I participated in A Harris's special offer for Vass shoes last October, and I finally got the shoes last week. I thought that I would post my reactions and some pictures here for those of you who might be interested. First, the shoes. Because I have very little resistance when it comes to shoes, I purchased both the Budapest and the Oxford Medallion models. The Budapests were on the Budapest last in Antic Cognac calf (it's a sort of medium brown with a slight red tinge -- a little darker than the color that JM Weston calls tan) with double leather soles and a steel plate at the toe of the sole. Here's a photo. Pictures really don't do this shoe on this last justice: they usually make the shoe look distinctive but clunky, and that's certainly not the case. It's certainly distinctive, but it's also very elegant. I momentarily panicked when I tried to put them on for the first time until I realized that they had six eyelets instead of five and that I would have to loosen the laces a bit more than usual. The fit is very good overall, although I wish that they were a touch wider. The shoes wear well and don't fatigue my feet. The quality of construction and materials is obviously very high, and I imagine that the shoes will develop quite an attractive patina over time. I'm also very impressed with the trees. Aside from the three-piece trees in the Oxford Medallions, they are the finest that I've ever seen. The Oxford Medallions were on the U last in Cognac calf (paler and oranger than EG's Edwardian Antique color) with single leather soles bevelled at the waist and a row of brass brads at the toe. Here's a photo. I was concerned about these because of the long and narrow nature of the U last, but it turns out that my concerns were without foundation. The shoes fit wonderfully. I like the toe shape very much (Edward Green's 808 last is my favorite, and I ordered a pair of Cleverley bespoke shoes largely because of the shape of the typical Cleverley last), and I've always been an admirer of the bevelled waist. Apparently, the front part of my foot sits a little bit higher than normal, and this caused the vamp of the shoe not to sit as smoothly as I could have wished; this is a problem that I have with a lot of Italian shoes, and in my mind, it's very minor: I doubt that anyone other than I ever noticed it. The finish on the shoes is superlative: it manages to be high-shine without looking like plastic, which you don't see very often. Like the Budapests, the shoes wear well and don't fatigue my feet. I'm extremely impressed by the three-piece shoe trees. Those could retail for $150 or $175 just by themselves. I think that you can gauge my satisfaction my the relative pettiness of my criticisms: I wish that the shoes had a half sock liner rather than a full one (I like to see the insole), I would have preferred for the soles to be stained a deeper golden tan like British makers do, and I would have liked the tongues on the Oxford Medallion shoes to be sewn to the quarter a la Edward Green. Gabor says that the full sock liner is done because half liners are sometimes prone to peeling back and that Mr. Vass believes that darker tan soles look worse when worn than ones stained the color that Vass uses. Oh well, reasonable people can disagree. I'm also impressed by the quality of service that A Harris and the Vass US managing director Gabor Halmos provided me. A Harris got the size of both pairs of shoes just right (and they were different sizes) without ever having seen my feet or me trying on any shoes, and the communication about my order and when it would arrive was very good. It took a while to get the shoes, but that's the way these things go sometimes: these are handmade shoes made one pair at a time to order, and the factory operates on its own schedule rather than mine. FWIW, I recommend Vass shoes highly. You would do well to seek them out at Fairfield Clothiers or Louis Boston (or any of the other dozens of stores that A Harris will sell them to in the next few weeks.
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3/6/04 at 5:17pm