Bespoke or MTO?
Bespoke, because nothing touches having a shoe completely made to your specifications to suit your personality exactly. It’s also about being part of a bespoke club that few people are part of. It’s also about the fit and construction and elegance and quality. Bespoke has a special magic about it that is impossible to describe, and it is worth whatever price needs to be paid to make it happen. I don’t see bespoke in terms of dollars, l see it as a dream come true, and no price can be put on a dream that comes true and continues to come true each time you wear the pair year after year. You don’t price bespoke based on logic, you price it based on the level of the dream which has come true, therefore bespoke is priceless. It doesn’t matter if bespoke is $5,000 or $20,000, as long as the dream comes true. MTO is still somewhat cold and clinical because it is not made specially for you.
What advices would you give to a shoe buyer who would want to detect quality?
That’s a really good question, and it can be tricky for buyers because various leathers and constructions can make it hard to tell for most people. Unfortunately there is no substitute for experience and having a good 6th sense on these issues, but sometimes we can use techniques to test for quality such as looking at the grain of the calf shoe in partial light on a side angel to look for flaws (not so easy to learn, and takes experience), or to look carefully at the souls to see if it is a fake welt or rand, to compare a highend shoe to a lower end shoe etc. To see if an insole is dimpled which sometimes can indicate hand welting. Some people say to look for a shoe with a stitched sole, but that can be misleading too, and a glued on sole can last longer than a shoe with a stitched on soul in some cases. In summery, it can’t really be taught because there are so many factors to take into account, so experience is the ultimate factor with a hefty dose of 6th sense about it all.
What are the visible signs of a quality shoe?
Quality means different things to people. To my high standards, hand welting in top leather is quality and anything that is machine inseamed or glued doesn’t reach the standard or look warm and organic. Using machines to continuously repair a shoe can also damage the integrity of the shoe. As l said above the factors can vary so much so a hard rule can’t be applied. One must have good experience and spend much time observing shoes over a long period of time to really know.
Best value/price ratio brands?
Many of the Central Europe brands that are hand welted and use good leathers such as Dinkelacker, Vass, Buday etc.
Worst value/price ratio brands?
The highend English shoes. They look good on the feet and use nice last and have great classic designs, but they lack the obvious warmth of the handmade shoes from Europe because the English shoes have that cold and clinical factory made look when viewed close up. They are also goodyear welted, so integrity of the shoe can be compromised on future recrafts and you are using factory workers to recraft or rebuild a shoe instead of a shoemaker who takes the extra time to preserve the integrity of the shoe. You basically get a cold and clinical factory shoe for a very high price when you buy English highend shoes. Even worse value would be brands like Berluti, Tom Ford and various famous highend designer brands sold at full retail. Regardless of what l just said, l still love highend English goodyear welted shoes for what they are, a really nice factory shoe, but lets not make it more than what it is.
How would you describe in just a few words the following brands (the order is random)?
Very conservative designs and lasts that are classic and non offensive. They also use a leather that antiques really quickly like no other shoe after a short period of time. Their antiquing is natural looking and hence, perfection.
The poor man’s Edward Green. Great designs that are both classic and modern. Every man starting out in the `shoo world’ should cut their teeth on a pair of Crocket&Jones. To normal eyes they can look just like Edward Greens.
Those guys have it really going on. The Anthony Cleverley are the finest designed shoes of any RTW shoe ever made. The lasts are absolute perfection because they make a foot look super elegant and amazing from 6 -8 foot way and the shoe looks bespoke at that distance, and no other rtw shoes can do that to the level that Anthony Cleverley does it. The combination of the designs and the last can’t be surpassed, and Teemu tells me they took 3 years to perfect that Anthony Cleverley chisel toe last. I have a lot of respect for what Cleverley try to achieve, l think l do understand their vision, l just don’t want them to become too big of a business.
They do affordable double soled country shoes better than any of the mid end makers. I love Trickers because they have the unique look. The doubles soles only have 4 – 5 spi, but so be it, their shoes still have that special look, especially with their bulky 360 degree welts.
They do the traditional shoes on traditional lasts such as P2, Budapest and 3636 the best. Their shoes on the modern F, U and K lasts don’t look quite right. The full brogue Budapester and Alt Wien on the 3636 last are pure perfection and shows Vass at it’s best! I LOVE the flexible solidness of Vass, and the experience of wearing those shoes is like no other RTW in my experience. I feel they are modernizing too much and would have liked them to stick to their old traditions, but l guess that shoemakers now must go with the times, and even the traditional George Cleverley shoe house is modernizing.
A total dream. Wish l had a pair.
Boring and lacking the pizzazz of Gaziano&Girling or Cleverley at their best, but they serve an ultra conservative market so l love the unique place they hold in bespoke shoemakers and can see the appeal of owning such shoes. Not what they once were imo because they no longer have the highest level artistry they once had. At one time they made the most stunning shoes I had ever seen with these unique extremely beveled close cut waists on a solid shoe like nothing l have ever seen. I have never seen any shoemaker reach such perfection as in those old John Lobb pictures that used to be in the online catalogue.
Look quite flimsy in build with flimsy calf leathers, but l like the price and the classic designs in shell cordovan models. Definitely a welcome brand with lots of nice colours. Carmina = a single brick house. Church’s/Edward Green = a double brick house. I like double brick houses.
Gaziano & Girling
Modern day eye catching scene stealers with all the bells and whistles. Tony is a genious. They do traditional shoes with an edge, and he isn’t afraid to do more modern shoes because he understands the future is in innovation. Many of their shoes are not to my taste but they lead the way in tasteful modern design that appeals to many markets without being too crazy. Gaziano&Girling are the people to watch.
They can do very nice traditional shoes with beautiful antiquing, but they can also do many ugly shoes.
Have the ability to do a beautiful classic shoe with taste, and also very innovative. Love Artioli.
Stunning. Wish l had a pair. Well priced too.
I respect his training in shoemaking and his innovative approach to mid end shoemaking. Like with Tony Gaziano, he understands that the largest part of the shoe market is in modern innovative designs and lots of different colours.
He makes beautiful traditional shoes and is unique in that part of the world because he also understands innovation.
to be continued …