Editor’s note: The world of style is remarkably vast, to put it mildly. It seems no matter where you go, great brands and great finds abound. Returning guest author Mark Lai spent some time globetrotting this summer [much like your humble author] and delivered this dispatch from Malaysia — yes, Malaysia — where shoe fiends who delve deep into the menswear world will feel right at home. Follow him on Instagram to keep up with his style adventures.
As far as quality shoe brands are concerned, Singapore is largely a barren wasteland. While establishments like Ed Et Al, Carmina and Septíème Largeur have opened in recent years, the majority of Singapore’s shoe landscape is still dominated by the likes of Hush Puppies and Ecco. There remains a dearth of choice for quality shoes at specific price ranges -for instance, Ed Et Al is the most budget-friendly option, with prices for their (excellent) ready-to-wear pieces starting around $350. [Editor’s note: Check out other budget-friendly dress shoe options here].
Fortunately, there remains a veritable perk of residing in Singapore: Kuala Lumpur, home to P.Lal, is a mere 5 hours’ drive away. For those unfamiliar with it, P.Lal is a family-owned shoe store located on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur in the Petaling Jaya district, and has been in operation since 1929. The brands stocked, with their respective pricing points indicated in the brackets, include a range (detailed below) from entry-level to drool-worthy, with a focus on European heritage shoemakers.
- Loake (Entry-level)
- P. Lal claims to have the largest collection of Loake shoes in the world. Although I’m in no position to verify that, it may well be true since they stock most of the models from all of Loake’s ranges – Loake 1880s, Loake Shoemakers, Loake Evolution, design Loake and L1. (Editor’s note: You might recognize these guys Stateside, as they’re sold via East Dane).
- Barker (Entry-level to mid-range)
- I confess that I didn’t have a good look at the models from Barker while I was there, largely because I was in the market for a pair of Loakes, and because I saw a few cemented (referring to the method of attaching the soles of the shoes to their uppers) and corrected grain models, which I wasn’t quite fond of.
- Cheaney (Mid-range)
- In addition to their main collection of Cheaney’s, it’s also worth noting that P.Lal has factory seconds of Cheaney’s shoes, albeit in limited sizes and models. At prices similar to or lower than Loake 1880s, these seconds are an incredible deal, provided you can find one in your size.
- Crockett & Jones (Mid-range) [Editor’s note: Another brand with a recognizable name — they supply boots to none other than James Bond].
- It’s quite a pity that Crockett & Jones stopped supplying to P.Lal some years ago, ostensibly due to their overly-low prices that Crockett & Jones weren’t agreeable with. A few sizes remain.
- Gaziano & Girling (High-end)
- At prices starting from about $730 or so, shoes from Gaziano & Girling remain firmly in my personal “see but don’t touch” category for the time being. Fine, I might have touched them ever so briefly, but that limited touching was rudely interrupted by the drool leaking uncontrollably out of my mouth, induced by the elegance of those beautiful lasts, channeled soles and fiddleback waists.
I found shopping at P.Lal to be a blissfully serene experience. Unlike most other shops, I was able to walk around the shop at my complete leisure, without the pressure of having a sticky sales associate pushing products onto me. (When engaged however, the sales associates were extremely attentive and knowledgeable, giving me advice on the lasts which would fit my wide-ish feet.) That lack of pressure resulted in me spending two-and-a-half hours asking a ton of questions, trying on multiple sizes in various models, walking around the shop in the shoes I was trying and gazing lovingly at the display shoes as if they were museum exhibits. Left in my trail were two exhausted sales associates, a companion who had mentally checked out long ago and many shoe boxes.
In addition to the wide array of shoes and the wonderful shopping experience, the favorably low value of the Malaysian Ringgit compared to U.S. dollars and P.Lal’s lowest fixed prices guarantee provide two more compelling reasons to drop in for a visit if you’re ever in town.
Lastly, note that orders can be placed via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone (pull out that long-distance calling card) at this number: +60 3 7955 5454 or +60 10 540 5454