The last is the wood or plastics form they used to shape the upper portion of the shoe, at the time of construction. The Rancourt hand sewn lasts are lovely, for what they are, but the more "dressy" shoe lasts are really off to me. Given your price constraint, I think AE would be a good option. Given more money I'd suggest Alden. Given more experience, I'd suggest something like Carmina or Crockett and Jones.