as a wide shoe or to insert your own orthotics. They were a little hard to slip on at first, but such is the case with most sock-like sneakers. Once you’re in, you’ll be comfortable until you decide to take them off. I could feel them starting to break in after just one wear, so I know they’ll get more comfortable with time.
What I like best about this shoe is that it’s versatile in style. I wore them with a button up shirt and a pair of jeans and didn’t feel like I was forcing them to be more casual than they actually are. They can also be worn with more formal apparel like slacks.
Compared to some shoes I’ve worn from Cole Haan, probably the biggest purveyor of business casual/athleisure footwear styles, the XC4 Collection is generally less expensive and each shoe is cut wider – something guys with average or wider-than-average feet will appreciate.
The waterproof attribute is also a wonderful addition for commuters who face unexpected weather changes. Granted, they’re not rain boots and can’t stand to be fully submerged in water, but its waterproof bootie handled some pretty heavy downpours and puddles when I wore them.
Danny Bakst, Insider Picks content producer: XC4 Prentiss Moc Toe
My first impression of the Johnston & Murphy XC4 Prentiss Moc Toe was that they were incredibly squeaky. Each step I took walking on the hardwood floors of my apartment sounded like a Donald Duck allergy attack. Once I got past the noise, the shoes were really comfy from the first time I wore them. Unlike most sneakers, I didn’t have to wear them in because of the ultra-cushioned pad that lays under your heel.
The next thing I noticed was that the waterproofing was totally legit – I poured some of my water bottle onto my foot and it literally bounced off the shoe. Plus, there’s no tongue, so you don’t have to worry about any seepage coming in from the top of your shoe. The XC4 Prentiss Moc Toes are now my definitive go-to shoes on any rainy day.
Les Shu, Insider Picks guides editor: XC4 Prentiss Plain Toe
Normally I would walk right past the Johnston & Murphy shop – the traditional styles are a bit too, well, traditional for me. But on a recent trip to the mall, my eyes were immediately drawn to a pair of XC4 Prentiss Plain Toe sneakers. When did Johnston & Murphy get so Cole Haan, and why didn’t anybody tell me?
When we got the opportunity to try the new line for Insider Picks, I chose the black XC4 Prentiss Plain Toe, which has a brown back for nice contrast and subtle details like two-tone shoelaces – features that are a bit more fun and youthful.
But I also like that it’s based on traditional styling, so I can dress them up with a blazer, or down with joggers. The shoes don’t have a typical tongue, and it’s worth noting that some people might be turned off by the stretch collar design.
The full-grain leather and sheepskin lining are incredibly soft, but the initial brand-new smell reminded me of cheaper synthetic-leather kicks. It will be interesting to see how these hold up, but they feel very well made.
When I put them on, it was the most trying experience – it’s so tight, you really have to shove your feet into them with some force. At first, I thought I had chosen the wrong size or they run a bit small. However, once I’m wearing them, they do feel comfortable when I walk, as the leather is stretchy, but there is some discomfort from the tight pressure placed on the top of my feet. It turns out that the footbed is removable to accommodate wider feet, so that was a problem solved. However, after removing the footbed, I found the shoes a bit loose and less supportive. I can’t tell if the shoes will break-in over time, but if you want the footbed, I recommend going up half a size if you have wide feet.
The XC4 Prentiss Plain Toe is waterproof and provides thick cushioning and support, and I was able to test out both features during a downpour. As I was running to catch my train, I was very surprised by how comfortable the shoes were, even more so than many of actual running shoes. I definitely felt the cushioning as my feet hit the pavement. And the pair was a champ during the heavy rain: I ran through puddles without ever getting water inside, and the shoes dried pretty quickly and there are no signs of blemishing.