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Shoes_2 (15 of 17)What I like most in the shoe industry is the fact that things are always on the move. Although at first sight you wouldn’t believe it, this dynamics supports traditionalists like myself. The reappearance in RTW of models that were seen only in movies until yesterday (like button boots for example) or the revitalization in a modern key of old designs, are sure to make designs to permanently reinvent themselves. Someone once told me that there is nothing new in the shoe design. Maybe he was right, but the use of old models is done with the help of more refined lasts, so the final shoe is not actually a copy of the old model.Shoes_2 (4 of 17)

One such model is Carmina Pujadas. This model has an interesting history for me. But let’s start with the beginning. The shoe that you see is a tribute paid by Carmina to Matias Pujadas, the one who started the story of … Read more here.Shoes_2 (10 of 17)

Photo credit: www.lumos.ro|Madalin Bosinceanu

IMG_0410Choosing a shoe is a tough job in Bucharest. The visits to the mall can be terrifying – you find horrible shoes at shameless prices, the so-called handmade shoes with glued soles and so on. The “quality shoes” offer is quite limited, most of the retailers having on their shelves shoes that can “complete the outfits”, not ones who would provide the client with quality shoes. Many gentlemen forget that the value of a good shoe is sensitively equal to that of the suit. The shoes are not accessories but the basis on which the outfit of a man is based. IMG_0415
Although at first glance retailers are the bad boys in this story, we must keep in mind the fact that people invest in their business and they sell what the client asks for. The concept regarding the fact that the level of the costume’s education level of the buyer is low because the seller won’t educate the buyer respects the purely Romanian vision according to which it is always someone else’s fault. The Romanian client should educate himself, should know how to ask for quality from the seller, should pay attention to details and afterword should complain that there are no places to buy from. To throw the entire blame upon sellers is not fair, although they too have their sins (and not few). After all, they only sell what is asked for.
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Going back to shoes, I was searching for a tassel loafer for the summer. The ideal model for me is Edward Green Belgravia. Since I never tested the 184 last though, I was afraid to buy it online, especially because it is quite pricey and because loafers must suit you perfectly, so that you won’t torture your feet while walking in them as if they were flip-flops.  Generally, these are shoes that you wear often, so any small callus can be very painful, especially since, during summer, feet may swell due to the heat.IMG_0354
So here I was, in that annoying moment of uncertainty, when I saw a similar model from Loake on a British website. liked what I saw: the quality seemed to be good. Temple, because that is the model I’m talking about, is the top of the range from Loake – 1880, and the price is three times lower than the one of Edward Green. Edward Green obviously has advantages, when compared to Loake (better leather, better sole etc.) but I wasn’t searching for perfection. It seemed to be a good deal, so I decided to try out the last, considering that Loake has a representative in Romania, Matei Ladea (Sarto) to be more precise. IMG_0369
Knowing I was passionate about shoes and especially intrigued by the fact that I had never tried a Loake before, Matei challenged me to pick a pair from the entire Loake collection and to let him kow my impression. Since I knew exactly what I wanted, I picked Temple from the top range – Loake 1880. It is a goodyear welted – open channel loafer, built on a special loafer last. Since I knew how Loake dealt with the construction, I was mostly curious to see how the leather looked like. I had only seen the shoes in photos, but the path from photos to reality is a long one. The leather is very nice. The color is chestnut, with slightly burnished tips. The burnish is discreet, making the Temple a very elegant shoe. The braided lace and the fringes come to the scratch, and the shoe is well balanced as a whole. The leather gets a very nice colour after two-three polishes. The discreet burnish helps a lot with the relaxed aspect of this model. It fits very well my foot, does’t come loose in the back side, and the  instep  is fixed without being too tight. The shoe follows properly the line of the foot, supporting it very well. Loake did a very good job with the Temple loafer last. It is not a small thing to find in a RTW shoe a last that comes so well, especially considering the fact that we’re talking about a loafer – a shoe that demands an (almost) perfect last. Loake has other loafer lasts too, but I was very comfortable with this one.IMG_0328
To resume, I’d say that Loake Temple impresses through leather – a leather that gets a beautiful patina after a few polishes – and comfort – it doesn’t need time for accommodation and the support is good. It is not Edward Green Belgravia, but it doesn’t pretend to be. Temple is a shoe which you cannot reproach anything from the point of view of the quality/price ratio. To be honest, I do not know who could beat it on the Bucharest retail market. If there are counter candidates, let me know.
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Stefano Bemer entered into a new era since Tommaso Melani has taken the wheel. Their RTW line seems to be more and more consistant (like Tony Gaziano & Dean Girling’s shoes from the point of view of refinement). Gaziano&Girling are my favorites, in point of Ready- to-wear  shoes. I believe that at the present day they convey the best quality-price ratio. Quality control is flawless and the focusing on the up-to-date design ensures that their business model is a winner.IMG_8506
Coming back to Stefano Bemer, Tommaso equipped the brand with everything necessary for this one to comply with the RTW shoes market. The brand image is a very good one, the lasts are suitable to every taste (which is important when you want to sell RTW) and the leathers are quite interesting.
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My Bemer shoes do have a somewhat different feel than the rest of my Italian footwear, but that shouldn’t be surprising. The Italian air can be felt as soon as you hold the shoe in your hand, but the last speaks.The shoe follows the contour of my foot while being comfortable but not too snug. It is not a heavy shoe, the English sort of shoe, that always seems to say “Hey, I’m here! Do you feel me?”. They are much less stiff than any other new shoes I’ve had. The GW sole is flexible, thus making the shoe very comfortable. The sole is a closed channel sole, and the attention for details can be seen starting from the fiddle back waist and up to the brogueing.Overall aspect is excellent and looks very neat. The leather gets a very fine glossiness after several polishes and has a good elasticity, so you can see that it ages nicely. A more beautiful version of this derby would have been in buffalo leather or hatchgrain, but when I ordered the model Tommaso didn’t have those leathers, they weren’t available. Maybe with the next pair…IMG_8502
There are many who regret the period when Stefano Bemer shoes were made entirely by hand. Given the changes made due to the disappearance of Stefano Bemer, I believe that Tommaso is leading the brand in the right direction. To limit yourself only to bespoke shoes is no longer possible nowadays, I think, for a brand that wants to evolve. On a long term, these changes of paradigm (see Stefano Bemer or Anthony Delos) will raise a lot the level of expectancy of the RTW/MTO shoe buyer.
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If shoemakers like Tony Gaziano or those trained by Stefano Bemer himself didn’t leave their print on the RTW, we wouldn’t have nowadays  models that almost make you not turn your steps towards bespoke shoes. (Take for exemple J. FitzPatrick Westlake RTW mixed calf/tweed button boot. Few years ago it was unbeliveble to find a button in RTW range. Another exemple would be Museum Calf few years ago available only at Lobb Paris. Now you can have Radica leather on Meermin, Carmina , J.FitzPatrick and so on.)
And we must not forget that neither for G&G nor for Stefano Bemer is bespoke dead. Sometimes we forget that bespoke shoemaking is not a flower garden, and that offering bench made Goodyear welted models can be a compromise that helps both the shoemaker and the client.
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Just like G&G wouldn’t be here today without the help of Xavier Maier, Stefano Bemer brand wouldn’t be what he is today without the experience or the vision of Tommaso Melani. Those shoes are made in highly organized and efficient factories. To be competitive on the market you must offer variety, personalization (MTO), quality leathers and a proper flagship store. And all these cost money. Otherwise, you will eventually remain a relic of the past, an extraordinary shoemaker with shoes displayed in museums, but with a lot of everyday problems. And I like my shoes to be made by happy guys like Tony or Tommaso
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Zonkey Boot  was not on my list of wanted shoes when I announced the opening of their new website. There were two resons–  I am almost emotional with regard to traditional models, so I look mostly indifferently to the so-called “revolutionary” models or pointed lasts. I’m a classic guy and nothing can change that. The second reason was related to the fact that I had never held one in my hand in order to analyze it with a “magnifying glass”. The premises were good, Michael Rollig –  founder of Zonkey Boot –  being an appreciated name in the industry. Plus, from what I had seen he was appreciated on the Asian market, which means constancy and care for details. Nevertheless, I didn’t have the impulse of pressing the “buy” button.
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Yet, at the beginning of winter, I felt the need for a more youthful shoe, which would still correspond to the quality standards. I needed a robust shoe, made from an easy to maintain leather. So my bloodhounds started sniffing around…
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Although at first sight it didn’t appear to be a very difficult job, I realized that the offer was not that generous after all. To my mind kept coming a boot that I had seen on B&T, but I couldn’t remember its producer. I started looking for it on the net  and I finally found it.
The producer: Zonkey Boot. The boot is named 048 and the last was very similar to what I had in mind. From that point on things were pretty simple, although Mr. Rollig doesn’t make the choice easy for you. The last is called Sailor and the offer for this last is quite wide. From 22 Sailor based models 17 are boots, witch indicates to me the fact that the last was initially developed for boots and then it was also used for shoes. For boot the last is very nice, giving it a pronounced casual aspect. Sailor last boots go very well with tweed and jeans, less well with suits. But that was exactly what I was looking for.
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I’ve stoped at 5 models from the e-shop and decided to chose from them the one that would be more suited for winter : 048 – the model that was stuck inside my mind (very nice granulated skin, burnished tip, 698 Euros), 022 ( even if the colour was a bit too pretentious I chose it because of the Norvegese leather soles. If you are a fan of Cordovan and you can’t afford Horween, Bavarian Wax Calf could be the answer) and 033 (a versatile Chelsea boot from a very nice buffalo shoulders skin, a skin that is very resistant for not so pretentious wearing).
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On the short list of shoes remained a derby 127 (burnished shrunken buffalo shoulders) and 144 . Eventually I have chosen a shoe not a boot (144) for practical reasons – the mixed leather-rubber thick sole is very useful in winter, and the shrunken calf leather is wearable (it doesn’t need special maintenance or extra shine). Plus it was black. You can never go wrong with black. IMG_5159
Did I make a good choice? I tend to think so.  144 is not a Mercedes S Klasse. It is a G-Cross Country combined with B-Klasse Sports Tourer – if you can imagine that. You can rely on it and it gives you that feeling of solid-made shoe. It has no small fabrication defects that would induce any doubts. The leather is splendid, it reminds me of a grey wholecut Maftei made from elephant leather for which I longed at some point (and which remained, until the day, an desire). After wearing the 144 I will give a serious thought on investing more in my future casual shoes. 144 prove to be a very reliable companion.
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Summarizing, Zonkey Boot 144 is a fine shoe, with a comfortable last, and a leather that makes the difference. The price is a bit steep for a pair of casual shoes (720 Euro)  but in the end quality is not cheap -  handwelted shoe (flexibility) with vegetable tanned bovine leather insole and more  it has a mixed sole.  Not to mention a nice detail: rounded waxed leather laces.
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Now, that I discovered that the Sailor last doesn’t offer any unpleasant surprises, I would like to try something that fits it better – the 033 boot. Shrunken buffalo shoulders reminded me of elephant or shark leathers. Talking about leathers it is amazing how many avaiable leathers one has at Zonkey Boot:  Bavarian CalfBavarian Wax CalfFrench Aniline CalfRussian CalfShrunken CalfShrunken Buffalo ShouldersSnow CalfElephant LeatherBovine LeatherWater Buffalo LeatherHunting SuedeCalf Suede. 13 leathers for RTW! That’s a performance. They don’t offer T-Rex leather but I don’t mind. I don’t like reptile leather shoes at all…

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Michael Rollig proved to be a good businessman but I did not expect less from the man who founded Saint Crispin’s once.There are a few brands that offer casual shoes and boots at  lower prices but if you are used to quality dress shoes such Gaziano & Girling or Edward Green and expect the same from a casual shoe, Zonkey Boot is a good choice (if not the only choice). Some of the models aren’t for everyone, and admittedly there are a few that I would not wear such as 147 model .  But it is up to you to decide which models are for you and witch are not.  If you are not satisfied with Ready-To-Wear go to the next level –  Made-To-Order .
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In his interview for Claymoor’s List he confesed “I consider myself rather a professional shoe tinker than a specialized expert in one part of the trade“. The ZB models prove his creativity and inspired vision in the shoemaking business focused on young people and their needs.

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Wide range of leathers, handwelting process, good support of the foot, well-balanced shoe, clean designs and in the end good service (Michael Rollig and Alexandra Diaconu are very helpfull) .  Those are the Pros. The Cons … I really don’t know what to say at this chapter. They are making their shoes in Italy . I know that some of you have a thing with Italian factory-made shoes but belive me Mr. Rollig is no newcommer in the business.  ZB is a well structured shoe. The quality control is excellent. I could argue the price but again all the above things don’t come cheap. They worth every penny. I don’t know Mr. Rollig plans for next years but it is possible for the price to rise. He have few competitors on the market and  I belive that ZB are cheaper than their value (at least for boots – take for exemple 048 - 700 eur including VAT – a marvelous handlasted boot).
IMG_6397I have heard many things about  Heinrich Dinkelacker, but until a year ago, if I’m not mistaken, I hadn’t seen any shoe made by them. Unfortunately, the first model I saw was a big and clunky Budapester with heavy braided Goyzer stitching and thick, sturdy sole. Since I’m not a fan of this model (I’m not very fond of the Frankenstein look of Budapesters) Dinkelacker went completely out of the range of my preoccupations. Back then I had entered the Vass period, a producer for whom I have a great admiration. Vass diminished my interest in other  shoemakers. The F and P2 lasts seem hard to match by most of the German producers, whose imagination regarding the last design borders suicide. On a market where design and reinterpretation of traditional models make the difference, the German conservatism is hard to understand. Although they use good leather and have a qualified shoemakers, most producers refuse to see beyond the traditional German client. Some of the Hungarian and Austrian producers had the same policy, but globalization and the success recorded by Vass with the new Italian lasts, and especially the increase of the online sales weight modified their perception. In Vienna I saw some models that were unimaginable some years ago.
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Some months ago though I saw a Dinkelacker pair (not Budapester) worn by a friend of mine, and the shoe seemed quite interestingly built, plus I received quite a few review requests from my readers, so I decided to dig more in this direction. Did Dinkelacker have other models to arouse my curiosity or it was just a good old style German – Hungarian brand?
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To my surprise, the official site presents an impressive selection of models, lasts and leathers, Budapester being one of them but not the only one. With 11 available lasts it is hard to not find one that would suit your style. To me, the chosen one was Luzern, a last that is balanced and very close to my urban style, and the model was a derby brogue.IMG_6400
The first impression, when you take a shoe out of its box, is very strong. In that moment you like it or you don’t. There are no half measures. If you expect to see a perfectly finished shoe that would remind you of a museum exhibit then you will be disappointed. If, however, you expect to see a shoe that would breath craftsmanship through all its pores, your waiting will not be betrayed. When you hold the shoe in your hand you can feel the leather smell from the workshop, you can hear the beats of the hammer on the last and you can see the leather fitted over the last. The leather is superb, almost unimaginable for an RTW and even MTO.
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They look fantastic on the feet, photos don’t really do them justice. The fit is superb. They are the perfect every day shoes. The little imperfections take no edge off their charm, bringing a plus of originality – they are an extra argument to the fact that this is not a series product. Dinkelacker are shoes of which I’m sure they will age beautifully. For a long time now I haven’t had such a pleasant surprise, my enthusiasm being confirmed after the wearing, since Luzern is a highly comfortable last. And the fact that I started with a preconception in judging some shoes that proved to be splendid is a lesson of life which I intend to learn.IMG_6392
I gave a great deal of thought about Dinkelacker in the days that followed the first wearing. What made me so enthusiastic? Some of you will say that the little imperfections shouldn’t have passed the quality control, others that, after all, Luzern is a last with a very special shape. I won’t deny all these aspects. I’m aware that maybe I’m blinded by a love at first site. I believe that the answer resides in the fact that these shoes bring to my mind the shoemaking workshop, as it used to be once. An, above all else, they remind me that shoes are made to be worn on a daily basis, and not displayed in a glass case. And with the Dinkelacker shoes, I’m not afraid of the length of the road.IMG_6386 IMG_6391 IMG_6389 IMG_6401 IMG_6399 IMG_6396 IMG_6395 IMG_6388
I don’t like exotic leather shoes. Most of the time I compare them to a beautiful woman wearing excessive make-up. They try somehow to make a splash and say “Look at me! Am I not beautiful?” Excessive preciosity can be annoying. I think that the shoe has a sine-qua-non beauty. Exotic leather distracts my attention from the beauty of the form. Less is more, in my opinion.
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However, I have to admit that sometimes the match between the shoe and the leather can be seductive. I must admit that Koji Suzuky’s exotic leather shoes, or Cleverley shoes made of genuine Russian Leather (if we can count that as exotic leather) seriously shook my theory. Elegance is not excluded when we talk about exotic leather, and some models even have a conservative look.
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Some time ago, when the opinions regarding exotic leather weren’t nuanced I saw a pair of Maftei derby shoes made of black ostrich leather. I was amazed. I looked like Richard Gere watching Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. What attracted me about that model? Where did its elegance come from? I still cannot answer to those questions. But it was love at first sight and since then I lived thinking about my Vivian Ward.
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And since good things happen to people who wait, I have in my feet an identical pair of shoes, almost identical to the Maftei pair in my story. The name of the brand – Paul Parkman. The shoes (plain-toe handmade derby shoes) are made in Istanbul, Turkey, and honestly I was a bit skeptical at first, regarding their quality. Not often did I have problems with Turkish products. Istanbul is a huge market where you can buy anything starting with leather, linings or soles, but in 95% of the cases the quality leaves much to be desired.
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Polat Sendir, the founder of Paul Parkman, assured me that things weren’t like that at Paul Parkman, and that each pair was given all the attention. He even connected me with the shoemaker Murat Erbas, who was dealing with my own pair of shoes, which was actually nice. Anyway, I have all the admiration for their client service. The ostrich leather is very soft, buttery and pleasant at touch. The squared last is pleasant and ensures a satisfactory comfort. The channels of the soles (Goodyear welted) are closed and overall the shoes are crafted with care. Time however will decide if the shoes will conduct properly. For the time being I am pleased with them.
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One thing Polat could work on would be the quality of the materials used inside the shoe, and he should also change the provider of the glue used for gluing the insole. It smells rather loud. I had to keep them air for an entire day in order for the smell to go away. This can be an upsetting thing, when you open the box. As a grand result, if you ignore the details above (which can, however, become annoying) Polat does a good job. I cannot say anything about the quality/price ratio at Paul Parkman because I am not interested in the exotic leather shoes, but it’s worth to take a peek on their website (paulparkman.com/). Plus, Polat is willing to modify RTW models, so you can have actually some sort of a hidden MTO.
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Buday Shoes,  Margit körút 4 is the address that you mustn’t miss if you spend at least one day in Budapest. Along with Vass and Rosznay, Buday carries on the Austro-Hungarian shoemaking tradition. I confess that Buday was a surprise for me. I know Laszlo Vass’ shoes better, the same goes with Rosznay, having a pair bought from a friend, with which I am very content.

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I was curious about the level of his craftsmanship because the information on his shoes is not that widely spread over the internet. Having many pairs in my hands I can say that he is nowhere lower than other respectable shoemakers. Plus, the attractive price makes it very competitive. The lack of advertising however has its say, and it is only this thing that makes it not so present in the eyes of those who long for quality shoes.

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I appreciate the price of his shoes, the quality of the work and the multitude of lasts. Practically, he has so many available lasts that it is difficult to not find one that you’d like. Communication with him is easy, he understands what you want  and he is very punctual regarding the order. The shoes (classic suede oxford)  have been made on the gorgeous Pilis  last that is by far my favorite Buday last.

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To me Pilis last gives the shoe a very bespoke feel to it, and when combined with suede it makes the shoe look really elegant and refined. The sole is impressive. Although you hold in your hand a Hungarian shoe, there is no heaviness of the shoe that you find in other producers, the sole being extremely flexible.

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The only regret about Buday shoes is that they are not better known. Many times we prefer to buy RTW/MTO shoes for very high prices. We could get much more for our money if we turned to shoemakers from Hungary, Czech Republic, Moldova or Romania, and on top of all that, together with the cost of the plane and the hotel you pay less than the price of some Western MTO/RTW shoes.

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For more detalis about Buday shoes visit: www.budayshoes.com