When I first saw someone wearing a pair of Quoc Pham shoes my immediate thought was "they look great, I wonder where I can get a pair". Based on the design of a classical leather fixed shoe, the design harks back to the simplicity and durability of the earliest track shoes.
That thought was about two years ago and it took me that long to track down what they were and also to get round to buying a pair.
Part of the reason for the delay is it seems to be quite difficult to buy Quoc Pham shoes. They have quite a high profile in the cycling world and regularly get profiled in the new generation of cool style-driven cycling magazines but when you try and find someone who stocks them then it becomes a bit more tricky. For example, in London they have six stockists (Condor, Mosquito, Geoffrey Butler, Always Riding, Bike Plus and We Are Cyclism) but when I went along to Condor looking for a shoe in size 43 I was told that they were out of stock and because they had to order a minimum of six shoes at a time another order wouldn't be put in for at least three months.
I spoke to someone who knows the cycling/fashion well world and he described Quoc Pham as "more of a fashion concept brand than a proper business", which perhaps explains why more people aren't wearing them.
Anyway, after my Condor failure (I like to try and support a local bike shop, where possible) I ended up ordering them from the Quoc Pham internet site. This isn't ideal because Quoc Pham's shoe sizing policy is non-standard - they note on their website "our size run 1/2 size smaller then standard average" - which means it's a bit of lottery that you get a size that fits. Add in that their shows are directly shipped from Taiwan (that's £20 postage to you to get it and, I'd assume, £20 postage to send it back if it doesn't).
When the shoes arrived (about 10 days later) I have to say they do look very attractive. Well presented in a simple cardboard box, they come with an orange bag for packing them in your suitcase/travel bag and each pair is individually numbered.
The leather is supple, the shoe is pretty light and they feel like they are made to last. There is a nice cycling-specific detail on the back with a line of reflective paint that will help motorists to notice you on a winter's evening; it is a shame that the paint had been slightly sloppily applied to my shoe. Also, the front of the shoe is well reinforced for those who like to use toe clips on their bike.
Quoc Pham themselves describe their shoes as "for the urban enthusiast, commuter and weekend tourist" and says that the "classically-inspired design and quality craftsmanship appeal to a newly design-aware, velo couture audience." It's that sort of wanky language that generally puts me off this sort of product but I guess I must be becoming part of the velo couture audience.
Putting them on, the first thing you notice is that they are pretty narrow. This is good for me as I have narrow feet but anyone with wide feet would, I suspect, struggle with these fixed shoes. Walking around, they were immediately comfortable. The only strange sensation is that the ball of the foot feels slightly mounted, which means that you slightly have the same sensation as walking when you have cleats on a racing shoe. Once you get used to it there is no problem but it does take a while to adjust.
I've been wearing them for 10 days now and I think they are a pretty good pair of shoes. They are comfortable and smart enough to be able to wear on the bike and then in the office, assuming that you don't have a super smart dress code in your office. If you work in some arts related or marketing or social media job or your office is in Soho or Hoxton or Shoreditch then you'll blend in perfectly.
I have to confess that I was hoping that other people would be as enthusiastic about how they look as I was. I haven't had very many compliments about them and quite a few people have said they look strange/odd (albeit one of the fiercest critics said that they were 'horrid...and you shouldn't ever wear them again" but he is only five years old). Perhaps they are just an acquired taste.
I realise this review isn't particularly balanced but I think that's probably the point. If you like this sort of shoe then you'll probably love it. But I think it is quite a niche product and for many cyclists it is perhaps just a step too far (ahem) between cycling attire and high fashion.
*reprinted from Sportive.com. Article by Richard Hutchinson, 2013