[I said I'd do a review for anyone who can be bothered reading with the process I went through, if not the pics are at the bottom]
Okay Dokey, review time.
So my shoe history started when I was 18 and for my 18th I asked for a pair of RM.Williams. The Shoe pron thread on SF wooed as did the RMW thread and I wound up with a pair of Black Veal Craftsman's.
They are amazing and I do like them very much. However they are boots, and I needed a pair of 'shoes' to add to a shoe collection. Enter Bruce Miller. To be honest I'm not sure how old Bruce is, when I arrived at his factory in north Melbourne wearing my RM.W's he said 'I remember making the first lot of those craftsman lasts in the 60's'.
We spent the next 3-4 hours talking the shoe trade, lasts, shoe makers, manufacturing and everything inbetween. Bruce is a stand up guy ad if you are interested in shoes and you live in Australia he's the guy to talk to. Everyone I can think of sources their lasts from him, From Diana Ferrari to Country road, Doc Cobbler in Melbourne to Andrew McDonald in Sydney.
He measured my foot in the traditional way, paper, pencil and tape measure. He asked me what I didn't like about my RM.W's. I pointed out that the part between the toe cap and my ankle was too high, I added two insoles to bring my top part of my foot flush with the upper. A deflated cone or 'bag of air' he called it. He also pointed out other fit issues I had not noticed until he pointed them out.
After much talk I settled on a round toe shape, I wanted a round toe but I wasn't sure how pointed the result would be. I set out to get an elegant 'non blobby shoe ah al Edward Green/G&G and the last is a very big factor in a shoes elegance. Bruce certainly inspired a lot of confidence and much of the decision making was left up to him shape wise.
I spent the next 2 months tossing and turning about the toe shape, was it 'too' round, should I have asked for the RM.W Macquarie toe shape instead?!?!?
After 2 months or so the lasts arrived. They were marvellous, of Bruce's signature blue plastic. Had really great shape, nothing generic about them at all, angled cones, lovely. They only spent over night at my house before they were posted off to cliff the next morning.
Cliff Emailed me to say he had received the lasts about 10 days later and I chose a John Lobb Philipp II copy. I did this because a) it's a very nice simple looking shoe and b) I wanted a shoe that would be timeless more or less, I think the Philipp II's are exactly that.
So 14 or so weeks passed and I received some photos from cliff. They were looking fantastic, but to be honest I had the impression that the toe shape looked a little to round, form the pics that looked a little bit dear I say, 'blobby'. They also looked very wide. Anyway, I puts the pics that cliff sent me up on SF and Film Noir, there probs on the previous page if you want to see them.
10 days later I had a uni exam today, which finished rather late, it was very nice to see this waiting for me at home.
you can see the shoes i wore tode, not quite bespore standard :P
So I opened it all up and the one thing that surprised me was how ridiculously light the box was. Really really light, the whole thing couldn't have weighed 1 Kg. they make my RM.W veal craftsman's feel like tanks in comparison. You really begin to realise how light they are when you get them on your feet. I will be getting a shoe horn tomorrow, because getting them on is not that easy. They are quite literally 'air tight' when you take them off you can hear the air rushing back into the shoes.
That's not to say they are tight in the least. They are 'comfort' they support where they should. It's a really positive feeling of support not tightness. And the toe shape, fantastic, exactly what I was after. All that time spent being concerned by it all, Bruce came through trumps.
The upper is incredible, much better stitching than my craftsman's, much better, even, and small, wonderful detail, the heal seam is wow. Brouging is beautiful and even. They are just wow.
The sole (which I think is one of cliffs specialities) is flawless. You know its hand make because the pattern tool has that excellent imperfections only a hand can do. The sole is spotless, the nail work is so accurate the heal is very well made, almost seamless heal rubber pad. The channel is so closed you wouldn't know there ever was one.
With the shoes on my feet as I type this I can say that they are exactly what I set out to get. Beautiful and elegant in my eye, not to formal, not casual, just the right balance of everything. Except quality, there's no balance of quality, its only top notch.
As a final note, the leather as others have mentioned is stiffer than what I was expecting. stiffer than my Veal craftsman's, but that not to say it's bad, not at all, the leather gives you the feeling of strength and stability that you want from a pair of (I know cliff won't use the term) 'bespoke' shoes, that should last at least 20 years (or the rest of my life). The smell is wonderfully leathery, one thing I really love about good shoes.
I couldn't recommend Bruce's or Cliff's work enough. Both are very very good and what they do and the final product is outstanding to say the least. You would have to search 'very' hard to find a better final product in OZ that's for sure.
I'd like to thanks the good people of SF for getting me onto the shoe and Cliff.
Hope I don't bump up cliffs waiting list to Suzuki levels now :S.