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Bespoke shoes from vass

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 
This is the update I promised everyone on my Vass bespoke shoes. I thought I'd give a bit of background as well in case anyone else wants to give it a try: The flight was long but uneventful. I only paid about $600 for the ticket. I flew British Airways via London. My first morning there I visited the very small but very charming (for a shoe buff) Vass shop in downtown Pest (Budapest was once three cities - Buda, Obuda and Pest. They still refer to one side as Buda and the other as Pest - Buda is on one side of the river and Pest is on the other.) The shop is located in the heart of the city's best shopping district. There I met Mr. Vass and his daughter Eva. I wish I could have spent more time talking to Mr. Vass but I can't speak Hungarian and we had to communicate through his daughter. I can only imagine the things he could have told me. Even through the language barrier I could tell he was a very nice gentleman. Eva is a wonderful young lady. She is very involved with the business and can usually be found running the shop. Here is a picture of me being measured for my new shoes by Mr. Vass: The measurements didn't take too long. He felt the structure of my feet for a while then took measurements and drew an outline on a pad of paper. On the outline he wrote the measurements, made a lot of notes and he even drew a representation of some of the more difficult areas of my feet (like my little toe which sits at an odd angle and which causes me no end of trouble.) He also examined the shoes I wore (a pair of Church's wingtips.) I don't know if he approved of them or not He made the comment (translated through Eva) that I had "difficult feet." I took pictures of most of the shoes there in the shop and asked a million questions. Then it was off to the workshop. That's me there taking pictures in the workshop. It was amazing to see the shoes being made. Everything was being made by hand. What really struck me was how quickly the shoemakers moved. Every motion was done very quickly and very precisely and with a lot of force. It's hard to describe but it was amazing to watch. I spent the next few days sightseeing in Budapest. It is a very beautiful city and certainly be worth a visit even if Vass were not there. The weather was nice, the sights were beautiful, the people were friendly and fascinating and the food was SUPERB. And everything is quite cheap for a visitor. About two months after I returned home I recieved my first pair of bespoke shoes. They were actually ready in about 5 weeks but I had arrange a wire transfer to pay for them and then they had to be shipped. Budapest shoemakers were quite famous in the first part of the last century. Their most popular creation was a full brogue derby with a high toe cap which was named the Budapest in their honor. This is the same shoe that Vass makes today. It is very unique and very elegant shoe that is starting to reach the level of its former popularity. What I found especially interesting is that in Hungary the Budapest is looked upon as a very conservative shoe - just like the wingtip is here. If you see a well dressed older man strolling along in Budapest, chances are he's wearing Budapests. But here in the states I have a feeling the shoe is going to be percieved almost as high-fashion because of the unique toe shape. For my first pair I had ordered Budapests in dark brown with 360 degree double stitching and a topy (hard rubber sheet) inlaid into the sole. When I first tried them on I was worried because they were a bit tight. But Mr. Vass knew what he was doing - they fit perfectly after I had worn them a couple of times. I have been enjoying them immensely. They are very versatile shoes, I wear them with jeans, sportcoats and slacks and even tweedier suits: As you can see they are quite wide. That's because I've got a wide foot. My brother, who was with me on the trip, ordered a pair of Budapests as well: He loves his and he kept trying to wear them every day. I was able to convince him to give them a rest when I told them that his new pair of $500 shoes (he's never spent anywhere NEAR that much on a pair of shoes before) would be ruined very quickly if he wears them every day All in all it has been a very positive experience. I'm looking forward to ordering my next pair.
post #2 of 42
Thankyou, Mr. Harris, for the enlightening and educational report. As always, we learn so much from your experience. Just by looking at the pictures, I (as well as, I'm sure, everyone else) would love to make that trip to Buda Pest to visit Mr. Vass.
post #3 of 42
Thanks for the great post; I know if I am ever heading in that direction, I'll be buying a pair (at least.). Question: in looking at the pictures, as well as the Vass book, it is clear that the Budapest style is to have a fairly wide waist on the sole, as opposed to the beveled waist of the British style. Do you know if Vass will make a much more beveled waist if the customer so desires? Similarly, will they make a lower toe box?
post #4 of 42
Those shoes are very cool, especially the spectators - I always say I'm going to buy a pair of two-tone shoes, but at the last minute I realize I haven't got a complete wardrobe of 'regular' shoes yet. Which model do you think you'll order next - do Vass have any other uniquely Hungarian styles you can share with us? Incidentally, do you know what the rationale behind the high toe-box is? I've had the shoes below for a while - similar in style, leagues below in terms of quality, of course - and I'm stumped... Was it originally a means to thwart foul weather? To keep delicate toes above the slush and snow? Or is it purely aesthetic? Or do all Hungarians have crooked feet? (Excuse the poor image quality, it's 11:30pm over here...)
post #5 of 42
great post...and pix.. wow. thanks for putting this one on the styleforum. i really think you should write up a formal story/ account of your experience, and submit it to Esquire or Cigar Afficionado. also, did you say the bespoke shoes were $500?.?.?
post #6 of 42
That was a very nice post. And I might add that the pictures were taken quite well too. AAlthough I am not familiar with the lines of Mr.Vass' establishment I can say that I more prefer the stylings of Berluti or perhaps Lobb. I find their shoes a bit chunky per se. Nevertheless theose are very handsome shoes, and that must have been quite an experience.
post #7 of 42
Great Post, as soon as I can figure out of a reason to go to Budapest on the company dime I will definately do so. A. Harris, could you be so kind to answer a couple of questions. 1)Is it possible to do business in English, or would I be better off bringing a translator should I find one? 2)I saw the price of $500, but did you ascertain a high and low price? 3)Were would compare these with other Bespoke shoes, or are they in a class of their own for the money? Thanks, Andy
post #8 of 42
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Incidentally, do you know what the rationale behind the high toe-box is? I've had the shoes below for a while - similar in style, leagues below in terms of quality, of course - and I'm stumped... Was it originally a means to thwart foul weather? To keep delicate toes above the slush and snow? Or is it purely aesthetic? Or do all Hungarians have crooked feet?
That high toe box is typical for shoes of the old Austro/Hungarian Empire and the alpine regions of Germany, they call it "schiffchen (little boat)". I have heard two different explanations: A - Walking down the mountain, the high toe box prevents your toes getting wedged inside the shoes. B - Peasants used to stuff the toes with hay as insulation against winter chills. In World War I, Hungarian soldiers (wearing big boots stuffed with hay) were all right, while their German comrades (in normal sized boots) had their feet frostbitten. I do not know which story is true. Check out other Austro/Hungarian companies: http://www.ludwigreiter.com/ http://www.heinrich-dinkelacker.de/
post #9 of 42
Thread Starter 
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Question: in looking at the pictures, as well as the Vass book, it is clear that the Budapest style is to have a fairly wide waist on the sole, as opposed to the beveled waist of the British style.  Do you know if Vass will make a much more beveled waist if the customer so desires?  Similarly, will they make a lower toe box?
They prefer a square-waisted shoe but that doesn't mean they are unable to make an English-style shoe or one with a beveled sole. They have a last, the R Last, which makes for a shoe that is similar in shape to Crockett & Jones. And they have a new model, developed at the request of a Japanese store, that is very Cleverley-esque. Click the link below to read my prior post about the shoes and see pictures of the shoes I mention: About Vass If you want a whole bevy of bevel-soled shoes though, Vass is probably not your shoemaker. It would be best to go to them for models that are unique to them. You will probably be surprised to see the shoes in person - they aren't super-slim but they look GREAT, much better than the pictures. Also, the  waist on my bespoke shoe (pictured above) is extra-wide, but that's because I have an extra-wide foot. As far as the toe-box goes, only one of the six (ready-to-wear) lasts has the high toe-box. But I'm telling you, the Budapest last is the best one  
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Which model do you think you'll order next - do Vass have any other uniquely Hungarian styles you can share with us?
What will I order for my next shoe? I'm torn   There are a lot of great options. As for other unique models - they can do other shoes on the Budapest last besides the full broque derby, this plain black Oxxford is an example: That's a bad picture taken from the wrong angle but at least it gives you the idea. They do also do a Goiser (side tying Alpine shoe) that is pretty rare: Nick - the picture you posted - who made that shoe?
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also, did you say the bespoke shoes were $500?.?.?
Yep   It's an incredible deal...
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1)Is it possible to do business in English, or would I be better off bringing a translator should I find one? 2)I saw the price of $500, but did you ascertain a high and low price? 3)Were would compare these with other Bespoke shoes, or are they in a class of their own for the money?  
1) There are at least two members of the staff who speak English so you are in good hands. 2) They would run slightly more if you ordered a boot and probably about $100 more if you order shell cordovan. Also these shoes are a deal because of the strength of the dollar vs. the Hungarian forint. But the value of Hungarian currency is rising and the dollar is falling so the prices will slowly go up. 3) The quality of construction is world-class. A few small makers sew the uppers by hand which is the only way you could put more handwork into a shoe. Whether that makes say, a Lattanzi, better is up for debate. Vass doesn't do an elaborate antique finish like Berluti (such a finish, while qualifying as art in and of itself, wouldn't suit a Vass shoe) but neither do most top shoemakers. Alan Flusser has pointed out that what sets apart one handmade bespoke shoe from another is the styling, not the way it is constructed. They are all constructed in roughly the same way.
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Although I am not familiar with the lines of Mr.Vass's establishment I can say that I more prefer the stylings of Berluti or perhaps Lobb. I find their shoes a bit chunky per se.
LabelKing: I bet you would like this shoe:
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That high toe box is typical for shoes of the old Austro/Hungarian Empire and the alpine regions of Germany, they call it "schiffchen (little boat)". I have heard two different explanations: A - Walking down the mountain, the high toe box prevents your toes getting wedged inside the shoes. B - Peasants used to stuff the toes with hay as insulation against winter chills. In World War I, Hungarian soldiers (wearing big boots stuffed with hay) were all right, while their German comrades (in normal sized boots) had their feet frostbitten. I do not know which story is true. Check out other Austro/Hungarian companies: http://www.ludwigreiter.com/ http://www.heinrich-dinkelacker.de/
I honestly don't know the answer so I'm going to go with Bengal Stripe on this one.
post #10 of 42
A.Harris, Ah yes I do like that wingtip you posted. The toe shape is very nice. Is there any specific name for this style concept? So shoes from the former regions of the Austro-Hungarian empire have this particular shape? I noticed that the boots worn by Emperor King Francis Joseph I was a bit pointed as were all the othe shoes of the Hapsburg monarchy. Perhaps that has more to do with military stylings than the everyday shoe .
post #11 of 42
For more information on Vass: http://www.vass-cipo.hu/ P.S. Correct pronunciation: first syllable from va-nilla, second from ru-sh.
post #12 of 42
Thread Starter 
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P.S. Correct pronunciation: first syllable from va-nilla, second from ru-sh.
Exactly, think Vahsh.
post #13 of 42
mr. harris, the shoes look great. i want some. you mention they have six different 'ready to wear' lasts, so where can i get some vass shoes ready to wear? are the prices similar? what are the women like in budapest? perhaps i'll make up an excuse to go. btw, great post, you should consider the idea of writing for magazines.
post #14 of 42
The pictures are great, and the link to your March post is much appreciated -- the more pictures, the merrier. I definitely like the "Cleverley" style shoes. One other question: do they offer bespoke shoe trees to accompany the bespoke shoes, and, if so, how much do they cost. Thanks for a great post; maybe someone needs to run a charter flight to Budapest for the readers of this Forum. (or get a way for someone to do measurements for Vass in the US).
post #15 of 42
Thread Starter 
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mr. harris, the shoes look great. i want some. you mention they have six different 'ready to wear' lasts, so where can i get some vass shoes ready to wear? are the prices similar?
Currently the only Vass shoes available in the US are a few models they do for the Hugo Boss Baldessarini line. Retail for those is in the vicinity of $900.. We are working on getting them into more stores but don't expect the prices to be much lower. Why are the bespoke shoes cheaper? First of all the bespoke and the ready-to-wear shoes are of the exact same quality. However you are buying the bespoke shoes directly from the maker. The ready-to-wear shoes have to be shipped to the US, taxes and duties have to be paid and then the stores mark them up. So they end up more expensive than the bespoke. Even then, you are getting a truly handmade shoe which can't be said for most of the shoes in that price range. By the time we have them available in several locations, deals will be likely to crop up. I'll be sure to alert y'all when that happens.
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what are the women like in budapest?
Beautiful, more beautiful than you can imagine. I'm serious...
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One other question: do they offer bespoke shoe trees to accompany the bespoke shoes, and, if so, how much do they cost.
The trees that came with my shoes were not bespoke. I don't know if they would do them if you ask - I'll have to inquire about that.
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