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No knock on Meermin, but these are a significant step up. Fitzpatrick's stuff is more on par with Carmina and in some cases may even be a step above.
Meermin has a great price:quality ratio, but their leathers are on the cheap side and their welting can be rather suspect. JF definitely shows an attention to detail worth of someone known best as "The Shoe Snob." Again, I have handled both products personally and actually own Meermins.
If you can swing the $300ish dollars, these are in the running for the best shoes you can get for under $500.
How does C&J compare to Carmina?
C&J is definitely a step up but not a large one. Most of the price difference there comes from the cost of labor in the UK vs. Spain. That said, C&J occupies a weird price range in my book. Carminas will run you $350-500 while C&J is usually $700+, a point at which I sort of feel that I might as well jump to Vass (hand welted) or all the way up to Edward Green.
I would put Fitzpatrick on a rung below C&J, but probably immediately below (if that makes sense).
Step up? I've read that Carmina is a step up from C&J. At least C&J's benchgrade line.